Recent events have once again highlighted the problem of trying to talk about the relationship between Jihadism and Islam. The incapacity of the Democratic candidates to even discuss what may have led to the mass murder at San Bernardino, coupled with the controversial Republican responses by Donald Trump and others, illustrate a dysfunction that poses a broad and continuing threat to life and liberties in the West. Current U.S. policy is based on a broadly held consensus that: 1) We should not use the term extremist or radical or violent to modify Islam ("religion of peace"): e.g., ISIS is not Islamic. And 2) we should not make any connections between the behavior of violent extremists who claim to follow Islam, and the vast majority of Muslims who do not approve of their deeds.

Any public figure who moves too far along the lines of an inquiry into the links between radical Islam and the larger Muslim community, runs the risk of being called an Islamophobe, whose hurtful comments insult moderate, peaceful Muslims, who might therefore turn into extremists.

The illogic here might normally arouse some suspicion. If extremist violence "in the name of Islam" has nothing to do with the actual religion of Islam, why would peaceful Muslims become so offended by the discussion that they would suddenly embrace murderous extremism? Yet this argument has become so widely current that some specialists even urge that we should never use terms like jihadi or radical Islam to designate terrorists, because that grants these mass murderers too much legitimacy. On the other extreme we find people who argue that there is no difference between Islam and coercive Islamism.

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