‘Radicalization’, the nature of the problem

Although so called radicalization is a compound problem it is nevertheless in its elements very simple. Unfortunately the essential element is one that, at this stage, it does not seem politically possible for governments or mass media to recognize; or perhaps they just have their heads in the sand. Endeavouring to fight ‘islamism’ or ‘radicalization’ without tackling the underlying issue is akin to trying to destroy an iceberg by bombing the part that is above water. We have a huge iceberg called islam, a small portion of which appears above water; bombing what is above water changes nothing – a new portion simply bobs up to replace it. Here are a few of the elements behind radicalization.

  1. The islamic community is an isolated one; it isolates itself. The muslim identity is formed in contradistinction to the rest of society. It does not correspond to the western idea of a religion, in which personal beliefs are seen as private, personal; islam is a whole culture and polity, not just a private belief. It therefore resists other cultures and polities and isolates itself. Also, a full expression of islam requires that muslims be governed by sharia, not the laws of the lands in which they live. The tendency within the religion and community is therefore towards rejection of the host country and its culture and towards self isolation. There is therefore a basic breeding ground for dissension and antagonism.
  2. In many areas of the world, notably those dominated by islam for centuries, there is an inbuilt climate of paranoia, of fear and hatred based on the precepts of islam. This surely is not the case with many muslim individuals and in some cases communities; however, a world formed by koranic values in which, for example, women are, by western standards, severely oppressed, leads to poor character formation; young men in particular grow up conditioned to violence. Women internalize the abuse and oppression they grow up with, and pass it on to their children. In many places, notably for example among Palestinian youths, hatred is taught and deliberately inculcated. (see Wafa Sultan ‘The God who Hates’)
  3. Western standards of education do not pertain in many islamic areas. Tradition rather than reason is the source of authority; again, this is a specific aspect of islam (though not just islam of course). This means that appeal to tradition rather than discourse is often the normal means of resolving conflict. This works in at least two ways; young people are not led in the directions of reason and are therefore prey to the violent who incite further violence; part of this is that rather than examine the non-rational basis of their religion with its flimsy foundations, muslims must defend their rationally indefensible religion with violence – rational  defence is not finally possible.
  4. Islamic youth in the west have good cause to feel disaffected; they belong to communities that are uprooted from their origins, or rather are not rooted, integrated into their adopted lands and cultures. They don’t belong; they often do not have proper work or much opportunity to integrate in other ways; this is not though anyone in particular’s ‘fault’, it’s just how it is. As they seek to establish personal identity many of them are bound to gravitate towards strong islamic identity (which might be termed extreme) and generally speaking towards gangs and all that goes with that. That is, there is a mixture of islam and the normal problems of the disaffected young; but the islamic aspect exacerbates the disaffection and alienation. Youthful terrorist thugs are mainly a manifestation of the same spirit that produces gangs, but in this case far more dangerously because their violence is condoned by religion.
  5. In many areas of the Islamic world, notably the middle-east, the last 100 years have seen multiplied millions of muslims thrust into a world they have trouble understanding and are surrounded by moral influences (very often immoral ones) which they are ill-equipped to know how to deal with. Politically, islam more or less denies people groups the ability to form functional nation states (see Pryce-Jones The Closed Circle), and the one unitary major nation-state, Iran, has been overrun by the most worthless elements. High birth rates (though not in Iran) mean a substantial demographic problem and a plethora of other difficulties caused by islam induced backwardness make the region a tinder box.
  6. The Koran explicitly condones and indeed encourages violence. Although there are strands of islamic practice which ignore that whole side of islam, you don’t have to look very far to find it in the Koran. Hatred of Jews and their murder, for example, are explicitly there. The Koran is a book which incites violence against Jews. The point here is twofold: firstly, that the Koran instructs people to take up arms, and many thoughtful people, older, scholarly men, the bin Ladens, tell the people this, so there is a deliberative effort; secondly, and in terms of radicalization, this is very important, the Koran gives young, disaffected people a license to extreme violence. This explains why young people with little muslim background ‘convert’ and head off to fight. They are licensed by ‘Allah’ to the joys of vengeance and murder!

These are some of the chief elements. There is one underlying factor behind it, which is what is publicly so difficult for the western world with its emphasis on tolerance to acknowledge. The problem lies in the very nature of islam and the Koran. As long as the islamic world was separated from the western world, as it was for so many centuries, there was less of a problem for everyone, but as soon as the two live no longer side by side but together we have the problem of oil and water which don’t mix; western democracy and islam are simply incompatible; ‘radicalization’ is the direct outcome of the muslim person’s conflicted views and conflictive background.

