This morning I saw two very different essays that touched on the same theme from different worlds.
Redneck Texan wrote a very articulate essay arguing that the real clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable unless the West surrenders, and bemoaning the fact that in many ways the West is acting in French mode.
The Balitimore Sun published an essay and review of recent books about religious fundamentalism that argues that there is really no difference between Islamic fundamentalism and the fundamentalism of any other religion; that all fundamentalisms encourage violence. Although the author does mention that Islamic fundamentalism has a violent component that is lacking in other religions, she doesn't press the point.
I'm not quite as right-wing as Redneck Texan. Perhaps my own religious views make me more sympathetic to Islam as a religion as opposed to Islamism as a political ideology, although it gets harder to distinguish the two as time goes on. But to downplay or ignore the fact that the only major religious bloodshed that is occurring today is exclusively due to people who claim to be acting in the name of Allah is suicidally shortsighted.
The political component is what gets lost in the argument. I do not believe that there are any theocracies in the world today besides Islamic theocracies. Once a nation adapts fundamentalist religious law as national law, or a major component of national law is religion-based, that is when the dangers of religious fundamentalism become apparent. It is not likely that we will be seeing a Christian nation arise that is aimed at forcing the "second coming" so while it may be possible to argue that all fundamentalisms have a violent component in theory, in fact the only one that is a danger to the world is Islamic.
The Islamists have no qualms about couching their political arguments in religious terms, making the Western kneejerk reaction of supporting freedom of religion the major stumbling block in fighting Islamism. This mixing of politics and religion only helps the violent Islamic supremacist cause, as it paralyzes the West's reaction to Islamic terror.
So while I may be naive in my sympathy to Islam as opposed to Islamism, I think it is critical that the world make the same distinction - one is a religion that should be protected, the other is a violent political supremacist ideology that must be eradicated as quickly as possible. And the only way that will happen is through war, ugly as it is.
Perhaps even more importantly, Muslims themselves must clearly distinguish between the two. The fact that they appear to overwhelmingly support the political ideology of Islamism will only hurt them in the end, and it does not reflect well on their religion.