I’m kind of a stickler for using words properly, much to the chagrin of certain young people in my life.
It’s campaign season. Some candidates are saying that we are at war with “radical Islam”. Others deny this, or they change the subject.
However, I have a sneaking suspicion that even those who admit that civilization is at war with “radical Islam” don’t quite know what they are saying. They are probably trying to say that we are at war with “extremist Islam”, or some variation thereof – but not with Islam itself. Not with “true Islam” anyway, and certainly not with all Muslims. It’s a way of avoiding accusations of religious bigotry. “We’re only against the misguided Islam of the radicals, the fringies, the extremists, not the friendly Islam of most Muslims”.
But the word “radical” has no moral connotations apart from that which it describes. “Radical” is derived from the Latin word “radix”, meaning roots. A radical thing is an authentic thing, true to its roots, pure and unadulterated. “Radical Islam” is precisely true and authentic Islam, the real Islam, the Islam that is faithful to itself. Of course, like any religion, there are followers who stray from its roots – the liberals. Such followers are usually in the “mainstream” of modern societies.
What is a radical Muslim? A Muslim who is like Mohammed. He’s Osama bin Laden or “Jihadi John”. What is a radical Christian? A Christian who is like Jesus. He’s St. Francis of Assisi or St. Damien of Molokai. These are the “radicals”. The former are evil; the latter are holy. We prefer liberal and unfaithful Muslims, not radical Muslims. But we ought to prefer faithful and radical Christians.