THE NATIONAL INTEREST — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a man of mystery. Fascinating as he is dangerous, I contend that the only thing you need to know about him is that he is a religious scholar.
This is because Baghdadi is not alone as a terror leader; the founding or operational leaders of other major terrorist groups in the news—the Taliban, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda—are also religious figures such as clerics or Islamic scholars: namely, Mohammed Omar, Mohammed Yusuf and Abdullah Azzam, respectively.
Why have religious leaders come to play such an important role in violent radicalism, how did this all start, and what is the basis of their support?
For starters, the defining trend of recent centuries is the worldwide embrace of modernity and the socioeconomic advances brought about by science. As science began to replace religion as a source for understanding the world, secularists began growing in influence at the expense of religious leaders.
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