In the horrifying aftermath of another bloody terrorist, attack Western political leaders are always quick to assert that this isn’t Islam. They are eager to reassure us that Islam is really a peaceful religion. The problem, according to the media, is that the individuals responsible had been “radicalized”. Curious term.
The Oxford dictionary says radical means, “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.” In other words to be radical means to go all the way – to take something to its ultimate conclusion. Taken in this sense, ‘radicalization’ is more or less a good thing. If I needed a surgeon I would much rather have a ‘radical’ surgeon operate on my body than a careless or indifferent one!
So how do people become radicalized? In a way, everyone in the world is a latent radical. They may subscribe to one particular philosophy or another, but they’re moderates - just going along with the crowd. Then one day something causes them to re-examine their life and they decide that they have been too half-hearted about things. They make a New Years resolution to really live what they believe from here on in, and bingo –you’ve got a radical.
What do radicals do? Well, when a nominal atheist decides to get serious about his/her beliefs they usually write a book and go on a speaking tour. When a Buddhist becomes ‘radicalized’ they retreat into a life of quiet contemplation and self-improvement. When a Hindu goes radical they just join in more happy festivals. In effect they all just go back and embrace their fundamental beliefs more earnestly.
By far the largest identifiable ‘faith’ group in the world are Christians. We too are susceptible to radicalization. And when nominal Christians go radical, they also strive to live more consistently with their fundamental beliefs: they begin to pray more, give more, and become humbler, kinder, more honest and well-adjusted individuals - more like Jesus himself.
But it’s a far different story when a nominal Muslim goes radical. When they decide to get serious about their faith they tend to become antagonistic, deceptive, and consider killing people to enforce their religious views. More like Mohammed himself. This too, is just being more consistent with their fundamental beliefs.
So a ‘radicalized’ Muslim is a seriously different prospect then people from other religious groups. Secularists like to believe that since all religions are nonsense anyway, that they are all the same and should all be treated the same way. But you can’t treat people of all faiths the same. Because while every Christian is a latent good neighbour, every Muslim is a latent terrorist.