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Posted June 18, 2017 by Mark Anderson in Extremism 4 Comments

How can we prevent Muslim radicalization in the West?

This question clearly defies easy answers. However, Norwegian filmmaker Deeyah Khan begins where I believe we must begin—namely, with the wounding and brokenness that makes our Muslim youth so susceptible to the propaganda of ISIS. So many young Muslim men and women feel they can never really belong in either the Western society where they live or their parents’ transplanted, honor-and-shame-driven immigrant community. Facing this struggle alone “leaves them open like wounds,” says Khan. “And for some, the worldview of radical Islam becomes the infection that festers in these open wounds.”

Not only is radicalization a huge problem: it’s not going to go away on its own. But most of the answers we’ve been given so far aren’t helpful. As great journalism often does, Khan’s award-winning film Jihad: A Story of the Others challenges the official version of events. Nick Davies, special correspondent to The Guardian, says, she shreds the caricatures and clichés tabloids and governments like to give and shows us what’s really happening.

Based on all she learned while making the film, she tells us in her ardent and gracious TED talk where our only hope lies. She says it will never do for Muslim parents to close ranks and whistle in the dark, hoping their youth will simply be able to hold it together.  The problem can only be remedied by both parents and youth working together with their host country’s original population. According to Khan, “Only through creating more inclusive dialogue across, and within, cultures and communities can we hope to foster [the] understanding” essential to prevent radicalization. This is what we so urgently need today.

4 Comments

  1. If violence is mandated in quran in any way shape or form then quran itself needs to be left behind.
    Read surat ‘al tawba’ or repentance.
    Islam is a religion of terror and grouping it with the word peace in one sentence is a sick joke

    1. I agree, Mostafa, that religious violence is a huge problem in our world and that we need to be honest about qur’anic calls to violence. But though I disagree with moderate Muslims, I also want to acknowledge that it’s with the best of intentions that they overlook the violence in their scripture. Personally, I believe Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is the only way forward for all parties concerned.

  2. Dear Mark,

    First may I thank you for writing The Quran In Context, which I am currently reading.

    May I respectfully take issue with your adoption of the commonly used terms ‘radicalisation’ and ‘radical Islam’. ‘Radical’ conveys the idea of major innovation, a fundamental departure from a conventional understanding of something. It seems to me that many Islamic terrorists are acting in pretty much the way that the Mohammed of recorded history directed his umma to act. Were Mohammed to miraculously appear amongst us now, subject to the technological advances in weaponry and communications, he would probably feel quite at home in IS.

    Uncomfortable as it is for vast majority of Muslims, often but unsatisfyingly referred to as ‘moderate Muslims’, to hear, it is their ambitious attempt to reinterpret – in truth reinvent – Islam as a religion of peace, equality and tolerance that is the radical Islam. Inconveniently, a more correct phrase for the Islam that condemns disbelievers as enemies to be conquered or killed might be ‘true Islam’ or, to rediscover a long-neglected word, ‘Mohamedanism’.

    This leads to my suggested answer to your question: education.

    States, and non-state actors must be vigorous in defending free speech. It is my analysis that out of an honest debate conducted, as you so eloquently put it in your preface to The Quran in Context, on Rumi’s judgment-free field, society will find its way, imperfectly no doubt, but surely to understanding and eventually to tolerance.

    1. Dear Paul,

      Regarding my use of “radical Islam,” etc., there are two ways to approach change in a religion: 1) taking the origin as a template and looking at deviations from it, and 2) working back from the present. You advocate the historical approach, which is fine, as long as you remember that Muhammad actually gave us 2 contrary templates: a peaceful approach in Mecca and a violent one in Medina. I would agree that the Medinan template replaced the Meccan one, but we must at least acknowledge that it isn’t as straightforward as looking for one original template. Hence, the debate over which template represents “true Islam” rages on. I opt for the latter approach, of starting with the present and looking at the relatively recent changes in the Muslim world, as most Muslims feel blindsided by the extreme overhaul of their comfortable Islam advocated by an Osama bin Laden or IS. This approach is more sociologically- than historically-oriented.

      Muhammad would doubtless find some things in the Islamic State to his liking, but I’m sure he would find much objectionable also. Those radicals who have turned Islam into a religiously brutal reality show of sorts make him out to be far more brutal than he was. The fact that he extended his theocratic rule by military means doesn’t automatically make him a Genghis Khan. If the early Muslim armies had obliterated the pagan temples they came upon, there wouldn’t be anything left for IS to obliterate now. In other words, IS is extreme, by any standard.

      Thanks for your encouraging comments about my book. I’m glad you agree that we need to engage with Muslims of all kinds. I see no other way forward from here.

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