One or the other, western democracy or islam, is going to have to give way. The one that should give way is islam because it has no rational basis. The Koran is a bad book and Mohammed was not a prophet. The way out for the non-muslim world is to go for the root of the matter and demonstrate consistently the falsity of the religion; or, returning to the iceberg metaphor, it needs to be towed/directed into warmer waters, the waters of reason. No doubt there are many immediate practical matters to be dealt with – enhanced security and so on; stopping the influx and influence of Saudi money…… The real point though must be that, despite all the ‘nice’ people who call themselves muslims, islam is in itself a bad thing, and this is something that must be argued, discussed, disseminated……it is necessary to go to the root of the issue; it must be shown for example that the Koran is a book which explicitly incites racial violence, and steps should be taken against its use. Unless or until the ‘West’ recognizes islam as the problem it has simply no answer to islamic based violence and radicalization.

In a very interesting and careful article in The Australian May 30, 2015, Professor Clive Kessler discusses the idea of ‘de-radicalization’ or preventing radicalization, an idea which has become popular in current political discussion. He says this:

But when the source of such potential violence – namely its basic outlook and driving attitudes – is not distinctive to the breakaway group, as some kind of outsider heresy, but lies within the wider group and its familiar doctrinal furniture, deradicalisation must be an unpromising strategy…..insiders have no independent and distinctive moral ground of their own on which to stand, and to which they may call back the deviants to the way of sound thinking and belief.

As a closing note, I would point out another difficulty. Muslim people believe in God; they tend broadly to believe that God exists and, in so far as they are not overly influenced by the violent doctrines of the Koran, they do pray in a personal way as well as in the formalized rituals; all this is good. The difficulty is that muslims see faith in God as tied to islam; it is hard to challenge or leave islam if it means challenging, leaving behind, faith in God. This means that exposing islam to the light of reason needs to be done while also providing an alternative view of God.

The following is an interesting quotation from an article by Tanveer Ahmed in The Australian 23/1/15; Ahmed is described as a Sydney based psychologist.

One of Islamism’s [I would say islam’s] great strengths is to give otherwise anonymous nobodies like X and… Y a sense that they are part of a great and just historical project. No ideology better allows the conflation of personal grievances with the political. The resentment underlying the rage is a vestige of shame-based cultures which have been largely vanquished in the Judaeo-Christian realm, replaced with a moral axis spanning sin and redemption instead of honour and shame. Suicide bombing is construed within psychology as a pathological commitment to the group.

The take on the two cultures and their basis is very accurate and certainly points not to islamism but islam as the source of the problem; islam does not include the concepts of sin and redemption. It is the honour/shame paradigm which excludes reason. Although this is not the popular currency, it is nevertheless exactly the ‘axis spanning sin and redemption’ which allows for reason to operate; at least part of the reason for this is that sin and redemption have to do with judgment,  that is, law with a basis in the absolute (which gives real meaning to words and so to discourse), while allowing for discussion because of a foundation of mercy; God’s moral involvement with people and profound inclination to save means there is a real basis for reason and discussion. (We might quote the book of Isaiah where God is recorded as saying, Come, let us reason together.) Reason without this background degenerates into the moral relativism which seems so to have paralysed the western world at present.


Note – Raymond Ibrahim on why 2nd generation muslims in the western world are worse –

Some already know that Western concessions to Islam—in the guise of multiculturalism, “cultural sensitivity,” political correctness, and self-censorship—only bring out the worst of Islam’s “schoolyard bully.” Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization—personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity—when articulated through an Islamic framework, have the capacity to “radicalize” Muslims.

Consider: the West’s commitment to the law as supreme arbitrator, for the Westernized Muslim becomes a commitment to establish and enforce Islamic law, Sharia; the West’s commitment to democracy, for the Westernized Muslim becomes a commitment to theocracy, including an anxious impulse to resurrect the caliphate; Western notions of human dignity and pride, when articulated through an Islamic paradigm (which sees only fellow Muslims as equals) induces rage when Muslims—Palestinians, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc.—are seen under Western, infidel dominion; Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped “Westernize” the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by Sharia as a communal duty.

In short, a set of noble principles articulated through a foreign paradigm can lead to abominations. In this case, the better principles of Western civilization are being devoured, absorbed, and regurgitated into something equally potent, though from the other end of the spectrum.

Put differently, just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamic framework that qualifies them with the word “Muslim”—Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice—leads to what is being called “radicalization.”


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