What is it that radicalizes Muslims, including American Muslims? Is it American foreign policy? Israeli “occupation” of the ancient Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria? Cartoons depicting the warrior-prophet as a warrior? Korans torched by obscure Florida pastors? The life of Osama bin Laden, or, perhaps, his death? Any of a thousand claimed slights, real or imagined, that purportedly provoke young Muslims to “conflagrate” — if we may borrow from the forgiving rationalizations of Faisal Rauf, would-be imam of the would-be Ground Zero mosque?
Here is the unsettling but sedulously avoided truth: What radicalizes Muslims is Islam.
Political correctness requires that we becloud this simple truth with a few caveats that, in most any other context, would be regarded as distractions by sensible people. So it is necessary to say that there is more than one interpretation of Islam. We must further note that the fact that Islam itself is the radicalizing catalyst does not mean that all, or even most, Muslims will become radicals. But here is another disquieting truth: Even the terms “radicalization” and “radical Islam” get things exactly backwards. The reality is that the radicals in Islam are the reformers — the Muslims who embrace Western civilization, its veneration of reason in matters of faith, and the pluralistic space it makes for civil society. What we wishfully call “radicalism” is in fact the Islamic mainstream.