Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The misleading use of the term “radical” in the context of Islam…

Most media, both liberal and conservative, modify the word “Islam” with “radical” every time they make reference to some violent, heinous act of terror committed by Muslims.  Even when Sean Hannity reveals the connection between the Muslim who beheaded an Oklahoma woman and his mosque, the caption reads “RISE OF RADICAL ISLAM.” No, Sean, it is the rise of the original, orthodox Islam – exactly the way Muhammad intended.

“The Five” on FOX News Channel fall all over themselves when Bob Beckel mentions just the word “Islam” when referring to jihadists.  The others quickly pounce and say “…you mean ‘radical Islam, Bob…”, fearful that Muslims might take offense.  I think Bob, bless his liberal heart, is the only one of The Five who is not afraid to assert that Islam itself promotes jihad, terror, and hate as opposed to the others who insist on the obfuscationist term “radical” Islam.

Is the modifier “radical” being used to describe a form of Islam relative to “non-radical” or “normal” Islam?  Or is it being used to describe the teaching of Islam and actions of Muslims relative to accepted normal behavior in society at large?  Its meaning is certainly not clear.  It could be taken either way.

Let’s see if we can clarify the meaning and appropriate usage of the term “radical” by exploring dictionary definitions:

From Merriam Webster:


adjective \ˈra-di-kəl\

: very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary

: very basic and important

: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

Full Definition of RADICAL

1.  :  of, relating to, or proceeding from a root: as

a (1) :  of or growing from the root of a plant <radical tubers> (2) :  growing from the base of a stem, from a rootlike stem, or from a stem that does not rise above the ground <radical leaves>

b :  of, relating to, or constituting a linguistic root

c :  of or relating to a mathematical root

d :  designed to remove the root of a disease or all diseased and potentially diseased tissue <radical surgery> <radical mastectomy>

2.  :  of or relating to the origin : fundamental

3.  a :  very different from the usual or traditional : extreme

b :  favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions

c :  associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change

d :  advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs <the radical right>

In definition 1., radical can mean “root” or the very essence or basis for something; or the source.  In religious terms, radical Islam would refer to the root or source of Islam.  A synonym would be “orthodox” Islam.

In definition 2., radical can mean “origin” – what Islam was in its beginning.  Again, a synonym might be “orthodox” or “fundamentalist” Islam.

In definition 3., radical means “different” or “unusual.”  The problem with this definition is “different” or “unusual” are relative terms.  Different or unusual compared to what?  Compared to “normal” Islam or compared to the rest of (non-Islamic) humanity or human behavior?  This vagueness creates a problem in conveying the reality of “radical” Islamic teaching and behavior.

Let’s look at The Free Dictionary definitions:

rad·i·cal (rd-kl)


1. Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical solution to the problem.

2. Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.

3. Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.

In definition 1, once again radical can mean “basic” or the root form of Islam:  How Islam was in its beginning.

In definition 2, radical can mean unusual or extreme.  Here again this usage is relative.  Unusual or extreme compared to what?  Compared to other usual or non-extreme versions of Islamic behaviors and values?  Or compared to usual or non-extreme general (non-Islamic) human behaviors or values?  Again, this vagueness creates a problem in conveying the reality of “radical Islamic teaching and behavior.

In definition 3, radical can mean great differences from current practice, conditions or institutions or revolutionary views compared to non-revolutionary views.  This definition is less relative because the objects of the differences are identified:  Current practice compared to the different or revolutionary practices.  If this definition is used with regard to Islam, however, vagueness still exists.  What is “radical” Islam being compared to?  The current or common beliefs and practices of other Muslims or the current or common beliefs and practices of non-Islamic society? 

Complicating this question is the truth about the nature of doctrinal beliefs and practices of Muslims.  If we mistakenly believe that the beliefs and practices of Muslims are peaceful and non-threatening, then radical Islam is the right term for those who wage jihad terror.  However, if we correctly believe that the fundamental, orthodox, root beliefs promoted by today’s Islam promotes deception, terror, and violent jihad, then the term “radical Islam” becomes very misleading – vague at best.

To recap:

  • Islam is radical compared to every other religious teaching and practice. 
  • Jihad, terror, deception, sharia, misogyny, anti-Semitism, intolerance, and efforts toward world domination by any means necessary are basic components of orthodox Islam.
  • It is foolish to focus on ISIS, ISIL, IS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or any one of the hundreds of immoral, blood thirsty, intolerant Islamic groups as being “the problem.”  Islam is “the problem.”  These are only the most current Islamic “flavors of the week”, each informed and motivated by historic, orthodox, Muhammadan Islam.
  • Islam is undergoing a reformation; a return to its historic essence.  The only “radical Islam” is the sleeping or apostate Islam:  The sleeping Islam of the fairly recent past (the century prior to its recent resurgence) that ignored its jihadist roots; and the apostates from orthodox Islam who for whatever perverse reason – culture, fear, ignorance, bad habit – insist on calling themselves “Muslim.”
  • “Radical Islam” is a misleading phrase that avoids the truth about Islam and should be avoided in the interest of truth and accuracy in the media.

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