“Muslim Radicalization”: In the Eyes of the Beholder

Because the phrase “Muslim radicalization” has become increasingly popular in American discourse, it behooves us to establish once and for all what it means.  Without an agreed upon definition, it may be that we are each talking about different things—or worse and more likely, nothing at all.

Most dictionaries define “radicalization” and “radicalize” as “to make radical.”  The word “radical”—especially in a socio-political context—means “extreme,” “fundamental”; as a noun it means “a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.”

For our purposes, then, a “Muslim radical” is someone “who holds or follows strong [Muslim] convictions or extreme principles.”

This definition, which is likely what most people mean by “Muslim radicalization,” is fraught with problems and loaded assumptions.  For example, who decides which Muslim convictions or principles are “extreme” or “radical,” and which are not?

Yet some Westerners talk about “Muslim radicalization” as if there was a base of normalcy that all people are agreed to—that there is a line that, once crossed, both Muslims and non-Muslims agree is “radicalized” behavior.

But is that the case? Is there a universal standard that all people—Muslim and non-Muslim, Westerner and non-Westerner—adhere to? In fact, while there are certain commonalities, so too are there extreme—that is, “radical”—variations inherent to each culture or civilization.  The notion that “radicalization”  refers to something universally agreed to fails to take into account that much of what people believe is good or bad, right or wrong—and, yes, moderate or extreme—is a product of their culturally-induced worldview, a product of their epistemology.

As any anthropologist can attest, there are entire cultures and societies that engage in what we would term “radical” behavior, even though to them such behavior is quite normal.  Indeed, if we agree that “radicalization” refers to extreme views or practices, to many cultures, the West—from its gender neutrality to its secular humanism—is “radical.”

Let us agree, then, that radical behavior—to a Muslim, Western normalization of homosexuality, to a Westerner, Muslim killing of apostates—is in the eye of the beholder.  Once this view is adopted, the inevitable becomes clear: “Muslim radicalization” is simply another way of saying “distinctly Muslim principles.”

Consider Saudi Arabia.  Its entire worldview and culture—from totally veiled women to draconian punishments such as stoning—is “extreme” by Western standards.  Yet, to the average Saudi, such behavior, built atop millennium-old Sharia principles, is not only normal but moderate (the late Osama bin Laden used to boast that Sharia is the most “moderate” system).  Simultaneously, Saudis look to the Western life style and see it as corrupt, debauched, or, in a word—radical.

Many may argue that “Wahhabi” Saudi Arabia is an anomaly and not representative of the average Muslim’s worldview or culture.  But there are important rebuttals to this mainstream view.

First, buzz words such as “Wahhabism” (and “Salafism”) are somewhat misleading: they imply a new aberration in Islam.  Yet Wahhabism’s message—that Muslims need to return to purely Islamic principles—has existed centuries before Ibn Wahhab walked the earth in the 18th century.  One example: the classic and influential Muslim jurist Ibn Hanbal, who lived in the 8th century—one thousand years before Wahhab—insisted on the same exact “radical” teachings.

Moreover, the Wahhabi/Salafist worldview permeates Muslim thinking around the globe, if for no other reason than that Saudi-produced religious literature and programming—part and parcel of Saudi funding—saturates the Muslim market and media, including in Europe and in America.   Such is the double-whammy: while Saudi literature “radicalizes” Muslims in America, Saudi “donations” help undermine America’s knowledge of the threat.

Yet we continue to hear Western politicians casually talking about “de-radicalizing” Muslims.  This is no different than, say, Chinese politicians casually talking about “de-radicalizing”—de-Westernizing—Western peoples, so that they can stop thinking and acting in a distinctly Western way.

Therefore, rather than arrogantly brushing aside Islam’s centuries-old worldview—which at root is behind any talk of “de-radicalizing” Muslims—Western leaders would do well to take the time to learn the particulars of the religion.



  • Jaladhi

    The Muslim radicalization long before they grow up when they are taught Quran and their religion from the age of six or seven. By the age of ten they are Mo/allah's brain washed, brain dead soldiers and nothing ever changes. Muslims are always radical as the religion is and they don't become radical because of our actions. Muslim claim that their youth is radicalized by the actions of the West is a pure hogwash. They are radicalized in their mosques from their early age. And that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!!

