Defining Radical Islamic Ideology

Scholars in terrorism studies repeatedly emphasize the importance of ideology as a motivational factor for terrorists and their choice to pursue a campaign of violence. If these academics are right, I must insist on asking: Why don't our policymakers construct policies that thwart the dissemination of ideology? Furthermore, why do politicians shy away from describing organizations based off of how they describe themselves? Is this due to the fear of appearing prejudiced towards certain groups? The answers are far from clear. The musings below were originally written in response to the Orlando nightclub shooting and the attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv.

My two homes, Israel and the United States, are both in mourning. June 9th took the lives of cafe-dwellers in Tel Aviv and June 12th took the lives of club-goers in Orlando. These incidents are different for many reasons: the scope of the violence, those who were targeted, and location (these attacks took place within days of each other but on opposite sides of the world). However, it is important to emphasize that the litany of differences cannot undermine the very real connection between these terror attacks, the ideological motivation to attack.

The terrorists in Orlando and Tel Aviv have ties to terrorist organizations; the shooter in Orlando verbally asserted his allegiance to ISIS and the shooters in TLV are from the village of Yata (close to Hebron), which is a known Hamas stronghold. Both ISIS and Hamas export radical Islamic ideology. Now, here is normally where I lose people and the PC-policing begins. So before I continue, here are a few points that need to be clear:

1. The word radical literally means the warping of the foundational nature of something to change it into a new entity. Therefore, attaching the word “radical” to this conversation is the recognition that this is not modern or mainstream Islam. It is important to make this distinction. The religion is NOT the problem. The elite who strategically manipulate this identity ARE the problem.

2. To make this point clearer…the operative noun here is IDEOLOGY. The words radical and Islamic are adjectives: what kind of ideology? Islamic. So from here we know that there is Islamic ideology in play but what variation of Islam? Radical. Therefore, we understand that a radicalized version of Islamic ideology is the motivating factor in these attacks.

3. ISIS is a hybrid terrorist organization that claims it is fulfilling prophetic teachings in order to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate where Sharia Law will be implemented. In order for this to happen, there is war being raged on the near and far enemy to cleanse them of their sin. This is RADICAL.

4. Hamas, while it showcases itself as a nationalist organization, is actually combining its political goals with a religious identity. Hamas uses its Islamist identity to recruit, maintain a firm grip on its population, and promote a culture of violence to achieve political goals. Their armed conflicts consist of encouraging the stabbing and shooting of innocent non-combatants to fight against Israel, while also destroying negotiation possibilities. This is RADICAL.

Now that this has been established, let’s remind ourselves that these shootings were motivated by the same ideology. While ISIS and Hamas have different specific goals, if you look at the bigger picture, radical Islamic ideology acts as the driver to both of these organizations. Why is it so hard for Obama administration to openly acknowledge this? President Obama asserts the notion that using the label “radical Islamic ideology”, weakens the fight against the rooting out those who have been radicalized by demonizing an entire religion. However, our lack of defining the problem keeps us from combating it efficiently and effectively.

Instead of seeing people address this problem, I observed various reactions to the Orlando attack that encouraged community divisiveness, such as: “white people don’t understand” or “Christians we hear your silence”. Must we incite more disagreement, social separation, and hate where there is already mourning, brokenness, and sorrow?

What I want is for the conversation about terrorism that we've had for years to finally move forward. I want people to stand up for something, for once in their life, without the safety net of a computer screen in front of them. I want people to stop thinking so small, to imagine and then IMPLEMENT a plan for a better world. I want action. Radical Islamic Ideology is real, and it is time to end its reign of terror.