On Radicalism

What happened in Paris on November 13, 2015, was nothing short of horrendous. That any group of people can feel like it’s OK to take innocent people out, for whatever reason, brings anger. That kind of action must come from a deep sense of frustration, from feeling like concerns are not being heard or respected. It feels like a knee-jerk reaction to get someone to listen.

But this whole use of the word “radicalism,” and using it to describe what is going on and connecting it to people who are Muslim, is bothersome. It is setting the table for those who are inclined to look at Islam as “the bad religion” to justify their opinion of that religion and, worse, justify any actions of discrimination and hatred those so inclined to do so might take.

Human beings have a limited capacity to see broadly; we hone in on what we think we are supposed to see and we leave out parts of the entire landscape. Just the other day I participated in an exercise where I was supposed to count how many times people dressed in white passed a basketball. I was completely immersed in my “task.” I got the number of passes thrown correct, but what I missed was a huge gorilla that walked into the middle of the people throwing the basketball! When the video was played again, I was appalled to see that I had missed something so obviously present.

As the world hones in on “Islamic” terrorism, and mentions that those who are carrying out acts of terror are “radicalized” Muslims, I am afraid that we are missing important participants in the entire scenario. Worse, we are forgetting that “radicalized” sorts are part of every religion. Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, was a radicalized racist who believed that God told him to take out participants in the Civil Rights Movement and to exterminate those who helped work for civil rights. Thus, he felt no compunction in ordering the murders of the three Civil Rights workers, Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney, and felt nothing but a keen sense of having fulfilled his purpose when he murdered Vernon Dahmer, a black man who allowed black people to register to vote in his story. Bowers had people, lots of white people, who  believed that God wanted America to remain white. They were radicalized, yes? Yet, we don’t hear that kind of language describing them, or even describing people who today are proponents of racism in this country.

I am sure that there are “radicalized” Zionists, both Christian and Jewish. Those are the ones who put human rights below what they consider to be the will of God to desecrate a group of people whom they do not like nor understand. We do not label them that way; in fact, when it comes to Zionism and what is going on in Palestine, we have heard language that consistently makes the Palestinians the “bad” people who, by the way, happen to be Muslim, while giving a pass to an Israeli government which allows Palestinian rights to be ignored and withheld, and to Jewish settlers who are on settlements in Palestine which have been deemed to be illegal according to international law. Is the Israeli government “radicalized?” Are Americans who support racism “radicalized?”

I am struggling to understand what is going on, but I am clear on the power of language. To continue to use the word “radicalized” without coming to terms with how “radicalized” religious people, in this country and all over the world, have been a reality of history from time immemorial.

I am sickened by what has gone on in Paris. Some radicalized Muslims, apparently, have carried out a heinous act, but all Muslims have  not been radicalized; all Muslims are not radicalized, bad people, no more than all white Christians are bad and radicalized because of what radical groups like the KKK have done.

A candid observation …

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