    But Muslims always like to blame us for all their violent murderous criminal actions. Hypocrites!!

  • Jaladhi

    correction in the above post : "The Muslim radicalization begins long before…….."

  • ObamaYoMoma

    I roll my eyes every time I hear Western politicians talk about Muslim radicalization. In fact, the epitome of stupidity is Congressman Peter King's Congressional hearings on Muslim radicalization in America. Indeed, those hearings are nothing but the blind leading the blind as all they do is reenforce and strengthen political correct myths. Meanwhile, congressman King claims he won't bow to political correctness. I'd love to see the good Congressman's face if ever he does come to the realization of exactly how so incredibly blinded by political correctness he actually is.

    It is as if Islam is a Religion of Peace™ being hijacked by a tiny minority of radical extremists and anything that deviates from that political correct myth is deemed radical and extremist. Indeed, never mind the fact that Islamic civilization has been waging perpetual jihad against non-Muslim unbelievers ever since the Hijra in 622 CE when Muhammad morphed Islam from what it initially was – a heretical religion cobbled together mostly from Christianity and Judaism – to a virulent supremacist theo-political totalitarian ideology which aims to conquer the world to make Islam supreme. Hence, any Muslim that acts like a normal Muslim in the presence of Westerners would be deemed to have been radicalized and would be considered to be an extremist according to the pervading paradigm.

    The notion that Islam is a so-called Religion of Peace™ being hijacked by a tiny minority of radical extremists in complete defiance of the historical record of Islam is a testament to how much Euro secular Leftism and multiculturalism with its corollaries – diversity, tolerance, and political correctness – pervades and dominates the West and the world.

    Indeed, even though in country after country where mass Muslim immigration is occurring the vast overwhelming majority of the Muslim immigrants just like clockwork flat out refuse to assimilate and integrate and form segregated Muslim no-go zones ruled by Sharia, i.e., Islamic law, the Left when confronted with this obvious reality refuses to acknowledge this manifestation at all and in fact denies its existence even though this reality couldn't be more unequivocal, as the Left, by the way, also denies the historical record of Islam as well.

  • Clare

    I think we would do ourselves a favor by dropping the Arabic altogether.

    We should refer to Muslims as “Submissionists”. This is a neat combination in English of Muslim and Islam. Muslims could also be called, in English, “Followers of Mohammed”.

    I think the English word, Submissionist, better conveys that the followers of Mohammed are adherents of a political and social ideology. Regarding their religious doctrines, we generally say Submissionists are moderate and extremist in their belief and practice, but I prefer nominal and fundamental. English, at least for me, promotes a clearer understanding that the followers of Mohammed have a culture with its rules and its way of thinking and its way of life – its roots – that is Submissionist. Then I begin to get the idea.

    English more easily and clearly aligns references to the followers of Mohammed such as, Submission political platform, or nominal Submission religious leaders, or fundamental Submission clerics, Submission suicide bombers, Submission spokesperson, Submission rally, Submission protest and so forth. I also prefer dropping mosque for temple as in Submission Temple. The Submissionist Republics of Saudi Arabia and Iran better defines the situation in those places as well.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      I think we would do ourselves a favor by dropping the Arabic altogether.

      I agree and especially when it is regarding Israel. Indeed, Israel supporters always present the permanent jihad of conquest being waged perpetually against the Jewish unbelievers in Israel as a conflict between Arabs and Israel, and when they do so at the same time they are also shooting themselves in the foot. In fact, Israel's biggest nemesis – the Iranians – aren't Arabs but Persians, as ethnicity has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything regarding Israel, however, Islam does!

      In fact, the friends of Israel need to put the issue of Islam and jihad front and center and at the same time impress upon people that aren't Muslims that the jihad being waged perpetually against Israel is also part and parcel of the greater global jihad at large being waged perpetually against all unbelievers around the world. Imagine if the delusional Euroloons understood properly what is really going on in Israel in that correct context instead. They would become supporters of Israel instead of constantly denouncing them.

