Jihad. We write it in capital letters. We argue over its definition. We place it on the same grandiose level as its perpetrators do.
But Jihad is a very simple thing. It is the religious sanctification of the most cowardly and brutal crimes imaginable, from robbery to rape to murder to mutilation to massacre. Without Jihad a murderer is a murderer. With Jihad every murderer becomes a hero.
As much as it rests on the occasional fanatic, Jihad rests on the criminal. It might be the fanatics who blow themselves up, but it is the criminals who create the drug, smuggling and car theft networks that finance the Jihad. It is the criminals who kidnap and behead hostages ranging from aid workers to the children of tribal leaders they want to blackmail. It is the criminals who create Jihad states to bleed dry.
It is in Iraq that the Jihad has shown its truest face, as Al Queda recruiting primarily from criminal classes unleashed a wave of brutality and death that alienated even its former Sunni allies. Yet it's also the raw reality of Jihad.
At the heart of it Jihad is Indulgence, much like those distributed for the Crusaders. An Indulgence for Muslims to act out their worst impulses and crimes and be celebrated as heroes for it.
Do you want to rob? Do you want to behead? Do you want to butcher children? Do you want to rape and mutilate? The socially acceptable and approved thing for a Muslim with such impulses is to become a Jihadist.
The social covenant between the so-called Moderate Muslims who don't actually put themselves on the line and the various fanatics, lunatics, murderers, rapists and criminals of the Jihad is that the Jihad will turn itself against their foreign enemies, and in turn they will receive the sanctification and admiration of the Muslim world.
A Muslim murderer who kills for the Jihad becomes a hero, never mind that he's killing innocent vacation goers. A Muslim rapist in Sydney is a hero of the Jihad for "fighting for Muslim beliefs". A Muslim drug dealer in Paris is a hero for laundering Jihadi money.
In Iraq, Al Queda broke this covenant and was reviled for it. Of course Muslim terrorist groups had commonly fought and oppressed Muslim civilians and each other, but never so blatantly or ruthlessly. It does not however change the general Muslim willingness to excuse Jihadi violence. Particularly when those atrocities are aimed at non-Muslims.
The religious santification of crime in the Muslim world under the banner of Jihad directs violence outward and creates a feeling of pride among Muslims who know their societies are inferior to the West and must invent imaginary conspiracy theories to account for it. The butchered reporter in Pakistan, the bombed nightclub in Bali and the raped woman in Oslo give Muslims a sense of pride from their complicity in these crimes.
The support of "Moderate Muslims" for Jihad is no different than that of the ordinary German who cheered Hitler. The timid sadist must always have monsters who do his work for him. The average Muslim may not be able to set off a roadside bomb or drive by a car in the West Bank taking aim at the children in the backseat-- but he can fund those who do and go to a rally and wave their flag if he or she is feeling bold enough.
As Jihad makes every murderer into a hero, so too it makes every Muslim supporter into a murderer by vicarious proxy. Those who shout "Heil" in the stands and hold up signs reading, "We are all Hizbullah" are no less accountable than those who pull the triggers.
A society, a culture, a religion that sanctifies murder has become a Cult of Death. And though that cult may be driven by impotence and bitter resentment over its own inferiority, it has no less marked itself as an evil thing that the civilized world cannot-- and dare not tolerate or abide.