"The human instinct on considering horrors such as those that have taken place in France and Germany in recent days is to look for a pattern, a single narrative thread that can go some way to explaining the seemingly inexplicable. The bloody killing of an 86-year-old priest in Normandy invites such thinking, since it follows years of attacks on Christians in the Middle East first by al-Qaeda then by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Is radical Islam seeking a war with Christianty? The idea of such a conflict between faiths would delight Isil, but it is hard to reconcile with that group’s dreadful persecution of fellow Muslims: Isil has killed many more Muslims than it has Christians or Jews.
Perhaps the Islamists are targetting Western liberal values more broadly, seeking to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate that once existed across the Middle East and parts of southern Europe? But that end is poorly served by mayhem in Normandy and Bavaria, lands that were never home to Muslims in the middle ages and which have only come to have Muslim residents as a result of those liberal Western values.
Seeking explanations for evil is natural, but we must not impute too much calculation or design to the perpetrators. The truth is that there is no rationale here, no coherent argument that we can counter if only we formulate the correct intellectual response. There are only the acts of inadequate and sometimes disturbed individuals with a nihilistic desire to destroy anything that challenges them and their ill-formed idea of the world. Of course, we must harden our defences against such acts, but we should be wary of the notion that those acts represent a clash of cultures, for that suggests some sort of parity between irrational extremists on one hand and a civilisation of shared ideas and traditions developed over thousands of years on the other."