Why do some Muslims turn to extremism?

How the West views Islam [click to enlarge]

How the West views Islam [click to enlarge]

It’s really the wrong question to ask, since we are looking at the problem from a Western point of view.

A Christian may choose to study the scriptures, spend time in contemplation and silent prayer, perhaps go to a monastery or nunnery to devote his or her life to God. Perhaps you could call this being an ‘extremist’ Christian, since it is far removed from the majority in our secular 21st century world.

Alternatively, one might simply call this person devout. Becoming a devout Christian does not generally lead to violence or terrorism (except in perhaps a tiny handful of cases). Whilst many apologists for Islam will claim that Christian and Jewish texts are just as ‘violent’ as any others, how many acts of violence are carried out by individuals using verses from the Bible as justification? Some, maybe, but compared to a certain other religion, the number in modern times is essentially zero.

If a Muslim chooses to study the Qur’an in any detail, however, he or she will rapidly discover that far from being the cliched Religion of Peace™ that the media in the West portray, the Qur’an is littered with hatred for non-Muslims, in particular, Jews and Christians, full of exhortations to kill infidels, which are regarded throughout as unclean, third-class citizens. Again, this person is simply becoming more knowledgeable about Islam, in other words, becoming more devout.

The West views the actions of Islamic State as extremism, but in reality those actions are simply Islam in its highest and purest form. The Islam practised by the majority of Muslims in the west isn’t really Islam, it’s a watered down version, which Islamic State would certainly regard as heretical. It would also regard most Muslims in the west either as hypocrites or apostates, and in either case the punishment would be death. See image for a graphical representation of this disconnect.

So the question isn’t really, why do some Muslims turn to extremism, but rather, why do Muslims become more devout? And there isn’t an answer to that. It’s nothing to do with background, privilege, wealth, education or any of the other factors that apologists like to blame. Many jihadis are highly educated, from wealthy families.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is an excerpt from Son of Hamas, by Mosab Hassan Yousef:

Islamic life is like a ladder, with prayer and praising Allah as the bottom rung. The higher rungs represent helping the poor and needy, establishing schools, and supporting charities. The highest rung is jihad.

The ladder is tall. Few look up to see what is at the top. And progress is usually gradual, almost imperceptible—like a barn cat stalking a swallow. The swallow never takes its eyes off the cat. It just stands there, watching the cat pace back and forth, back and forth. But the swallow does not judge depth. It does not see that the cat is getting a little bit closer with every pass until, in the blink of an eye, the cat’s claws are stained with the swallow’s blood.

A moderate Muslim is actually more dangerous than a fundamentalist, however, because he appears to be harmless, and you can never tell when he has taken that next step toward the top. Most suicide bombers began as moderates…

Extremism (as we in the West like to call it), is merely the top rung of the Islamic ladder, the purest and highest form of Islam to which any Muslim could, and should, aspire. Until that top rung is essentially removed from the ladder, there will be many Muslims eager to place their foot upon it.


  1. It is also worth noting that no one is born a Muslim (or a Christian or a Hindu). We are all born atheists. Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are learned belief systems. Islamic jihadists were once wide eyed children sitting in the laps of their parents wondering about the world. We need to think about the conversion of these young atheists to believers because this is the first step in the process of creating a top rung jihadist.


  2. Bankers are more bloodthirsty that the most extremist jihadis. Islam is a phoney enemy created to distract you.


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