Fundamentalist Islam is too generous a term for what you’re seeing happening in France. Today is just the latest incident in a string of violence across Europe. Europeans might be appalled by the idea of connecting this summer’s violent protests against Israel’s military option with the spate of ‘lone wolf’ attacks since, but the aggressiveness of Islamic militants and their sympathizers in Europe is far higher than at any point since September 11th.
Over 3,000 ISIS recruits have come from abroad, primarily from Europe. A number of the Moroccan and Algerian recruits that have been reported are likely from France. A number of Pakistani recruits are probably from the UK. There is a stream of thought that justifies violent jihad without any warrant for Islam’s more sophisticated laws. Egomaniacal preachers are exploiting their freedoms of speech to motivate impressionable people to go abroad and join a hysterical fight in Syria and Iraq to enslave 10,000s of non-Muslim women and murder non-Muslim, non-Sunni minorities.
That view, colored by decades of irresponsible propaganda by the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and puritanically intolerant preaching funded by Saudi Arabia on the other, has corrupted the foundation of Islamic education around the world. Political considerations, often that quickly justify acts of terrorism against civilians, have been made sacrosanct by those same preachers. You cannot expect to contain this violence when you turn a blind eye to it against other countries. Few Europeans took seriously the attacks in Mumbai, or the theological justifications to attack Israelis in Jerusalem.
Of course Palestinian and Pakistani terrorism isn’t always directly connected or even religious, but much of it is. While we try to separate the narratives of events in different countries when it suits us, we forget that the stream of thought pushing young Europeans to join the ranks of militants sees all these political conflicts as part of one continuum. Even if they did not, you cannot have an underwhelming response to religiously-motivated assassination attempts against Jewish activists who want to share holy sites and then express ignorance to the wave of religiously-motivated violence in your own country.
Europe has not won a battle of ideas because it was never fighting one. Europe has not been able to see that certain streams of militant religious thought have flowered while the continent has taken cosmetic and often ludicrous measures to contain religious extremism: by containing religion in general.
I wrote just yesterday on my own site that there is no magic pill to “revolutionize” Islam, be it Sunni or Shiite. The intellectual battle against ISIS or Al-Qaeda is something that has been futile in the past because the scholarship in those movements is petty and selfish.