I Know a Lot of Radical Muslims


I've known a lot of radical Muslims in my life, but none of them have looked the way they do on Fox News. In college, I studied the works of Rumi and Gilani and Al-Ghazali—all of whom spent decades of their lives absorbed in radical asceticism in the desert, praying and fasting and pondering the nature of God.

I've known Muslims involved in politics and activism, articulating radical notions of equality and justice.

I've known Muslims who advocated for radical forms of governance like socialism and democratic socialism and anarchism and, yes, Islamism.

I've known radical Muslim feminists and radical Muslim queers and radical Muslim anti-racists.

I've known Muslims who were radically and defiantly and publicly proud of their faith, even when it made them a target for violence.

I've known Muslims who radically made time for prayer five times a day in a society that told them God couldn't possibly love them.

I've known Muslims who didn't always pray and who were often told they were unworthy of God's mercy but who radically clung to their faith, anyway.

I know a lot of ways to practice radical Islam, but none of them are featured on Fox News.

"Radical" as a descriptor for "violent" or "hateful" or "rightwing" or "fundamentalist" is a turn of phrase only applied to Islam.

When Hindu mobs kill people, I call it "Hindu nationalism," as distinct from the radical Hinduism of Gandhi.

When Buddhists take a machete to Muslim children, I simply call it "terrorism," not to be confused with the radical Buddhism of the Dalai Lama.

And when I think of radical Christianity, I don't consider the Milwaukee Sikh Temple shooter or the Atlanta Olympics bomber.

I think instead of the nun I met in Lebanon living and working in a refugee camp.

I think of the desolate and dusty mountain in eastern Egypt, and the cave at the top, and the radical Christian monk who made the hike with me. In that cave, 1700 years ago, St. Anthony the Great invented monasticism by radically living the command to "go, sell what you have, and give to the poor."

I think of the Christians who displayed radical solidarity and faith during the Egyptian revolution by forming a human chain to protect their praying Muslim brothers from government forces.

There are a lot of ways to be radical in one's faith. And there are a lot of ways to be moderate, too. We all have to grapple with our place on that spectrum, answer our own consciences, and decide how we want to live our values.

But whether we choose a faith, whatever one we choose, and however we choose to live it, murder and rape and violence and hatred are never a more radical form of faith. They're just a more radical form of evil.

I've known a lot of radical Muslims in my life, but apparently the folks at Fox News have not.

It's too bad. They're missing out on some wonderful role models.

Jacqui is a terrible dinner party guest—she only knows how to talk about politics and religion. On a typical Friday night, she can be found binge-watching her current Netflix show of choice, playing Civilization: The Board Game and drinking <$8 bottles of champagne.

Photo Credit: Rajarshi Mitra