My friend has been radicalised. But let’s not mistake him for a terrorist.


My friend has been radicalised. Not many people know about it. He can’t tell his mum and dad, that’s for sure. They would dis-own him. His girlfriend doesn’t know. Nor does the girl it is being arranged for him to marry, or her parents. They would call the whole thing off. 

I applaud it. 

Anyone can set up a new religion or a franchise of an existing one (ask Henry VIII). It’s not a business controlled by professional qualification, quality assurance or ombudsmen. There are no barriers to entry (though Judaism tries it on with its ethnicity mix-up). 

David Koresh was a Christian, the Spanish Inquisition were Christians, because they said they were, regardless of their actions. 

Faith, in adulthood, is self-determined. It’s a choice. 

ISIS are Muslims because they say they are. 

Of course it’s entirely reasonable that (more) moderate Muslims want not to be confused with, or held responsible for, ISIS but there is a fundamental obstacle to this being one hundred percent possible. 

They do share a faith. 

Even a Friday-prayers-only, likes a beer and a bacon sandwich Muslim (plenty of them about) whose daughters get to choose who they marry and who loves his son’s boyfriend sits somewhere on the same theological spectrum as the literally eye-for-an-eye Iranian Mullahs, the stone-women-in-the-street-for-having-sex Saudis.

And ISIS. 

They all believe in the flying horse. 

The same goes for Christians who don’t think The Lord’s Resistance Army is such a good thing and Jews who wish the Israeli Defence Force could perhaps be a little less heavy-handed. 

A million miles along the spectrum maybe, but on the spectrum all the same. All are working from the same set texts. It’s just that some take things more literally. 

More apocalyptically. 

If you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as those committing horrors #inyourname, you could stop focusing desperately on what separates you from the terrorists and look honestly instead at what connects you to them. 

You were not born Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Jehovah’s Witness. It was chosen for you. Then you chose to stick with it. 

Just as easily you can choose, for yourself, to get off the spectrum of connection to the terrorists. That’s what my friend did. He radicalised himself. He’s not a Muslim anymore. He’s an atheist. 

And no-one’s blaming atheists for ISIS.

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