AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish explodes the prevailing myth that jihad terrorists generally grew up in "moderate" Muslim homes and then were somehow "radicalized":
Where were the terrorists radicalized? Hmmmm…
The media and law enforcement have been asking and investigating when and where the San Bernardino Muslim terrorist couple was radicalized. Was it before or after they met on line and got married? And who inspired them?
Such questions imply that mainstream Islamic culture does not attempt to radicalize, and does not stress jihadist education and hatred of non-Muslims. They imply that the majority of Islamic schools and mosques in the Muslim world are not teaching jihad and martyrdom as an obligation for every Muslim; that they are not calling Jews, Christians and non-Muslims "infidels, apes and pigs and enemies of Allah"; that the majority of Muslim children are not immersed in hate education from birth; that there are no Islamic laws clearly stating that a Muslim who kills an apostate will not be prosecuted; that only a few Muslim preachers are warning Muslims from befriending Jews and Christians; that there are no Muslim preachers encouraging Muslims to burn and destroy churches; no Islamic preachers waving knives and swords during their sermon and from the pulpit of mosques, commanding Muslims go “stab, stab”; and that there are no Islamic national TV stations equating the killing of infidels with worshiping Allah.
All of the above is common preaching in Islamic mosques all over the Middle East. But in addition to encouraging jihad, Islamic popular culture highly honors jihadists, martyrs and their families after their deaths or suicide attacks. I grew up watching Islamic leaders and politicians give preferential treatment in hiring to the jihadists and their families. Awards, financial rewards and life pensions are given to the families of those who die in the jihad. That is not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also all over the Middle East. My own father was an Egyptian army colonel general and headed the "fedayeen" operations against Israel in the 50’s. He was killed in the jihad against Israel. After my father’s death, the president of Egypt, Gamel Abdel Nasser, honored our family personally by visiting our home. Books were written about him, a major street and school were named after him in Alexandria, Egypt, and a monument was built in his honor in Gaza, which still stands today. Even non-Arab Muslim countries such as the Shiite government of Iran named a street in Tehran after Khalid Islambouli, the Sunni Egyptian man who killed Anwar Sadat.
The honoring and preferential treatment of jihadists also extends to women jihadists, as well as to the mothers and wives of jihadists. Families of martyrs are not only honored, but are given life pensions. Women who express pride in their jihadi sons and husbands are often given lucrative government positions and parliament seats, in addition to becoming symbols of honor and respect for other women to emulate.
Western logic often believes that the majority of Islamic terrorists were originally born in a moderate Islamic culture, but somewhere along the way, some specific unpopular education or inspiration was dropped on them by a few bad apple jihadists (who are not true Muslims) and turned them into terrorists.
But that is not how Muslim jihadists are created. To be born and raised in a majority Islamic society, one cannot avoid but interacting daily with radical and jihadist views and hate indoctrination. In fact, at least until very recently, those who refuse to do jihad are considered infidels. Even the minority Christian population in Egypt was forced to participate in all the jihadist wars against Israel, or else they would be considered traitors.
The Muslim world was subjected to an electric shock in their mainstream jihadist education after 9/11, when the West started questioning their sacred cow of jihad. But as usual, Muslims who are commanded to lie for the sake of Islam’s reputation had to explain that jihad means an inner struggle and not killing and torturing non-Muslims in Islam’s holy agenda to control the world. Today, the Muslim world is in turmoil and even internal war, because they don’t know how to explain to the West the truth about what they learned over centuries as their pride and centerpiece of their religious education: jihad.
To answer the question of who radicalized the terrorists, the answer is that the whole culture of Islam has constantly radicalized terrorists. Perfectly healthy young men and women were driven by a cruel totalitarian ideology to do the unthinkable in the eyes of the world: they are driven to hate their lives, hate humanity, and abandon their kids for the sake of terrorizing non-Muslims, expanding Islam, and bringing the whole world under a glorious Islamic Caliphate.
But luckily, even though Arab and Muslim kids were subjected to intense jihadist education, not all became terrorists, even though many sympathize with the jihadist ideology and defend it. I was personally asked at age 8 by the president of Egypt at the time, Gamel Abdel Nasser, when he and his entourage asked me and my siblings: “Which one of you will avenge your father’s death by killing Jews”. My siblings and I were speechless, but the question troubled my young mind for many years. It made me feel that since I didn’t want to kill anyone, then could that mean I did not love my father?
There is no escape from the Islamic hate and jihad indoctrination if one lives in the Muslim world. We were all subjected to Islamic hate indoctrination just by hearing mosque preaching and reading Quran commandments to “fight in His cause, and slay and be slain.”
It is also true that not everyone subjected to Islamic radicalization ends up a radical. In fact, it is nothing short of a miracle that in spite of the intense Islamic jihad culture, the majority of Muslims are not terrorists or active jihadists.
It would be more logical for the West to ask: “How come some Muslims despite the radicalism have escaped without a shred of hatred in their hearts, and in some cases even with love for the West and Israel?”
AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish is the author “The Devil We Don’t Know” and president of “Former Muslims United,” a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.