I've always enjoyed Raymond Ibrahim's columns, and his latest is no exception. Entitled, "Muslim Radicalization": In the Eyes of the Beholder, he makes a crucial point: That what we mean by "radical" is simply "normal" by orthodox Islamic standards, and if we don't understand that, any talk of "radicalization" (or what to do about it) will lead exactly nowhere.
Ibrahim has solid credentials for this topic. Born in the United States to Egyptian parents, he was raised in a bilingual environment and is fluent in Arabic, including colloquial dialects. He received a B.A. and M.A. (both in history, focusing on the ancient and medieval Near East) from California State University, Fresno. There he studied closely with noted military-historian and Hoover Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson.
In his latest article, Ibrahim wrote:
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...”
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.
Read the whole column here, and please share it widely.