We know that numerous people in other lands often demonize the United States and call for its downfall. This does not seem to be the case with the would-be Times Square Bomber. Well, not before he came to the US.
It seems that Faisal Shahzad was a normal, everyday Muslim when he arrived in America. Like the thousands of Muslims who are my friends and family, Faisal came (it seems) to improve his life, get married, and live the American dream. According to the Telegraph,
his alleged transition to terrorist struck those who knew him as similarly unlikely. Faiz Ahmed, mayor of Muhib Banda, the village in north-western Pakistan where he grew up, described a shy boy who was a "most modern and smart person", showing little interest in radical politics or religion before leaving for the US. READ MOREThis lends itself to the question, then: does living in the US radicalize Muslims?* Clearly, it radicalized at least one. Certainly, with groups like Revolution Muslim, it has great potential to radicalize many more. What is it about our nation that would set Muslims into a murderous fury against the West?
I think that there are a combination of factors:
1 - Ease of access to Muhammad's true teachings
2 - Free speech for radical Muslims
3 - Islamophobiaphobia
1 - Ease of Access to Muhammad's True Teachings. If it weren't for the internet and copious publications of historical source material, I would never have known the extent of Muhammad's teachings regarding the ultimate and violent conquest of Islam. My family and jamaat (sect or group) of Islam had taught me that Islam was peaceful and that Muhammad was the prince of peace. However, because I lived in the US, I was able to read what he actually taught: an initially peaceful message which transitioned to a violent one as Muhammad's status in society transitioned from a weak to a powerful one. Had this realization not aroused enough cognitive dissonance in me to question the truth of Islam, I may very well have been violently radicalized by concluding: "If these are Muhammad's teachings, I must follow them."
2 - Free Speech for Radical Muslims. If it hasn't become clear yet by watching Revolution Muslim and the profusion of protests in our very own country, people can say whatever they want to promote a violent Islamic perspective without having to worry about anybody quieting them. Though free speech is generally good, it fails to be good when it cannot be counterbalanced by free speech to the contrary; in this case, we need to be able to point out the dangers of this radicalization that is so freely being promoted by some Muslims. This leads me to my next point.
3 - Islamophobiaphobia. As I have indicated before, people are so scared of being labeled Islamophobic that they neither speak out against the dangers of radical Islam, nor do they lend their support to others who do. This leaves the free speech of the radical Muslims unchecked and unbalanced. Muslims who might be swayed not to become violent hear no opposing position because it's not allowed to be spoken by people like the authors of this blog without being labelled as hate speech.
By my reckoning, these are three factors that lead some Muslims who come to the US to a point of radicalization. What are your thoughts?
*By "radical" I do not mean a radical theology, as if only radicals would interpret Muhammad's message to be violent. I think any Muslim who gives the appropriate weight to Muhammad's teachings would conclude that violence is enjoined upon Muslims to advance the Islamic cause. Moreso I refer to a radical lifestyle, which would ironically be in line with traditional Islam.