I have been asking myself for a couple days now, what is it that is drawing these young western kids and adults into radical Islam? I learned some interesting things on my way.
My first stop was an article about the difference between mainstream Islam and the radical side by Dr Usama Hasan in the BBC last year. He points out that radical Islam either misinterprets or ignores Koranic teaching in four important areas- "Umma, Khilafa, Sharia and Jihad". Umma refers to the Muslim as part of a state, and that this "state" is suffering ("Never counting the blessings", he adds) at the hands of the western infidel. Dr Hasan points out that where Islam preaches that "all the tribes were created so you can get to know one another", the Fundamentalists (his definition: "the reading of scripture out of context with no reference to history or a holistic view of the world") see this as an injunction to force all Muslims into a single nation which would then turn outward against the rest of the world.
Khilafa, or Caliphate, is the idea of creating a single theocratic state. Sharia is Law, the semi-medieval law that was good for then but never intended to be used in an evolved society such as today (in fact, much of Dr Hasan's argument rests on interpreting what in the Koran was intended to be taken literally for all time and what was "just for back then." As his spiritual journey started following and defending Fundamentalist teachings, but changed as he experienced "deeper and wider experiences of faith and life".). And Jihad, he maintains, is to be interpreted as "social" struggle- but not violent, as Islam is "a pacifist faith".
So how do we go from there to here? Much of what I have read about the appeal of the radicals focus on three themes.
I. The recruit is confused, an emotional or social outcast, perhaps with drug problems. Islam brings them solidity as they surrender (or "submit") their reality to someone more authoritative, someone who has a clear goal- and conveniently, a way to strike back against the life that is haunting them.
II. The recruit is a typical western kid, with everything they could easily want at their fingertips, and no meaning to go with it. They are taught that it is a society that gives them this cushy life that is the evil (kinda like the Occupy people?), and redemption and purpose lies in rejecting it all- and more than that; tearing it all down.
III. The radicals are very good at recruiting, promising false blessings in this life, reward in the next, finding what ever it takes to pull these kids from a life they feel no attachment to into a life where they can be a hero, a martyr, work for something bigger than themselves, be part of a "tribe." Kind of like joining a gang, except the concept of actually having a "higher" purpose.
Another article I read, "I was a liberal atheist, and then my son became a radical Muslim" in the Spectator earlier this month, adds some insight about why these kids feel disaffected in the first place.
"Two years ago this week, my stepson came home wearing an Arabic black thawb. He walked into the sitting-room, smiled defiantly at me and at his father, and asked us how he looked. We were a little shocked, but being English of course we said he looked very nice."
The kid does something, anything to get a reaction, a sign of notice from his parents, and he gets, "That's nice dear." How seriously do you take YOUR child? Kids don't "act out" without a reason.
"It all seemed so normal; it all was so normal. So much so that, when a prayer mat and textbooks on the Qur’an appeared on a shelf in his room, it came as something of a surprise. His father and I discussed his conversion between ourselves but, naively, we saw it as cosmetic change. This was, we reasoned, our boy’s version of going punk or vegan for a few months. We believed that this ‘conversion’ would be a harmless passing phase. We were wrong."
So, let's just stick our heads in the sand, and it will all go away. That always works.
"Under the informal tutelage of his new friends, our boy eagerly took on the attitudes of his Muslim ‘brothers’ in place of his former personality. Why, he protested, didn’t I cook every night? Why didn’t I ‘look after’ him and his dad like a good (Muslim) woman would? I was lazy, I was ‘irresponsible’, he would say, a smug little smile on his face. I felt angry and sad. To keep the peace, I tried to take it as a joke, informing him that I had a career that involved more than just having babies. Gradually though, I found myself worn down by his attitude."
Step number three in alienating your child: Act in your own interest ("keeping the peace") rather than theirs. A side note to Christians- please note I am not harping on the "atheist" angle of this. How many preacher's children have gone bad- for these very reasons? Teaching them faith is important, but teaching them love- LOVE- is the at-all-costs thing.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (I Cor. 13:1)
"We challenged him, thinking reasonableness would see him acquiesce. But we were not dealing with a rational mind. Our Muslim boy would heed no evidence against his argument and neither did he require any evidence to justify his prejudices. He just shook his head at our ‘blindness’, our blasphemous absence of faith. We’d see, he said, the familiar smug smile appearing: it was all in the Qur’an. We should convert before it was too late. Some of you reading this might dismiss me as a bigot, prejudiced against a religion I do not understand. But please ask yourselves how you would feel if your child started spouting hate-filled bile against homosexuals, women, Jews, anyone in fact, who wasn’t a Muslim man? Every day we fought, struggled, wept and grieved for the boy. All we wanted was our son back."
By this point he wasn't listening. He didn't need to. He had a "faith" that force-fed him everything he "needed". There was no more thought required. But amazingly, slowly, this family began to WIN their son back. What was the secret to this change back?
"He explains his reversion succinctly: ‘I realised that I was good enough, that I didn’t need to follow someone else’s idea of what I should be.’ He can now take responsibility for his life rather than seeking to blame others. He is maturing. He no longer needs the support of a tribe, which is what attracts Muslims from all backgrounds and nations to the idea of jihad. I’ve come to think that it is youth, not persecution or poverty, that these Islamic State groupies have in common, an embryonic sense of identity. For them, blaming America for the world’s problems is the equivalent of shouting at their parents that they ‘never asked to be born’."
(BTW, the author wrote under a pseudonym.)
We live in a society where we say we have love, but we don't TEACH love. Do you teach your child what love is? Do you talk to them, share with them, LISTEN to them? Or is there always a bill to pay, an article to read, a chore to do, that gets in the way.
Funny, isn't it? I went searching for the reason for radical Islam's appeal, and found it is the same appeal as that of gangs, drugs, sex, hate. It ends up Todd Rundgren was right: