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The Anatomy and Pathology of Jihad

The Halloween 2017 terror attack in New York brought forth the usual affirmations of courage and resilience amid the sorrow, though these have been joined by a growing sense of frustration that the United States is not making progress in its struggle against Islamic extremism. Such confusion stems from the fact that Americans are far more capable of facing the effects of this resistant pathology than they are of looking into its causes.

While discussing his book The Righteous Mind with Bill Moyers on PBS in early 2012, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lamented how what he called the “sacralization” of social entities, ranging from victim groups to America itself, impedes rational, honest, and creative thinking in our angry age.

“Whenever you sacralize something, there you will find ignorance, blindness to the truth, and resistance to evidence,” Haidt said. Citing an example, “American foreign policy did contribute to 9/11, but you can’t say that because people on the Right will see that as sacrilege.”

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