Islamic extremism is just one of countless movements that “create a collective identity by appealing to a set of common grievances and create a master narrative of suffering and oppression.”  It’s possible that this tendency to frame the world in terms of a narrative of grievance is something of an evolutionary side effect of an otherwise-useful trait.
The trait: Natural selection appears to have hard-wired us to seek to punish unfairness, even at a cost to ourselves, because doing so tends to promote group fitness. This is often called altruistic punishment.
The side-effect: Consciously or not, movements that cast their sales pitches in terms of ‘the unfairness of it all’ are making a smart move, because it so often works.
(It’s not unlike sugary cereal manufacturers who discovered that they could increase sales by positioning their wares on the lower shelves, that is, at eye level for kids riding in their parents’ shopping carts.)
Our willingness to punish unfairness may partially explain why we can be so quick to buy into narratives in which —
- the members of our group (whatever that might be) are entitled to certain things;
- when we don’t get those supposed entitlements, it’s not merely the luck of the draw, a poor choice of parents, a consequence of past decisions, etc. No — it’s unfair, a distortion of the cosmic fabric, a case of Life Not Being The Way It’s Supposed To Be;
- our hard-wired response to any perceived unfairness is to identify those at fault and punish them.
Putting it another way: if a hammer is one of your primary tools, an awful lot of things can start to look like nails.
This might also help to explain why anger at Those At Fault often seems more emotionally satisfying than the hard work of facing the facts about the things we don’t like and trying to do something constructive about them.
 Reza Aslan in an interview in the Houston Chronicle (emphasis added). Aslan is author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (2005) and the just-published How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror. It’s not hard to think of other examples of group identities that are built on, or reinforced by, a narrative of grievance; think of extremists in, for example, North Korea; Serbia; the political parties of various countries; the Episcopal Church; etc., etc. (And I’m not even going to mention some other obvious examples from history.)