Across the world, «Islamist extemism», «Islamic fundamentalism» and similar terms came to be used far more than that of other religions. Is it simply a result of biased pejudice towards Muslims? Or, has Islam any dormant elements that passively contribute to the radicalization of vulnerable population? What mechanisms stand behind the persistence of the radicalization among Muslim populace. They are the matters that have been puzzling specialists, sociologists and political scientists for a long time. Most scientists often concentrate their researches on relating the roots of radicalization to purely economic and socio-political issues. Indeed, radicalization is of multifaceted causes that involve any possible societal problem. However, socio-economic factors that have been contributing radicalization are mostly so exaggarated that the attention to other more important factors, such as ideological causes are either undermined or misinterpreted. Current researches on the ideological factors of radicalization are mostly biased and influenced by stereotypes or long-held dogmas, which hamper reaching evidence-based, accurate analysis and objective approach. Even some so-called researchers claim that Islam is the only cure for radicalization and every single problem that Muslims are facing.
The Core Factors
In fact, the ideological factors that foster radicalization are situated within the Islamic creed. From scientific perspective, any religion, be it Judaism or Christianity or Islam, have been born out of purely socio-political circumstances that necessitated their emergence. Thus, the core of their creed and ideology mostly reflect socio-political situation of the period they have emerged. Religions should and must undergo series of reforms that secure their survival consistent with socio-political, economic,scientific and technological changes. In other words, religions should upgrade and optimize their ideology to more advanced levels and evolve in accordance with social, economic and scientific tendencies. The successful modification come to reality in two ways:
Religions are reformed to meet the standards of the age they are living as is the case with the Catholic Church that have undergone reforms in the age of Reneissance. Initilly, the Catholic Church exercised fierce resistance against reformation at the expense of its unity. However, its grip of power decreased in a timely manner and eventually it turned into an organization, functioning only symbolic power. Thus, it had willy-nilly to rationalize its ideology to meet the demands of that period.
- Evolutionary changes
Some religions don’t necessarily experience one-time, sudden reforms, but dormantly change their ideology to continue their existence — something that exactly happened with proto-Brahmanism. The name of this religion changed several times. It has split into several sects that enjoy co-existance and harmony. But, this religion is still alive. After Muslim conquests, to secure its existance Hindus imported even the elements of Islam and began to claim that Mohammad was, in fact, one of the incarnations of Hindu God — Vishnu. Probably, the flexibility of this religion saved it from extinction.
Therefore, it can be said that both Christianity and Brahmanism have been rationalized with the suitable methods that adapt them to the periods they were living.
However, Islam has undergone none of the modifications even at a sufficient level. After Sunni-Shia split which was the biggest ideological split in Islamic world, Muslim clerics began to be extremely cautious about any trace of ideological change. Undoubtedly, there were some efforts to reform Islamic ideology to adapt it to different periods. But, these efforst paid off at negligible level. After the notoriously conservative reign of Omayyad Caliphate, some islamic movements emerged to rationalize and reform Islam. Some of these movements like Mutazilites were highly inspired by the teachings of Greek philosophy. Whereas, some, such as Sufism was heavily inspired by the elements of Christianity and Zoroastrism as a result of cultural assimilation between Arabs and the population of occupied lands. However, despite governmental supports, these movements gradually gave the upper hand in favor of majority-held orthodox views. Thus, Mutazilites, having been pioneers of initial Islamic movements, that introduced the elements of rationalism into Islamic ideology, have been crushed by orthodox ulama during the reign of Abbasids. Sufis, that encouraged mysticism and symbolyzing the religion, were ostracized and denounced by most clerics. After these two pioneers of reforms in Muslim world were weakened, the rationalization of Islamic ideology in a natural way turned out to be something like a mirage. After the European colonization, Islamic society has undergone drastic changes. The religious ideology came to be interpreted favorably to colonizers in its form, but, remained the same as in the past in its essence. However, this problem went dormant during the 20th century, because many people paid focus of their attention to the Cold War and Communism.
Along the most historical roots, there are some political factors that reactivated radicalism in Islamic Lands after temporary dormancy under the pressure of pro-soviet regimes. However, three historical events greatly expanded radicalism in Muslim majority countries:
- Six-Day conflict
Up to the Six-Day war between Israel and Arab countries, the vast majority of arab population had looked at communism as a legitimate defender of Palestinian cause. But, after this embarrassing defeat, they began to approach skeptically to communists’ capability to carry out this mission. That is why they looked for more recognizable ideology that render them the hope of glory. Islamism was the most relevant candidate to this context. Palestinian extremist organization — Hamas was established around this time.
- The War in Afghanistan
Radicals saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a brilliant opportunity to internationalize and legitimize their cause globally.
- 9/11 events
Not only did 9/11 events demonstrate the threat of terrorism, but also marked the beginning of new cultural tendency in the brave new world. This tendency manisfests itself in the transformation of Muslim societies from cultural Islam into Islamic culture. The former, that is cultural Islam, is more moderate and constitutes Islam adapted to indigenous traditions. The latter, i.e Islamic culture, is more puritanical and aims to adapt local cultures to universal Islamic creed. In this way, many people who had adored proto-zoroastrian, local values as a part of Islamic heritage began to disclaim them in favor of purely orthodox views. The global spread of unique and universal beard style among Muslims reflects this change.
What can be done?
In a nutshell, the fight against radicalization, for all account, involves the eradication of the root factors, it stems from. Neither economic, nor political changes may solve this problem as long as its core exists. Only one step can lead to deradicalization: reforming and raionalizing religious ideas in a way that enable its co-existance with secular visions.