      Regarding their religious doctrines, we generally say Submissionists are moderate and extremist in their belief and practice, but I prefer nominal and fundamental.

      That's incorrect also…all Muslims are jihadists per the sixth and most important pillar of Islam, which makes it an obligatory duty in Islam for every Muslim to fight jihad in the cause of Allah, as the sixth and most important pillar of Islam doesn't make is an obligatory duty in Islam only for radicals to fight jihad in the cause of Allah, or only for extremists to fight jihad in the cause of Allah, while at the same time giving so-called moderate Muslims a free pass and exemption from fighting jihad. Instead, the sixth and most important pillar of Islam make it an obligatory duty for ALL MUSLIMS to fight jihad in the cause of Allah, no exceptions.

      Hence, ALL ORTHODOX MAINSTREAM MUSLIMS are jihadists, a few of them are violent jihadist, while most of them are non-violent jihadists, and the few of them that aren't jihadists aren't Muslims at all but blasphemous apostates that per the dictates of Islam must be executed.

      You see despite the fact that jihad is always conflated with terrorism, the fact of the matter is terrorism and jihad are two mutually exclusive and entirely different things altogether. Indeed, terrorism always involves extreme violence only, is usually directed against civilian non-combatants for any number of political causes, and is always perpetrated by political extremists. While jihad, in stark contrast to terrorism, can be both violent and non-violent, is always directed against unbelievers, either civilian non-combatants or military combatants as in Afghanistan and Iraq, is always committed in the cause of Allah and only by MAINSTREAM ORTHODOX MUSLIMS as opposed to extremists, as is in the case with terrorism.

      Indeed, an example of violent jihad would be the 9/11 jihad attacks, which because jihad is conflated with terrorism is erroneously believed to have been perpetrated by Muslim terrorists who also are Muslim extremists. However, that is a wrong analogy since Jihad is always waged by MAINSTREAM ORTHODOX MUSLIMS only .

      An example of non-violent stealth and deceptive jihad would be Muslim mass immigration to the West, as Muslims never ever migrate to the West or any other non-Muslim country for that matter for the purpose of assimilating and integrating, but instead for the purpose of eventually subjugating and dominating to make Islam supreme via demographic conquest. In fact, it is forbidden by Islamic Sharia for Muslims to live in the Dar al Harb (the realm of unbelief) unless it is for jihad.

      Thus, just because a Muslim immigrant for all intents and purposes appears to be perfectly peaceful and law abiding, it doesn't mean that Muslim immigrant is a so-called moderate Muslim, unless you are gullible enough to believe that a jihadist who is also a fifth columnist can also be a so-called moderate Muslim.

      In any event, the sad reality is because violent jihad is always conflated with terrorism, the non-violent varieties of jihad, such as demographic conquest, unfortunately operates completely below the radar totally unacknowledged and unopposed. Which is analogous to the West opening up the flood gates for mass Communist immigration and infiltration during the Cold War because our President at the time had proclaimed Communism to be a totalitarian ideology of peace being hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists, as GWB proclaimed with respect to Islam.

  • fmobler

    "Radicalize" suffers the same linguistic problem as many other "ize" words like "miniaturize" (yes, I know its an old fogey example). "To miniaturize" implies a process of taking something than normally isn't small, and shrinking it, as if your big console radio was zapped by a shrinking ray to turn it into a pocket transistor radio. "Radicalize" implies that Islam is not normally hate-filled and violent (often against its own submissants), as if normally loving, tolerant, generous Muslims are zapped by Dr. Evil's Radicalizer Ray ™. Rubbish.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The notion that Muslim immigrants miraculously somehow become radicalized is ludicrous, as that notion is based off the utterly false but politically correct paradigm whereby Islam is a so-called Religion of Peace™ being hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists. The reality is all Muslims are jihadists, a few Muslims are violent jihadists, while most Muslims are non-violent jihadists, and the few of them that are not jihadists are not Muslims at all but instead blasphemous apostates that per the dictates of Islam must be executed.