De-Radicalizing Islam: Canevas de Method de Deradicalisation - Reviewed

The following review is essentially a summary of this excellent booklet published in France under the pseudonym “Foi.Terrain.Mediation.” Canevas de Methode de Deradicalisation [Sketch of a Method of Deradicalization] begins by asserting that all the attempts made by the French government to deradicalize Muslims have failed completely. The reason for this failure is that they have treated radical Islamic belief as a psychological or sociological phenomenon, reducing it to violence exalted for its own sake. They haven’t engaged with the underlying hopes and desires of the Islamists, especially the most fanatic. They haven’t taken Islamic belief seriously enough to understand the real mechanism that animates their actions.

First of all, what animates them is a certain worldview where evil can, and therefore must, be eradicated. At the root, the problem isn’t just the means taken by Islamists (i.e., propaganda, terrorism) but also the goal: the dream of a better world beyond the horizon, and it is for this dream that many are ready to sacrifice their lives and those of others. If the imposition of Sharia on mankind will lead swiftly to a better world, then those who oppose that objective must submit or be eliminated. This thinking can be called messianism, and Islamism is not the only form of it. Communism also had such a dream, and it led to 100 million deaths in the 20th century.

To deradicalize we must enter into Islamist thought where belief linked to emotion holds a dominant place. We must conduct the dialogue with respect and conviction. To begin, the thread to be followed is the Fatihah, a prayer consisting of seven verses which all Muslims know by heart and recite daily. It stands at the head of the Qur’an.  Deradicalization means necessarily working together. Living together as neighbors is not enough to unite us. We need to have common goals and means of acting for our common interests. We must work together for the good of civil society, the good of families, and the good of our children. Being realistic means seeing what will bring about a civil entente and opposing what menaces that goal.

The first verse of the Fatihah is an invocation Allah-God as the Merciful. From time immemorial the name of God in Arabic has been Allah, especially among Christian Arabs, who were given names like Abdallah (servant of Allah) long before Islam. In Hebrew and Aramean, the words Elohim and Alaha mean God. All these names are in the plural, the Most High Ones, and designate the one Creator God.

The opening verse uses two forms of the merciful:Rahman and Rahim. The first means One Who gives mercy, and the second means One Who is merciful in Himself. The question is, does God want the good of all men across time, or only the good for some and evil for others? This is an important question that must be raised, but we need not answer it now. If we cannot raise such a question, then deradicalization is impossible. Each must take the time to look honestly into this matter. When the media systematically characterize terrorists as mentally ill, are they not evading this very question? Sending terrorists to psychiatrists won’t help them escape this key dilemma.

In the second verse of the Fatihah, Allah-God is praised as “Lord of the Universe.” This verse is an invitation to know, love, desire, and praise Him. In the dominant culture of the West, the values are sex, money, and power, and Islamism is opposed to this culture. However, things are not so neatly defined. Does not Daesh (Isis) promise sex, money, and power to its militants? Are these promises not based on certain traditions and on passages in the Qur’an? The basic question is, how does one place God above other desires?

In this second verse God is called the Lord of the Ages as well as God of the Worlds. Since He has time to punish wrongdoers, why would he delegate men to punish and kill them in His place? Can anyone know ahead of time exactly whom God has destined to Hell? A miscreant could still turn to God at some moment in life, perhaps his last. By killing him, then, does one not risk arrogating the prerogative of Judgment that belongs to God alone? If one wants to eradicate evil from the world, should he not start by reorienting his own desires? How can one dream of satisfying his desires to sex, money, and power, and at the same time place Allah above all such desires? These questions must be raised and faced together in the most rational way possible, but not yet answered.

The third verse of the Fatihah returns to the first, and once again invokes God as Rahman and Ramin. The root of the word mercy in Arabic and other Semitic tongues designates the womb of a woman, the uterus. To have mercy means to carry the life of someone and want a lifetime of good for him. This is the God of life who maintains life and wants it to grow in each person and community. The vital question is this: If Ramin means that God is merciful in Himself, can He be so for some and the opposite for others? The Life of the Prophet by Ibn Hisam, published two centuries after the birth of Islam, does not correspond to this idea of mercy. Nor do the Hadiths. See the list of murders attributed to Muhammad. But did these really happen? Or did the caliphs create out of self-interest a model that justified their oppressive system?

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This is just an excerpt from Culture Wars Magazine, not the full article. To continue reading, purchase the January, 2019 edition of Culture Wars Magazine.

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