The phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” is but one of the many erroneous usages of the word “radical.” In fact, the misnomer of acts of terror as “radically Islamic,” besides being a dog whistle characterizing Islam has fundamentally destructive in its essence, also contributes to the degradation of the principal meaning of “radical.”
While disagreements on how to discuss terrorist attacks are many, the vast majority of those reacting to a massacre can agree on their tragedy. The innocents involved did not deserve to die. That is where the two parties diverge in thought, with one on the offensive and the other on the defensive.
Probably among the most pernicious of symptoms of rotten discourse on terrorism has been the riling up of a xenophobic far right. For refugees, immigrants, and even citizens since birth who are just a different colour, the offensive after every attack goes after all of them. Hateful, Islamophobic hashtags see spikes in use and activity, as do hate crimes against a community just as terrorized as their neighbours.
There are also, of course, the token politician tweets that ooze with alarm and compassion. Justin Trudeau sent his best on behalf of Canadians. Trump did too, only after politicizing the attack by pushing his xenophobic ban. That’s another thing that oozes out of these attacks like a broken cyst: fear. Not to say that fear shouldn’t be a reaction. It’s a perfectly rational, logical and just reaction. This being said, the fear could not be more tragically misdirected. It’s a tragic situation when some still find uncertain the notion that the vast majority of Muslims don’t share the ideology of those who commit these acts. The vast majority is, unfortunately, in typical western fashion, being mischaracterized and painted with a broad brush because of the actions of few.
The subsequent question is one of mathematics. How could so few cause so much damage to a Muslim community numbering nearly two billion?
After every attack and its subsequent domination of the media cycle, we fail to realize that the ideology pushing these attacks resulting in dozens of innocent deaths has to come from somewhere. It springs from a sick, twisted, repressed, backward ideology. An ideology can’t ever be killed — as a resurgence of neo-Nazism onto the mainstream has proved — but it can be crippled into irrelevance. With most of the Western powers bombing ISIS and supporting offensives against them on the ground, the ideology, theoretically, shouldn’t be in existence anymore. Yet it is. Like anything in this world, it survives on capital. Capital for weapons and media: to fight and to spread their message. Saudi Arabia, coincidentally, has both an obscene abundance of money and is ruled by the same ideology. Saudi Arabia has also been aptly described as “a Daesh that has made it.”
Besides the imprisonment, public torture and execution of homosexuals, atheists, political activists, religious minorities, and a systematic oppression of women, Saudi Arabia also boasts funding of extremists groups on terroristwatch lists. Let alone that the two worst humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East, Syria and Yemen, are being exacerbated by Saudi Arabia’s block of similar-minded nations and their Western backers. Whether it be the funding of groups on the ground, the recycling of jihadist fighters by facilitation of movement or the pursuit of regime changes that destabilize any opposition to the Saudi monarchy, the governments scrambling to mitigate the damage of these terrible attacks have the blood of their own civilians on their hands.
Indeed, it is surmisable that after every recent terrorist attack, a strange, bitter taste is left in the mouth of those “radicals” who know more than their governments would prefer: that of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of those politicians sending their thoughts and prayers for the victims of a Wahhabist terrorism while almost simultaneously cooperating with its source. The hypocrisy of Donald Trump denouncing the 2017 terrorist attacks of Manchester and London days after meeting with the theocratic, despotic, terrorism-sponsoring Saudi monarchy and dozens of its officials and selling them 110 billion dollars worth of weapons. The hypocrisy of Justin Trudeau condemning these attacks knowing full well his government approved another multi-billion dollar arms deal with the Saudis. The hypocrisy of Theresa May slandering Jeremy Corbyn with accusations of terrorist sympathy and collaboration, while aiding, in both logistics and intelligence, the Saudi bombing of Yemen, a country on the brink of a full-on starvation.
While it is important to mourn the innocent victims, their families, and their communities, one shouldn’t bother with a sympathetic thought for any western leader that isn’t categorically opposed to its main source, a despotic monarchy backed by the gargantuan weight of the Western Consensus. Radicalism, or an action affecting the fundamental nature of a challenge, is what is needed to counter terror in the streets of Mosul, Damascus, London and New York. Sympathetic tweets alone can wait.