One was a young father of an 8-month-old. Another was a cricket fan. A third was supposedly "proud to be British." Yet these four young Britons of Pakistani and Jamaican extraction committed an act of mass murder and suicide last week in the heart of London.
What were the danger signs? There were none, the stricken families of the terrorists report. The young men, between the ages of 19 and 30, showed no signs of violent intentions toward anyone. Only in retrospect does one red flag stand out: Several of them had, within the past two years, displayed a sudden increase in religious zeal.
Radical Islam is unlike any other modern religion. Imagine being afraid of someone because he had recently become a committed Christian, or Buddhist, or Jew, or Hindu? And indeed, most Muslims around the world are peaceable. But radical Islam is like a throwback to violent cults of mankind's more primitive past. We know that Aztecs cut the hearts out of young men and women as they offered them to the gods. We know that many early civilizations practiced child sacrifice. People are evidently capable of any atrocity, provided they are convinced that the act is ordained by God -- or some substitute for God, like Nazism or communism. And it is a most powerful idea indeed that can induce young, healthy men not just to kill infidels but to kill themselves for the satisfaction of killing infidels.
We have declared a war on terror, but the critics of this imprecision in language are right. Failing to name the true enemy obscures our task. The enemy is Islamism -- the radical interpretation of Islam that sanctions violent jihad, and whose grievances include, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, the unveiled female face, the existence of the Jews, the existence of Hindus, music, literature, democracy, and nearly everything we hold dear.
Until we clarify the enemy, we fumble about in the dark when it comes to fighting this war. Europeans have long tolerated the presence of radical mosques in their midst. As Louis Caprioli, formerly head of the DST, France's equivalent of the FBI, told the Weekly Standard, "Behind every Muslim terrorist is a radical imam." Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who has risen to prominence since the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004, declares, "For too long we've been tolerant of the intolerant."