Violent jihadism flourishes in black and white situations, the sort of “you’re with us if you look like us” rhetoric of Donald Trump.
It withers and dies in the monotony of “the grey of social compromise and tolerance, of nuanced and considered thoughts.”
Think Sadiq Khan, London’s new mayor.
Or supposedly equally boring inclusive politicians such as Angela Merkel. The German chancellor seems a profoundly decent person who practises a decent sort of politics. But for all her humanitarian impulse to help Syria’s harried people, she’s no pushover. Ms Merkel has always stated – and pushed to enforce – fairly clear ideas on the rights and responsibilities of immigrants and host communities.
But she’s not for black and white. She likes the grey of social compromise.
Lapis, a respected consulting firm based in the Middle East, is rooting for lots and lots of “grey”, the boring stuff that might best be described as the societal equivalent of builder’s putty. Social sealant. Communal caulk. A sort of polyfilla.
It’s social glue and works to join disparate parts of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-faith community, fill in any gaps and strengthen the construct overall. Social glue comes with trying to build minority communities’ confidence in the authorities; majority communities’ confidence in minorities; both communities’ confidence in each other and overall societal cohesion.
A good example would be say, Somali-Americans in Minneapolis and their regular interaction with the police about online jihadist recruitment attempts of their sons and daughters. Or white Belgians’ support for their fellow citizens of say, Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian ethnicity.
Anything else is toxic. Especially black and white Trumpian rhetoric or that of France’s right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen, or the Dutch Muslim-basher Geert Wilders. As David Ignatius has written in his Washington Post column, it weakens “the West’s body politic”.
There’s a reason he’s able to state this so boldly. In a conversation with British counter-radicalization expert David Kenning, he heard about how so-called Islamic State (or ISIS) is seen “more as a youth gang driven by the identity politics of victimization than as a religious or ideological movement.”
But politicians who ply polarization as a strategy to win attention and support boost the violent jihadists’ idea that the West is against all Muslims.
There’s nothing new about any of this. We’ve known it for a long time.
But it’s still worth restating. As Lapis says in The Post: “Radical Islam isn’t the cause, it’s the excuse.”