This author had an interesting conversation with a young Muslim man, via Twitter, the other day. It came in the wake of the murder—by jihadis—of a Catholic priest in France during a Catholic mass. First off, yes, you are correct to chastise me for engaging on Twitter with someone I do not know, over so fraught a subject. Point taken.

In case you need a refresher, on July 26, 2016, two self-proclaimed ISIS sympathizers stormed into a Catholic church in France, during mass, and slit the throat of an 86-year-old Catholic priest as he knelt before them.

This kind of barbarous and savage attack, in the middle of a church service, in cold blood, of a clergyman of advanced age, is usually the stuff of movies. We are accustomed to seeing movie villains carry out such gruesome and amoral acts. True evil of this sort is rarely ever perpetrated in real life in quite this way. It is generally more nuanced and contextualized. In other words, it is usually more banal, as Hannah Arendt would note. Until recently, that is.

Could the West be on the verge of a new Crusade?
Execution of an elderly clergyman: the stuff of movies. Still taken from “Boondock Saints II.”

ISIS has perpetrated a number of these types of explicit horrors. The radical Islamic group is as close to evil incarnate as one is likely to see, at least since the disappearance of the Nazi party in Germany, or Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. ISIS has beheaded women and children, burned alive and drowned prisoners in cages, thrown gay men off of buildings, and stoned alleged adulterers.

And yet, while trying to converse with this young Muslim man, to try to have a respectful dialogue about the atrocities carried out by ISIS, I was stopped dead in my tracks. We could not even start the conversation properly. You see, his starting point was that ISIS is a Shia-led group, which is not truly Islamic, and thus Islam bears no responsibility for ISIS. Wow.

There are two big lies here, or, at least, two big self-delusions. First, ISIS is not a Shia group. ISIS is a radical Sunni group. Secondly, Shia Muslims are true Muslims, though of a different, smaller sect than the Sunnis. There are Shia terrorist groups, mind you (Hezbollah), but this young man’s insistence that ISIS was a Shia group, and thus, not of Islam, was a lie he had told himself in an attempt to deny that his religion could have produced such evil.

Therein lay a huge problem, and a grave danger.

Now, pretty much every single religion has produced evil men, and will likely do so again in the future. Or, more accurately, evil men have latched on to almost every single religion, and committed evil in its name. Islam is not unique in that respect.