The word “radical” has always been an overly capacious term, easily filled with whatever meaning the speaker wants to pour into it. There is the radical right, the radical left, even the radical centre, whatever that means. Traditionally associated with the 18th-century English struggle to extend the franchise and with the cause of freedom, it has been one of those words no modern politician can do without. Google any of the current crop of parliamentarians adding the words “radical vision” and see what I mean. They’re all at it, all claiming it. Unless, of course, you put the word Islamic first. And then it immediately becomes a bogey word.
“How do we stop young Muslims becoming radicalised?” is the question we now continually ask. But it’s a deeply misleading question because it points us in the wrong direction. Why? Because it contains a hidden assumption that it is radical ideas, specifically Islamic theological ideas, that are the root cause of turning a young lad from West Yorkshire into an Isis suicide bomber in Iraq. According to the radicalisation hypothesis, it’s conservative Islam and the dangerous ideas contained in the Qur’an that motivate murderous behaviour.
We want to tell ourselves that we are secular and enlightened and so have no part in all of this bloodshed
To me this is about as convincing as arguing that the murderous bits of the Bible were responsible for the brutality of the IRA. For many of the young people who have been persuaded to go off and fight in Syria and Iraq have hardly got past the first chapter of Islam for Dummies. They often know next to nothing about the Qur’an and are about as motivated by reading the few passages they have as the average republican terrorist was motivated by Saul’s genocidal destruction of the Amalekites in the first book of Samuel. Yes, the language of violent jihad may borrow its vocabulary from Islamic theology – it’s a useful marker of shared identity – but root motivation is as it always is: politics. The IRA weren’t Bible-believing Catholics, they were mostly staunch atheists. Catholicism was simply a marker of who counted as “one of us”. And the same is true of Islamic terrorism…
It’s not the religion that creates terrorists, it’s the politics | Giles Fraser: Loose canon | Comment is free | The GuardianPosted: June 27, 2015 in Politics, Religion