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If Islam Teaches Peace, Why Are there Radical Muslims?



Reply Date

Jun 03, 2016


If Islam teaches peace, why are there radical Muslims? What have they missed? How did they become radical? And how to avoid becoming radical in order to have a better and more peaceful world?



If Islam teaches peace, why are there radical Muslims

Salam (Peace) Dear Reader,

I would like to sincerely thank you for sending your question, and for your desire to gain knowledge and come to a greater understanding of the world around you. I pray that you find answers that satisfy your mind and heart here- God willing.

Now let me ask you a question: If the teacher is teaching the subject in class, why are there students who fail?

Have you thought about that?

Why do students fail?

Is it necessarily the subject or the teacher that is to blame for the failure? Or can there be other factors?

If it is in fact the subject or the teacher, the majority of the students would end up failing too. Right?

So, how do we judge? We look closely at the subject, and look at the majority of its recipients.

Now, back to your question, it seems there is a suggestion that Islam itself might be causing radicalism.

This assumption is contrary to factual empirical data.

According to Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank, a newly released data collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim population, they found that views of radical groups among Muslims are overwhelmingly negative. (Pew)

Not only that, in the book “Who speaks for Islam? What a billion Muslims really think”, the authors found, based on a poll of more than 35 Muslim countries, that“The majority of Muslims overwhelmingly oppose radicalism or terrorism (Esposito & Mogahed, 2007).If Islam teaches peace, why are there radical Muslims

The findings of this book are the result of an extensive, six-year series of polling and interviews with Muslims globally on what mainstream Muslims (the majority whom we don’t see in the media) really think. This is one of the largest and most comprehensive polls of global Muslim public opinion.

I have conducted my MA thesis on this subject too; the voices of global mainstream Muslims that seem to be dismissed in mainstream media.

There is a significant body of academic research that could be found on the negative framing of Islam and Muslims in the media, and how this negatively affected (and misled) public opinion. All of this research should be available for you, if you wish to delve further into the subject. It is really eye-opening.

On this note it could be mentioned for example, that contrary to common misconceptions, the majority of terrorist attacks in the US (94%) are carried out by non-Muslims, according to FBI report. But this isn’t what you might think if you follow mainstream media without further research.

Now let’s go back to your question: If Islam is a peaceful religion, why are there radical Muslims?

Well, Islam is in fact a beautiful peaceful religion. It is embraced by over 1.7 billion people around the world. Today, there are also thousands of people from every walk of life whose hearts are migrating towards this religion, embracing it wholeheartedly and finding peace…inner peace, serenity, meaning and purpose in life through it.

There are inspiring, heartwarming stories of Muslims that could be found every day. But you won’t necessarily see that in the news,because it isn’t newsworthy. In the media, it is known that “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Why are there radical Muslims again?

Well, bad students are bad students. You can’t blame the teacher and you can’t blame the subject for the shortcomings of a few. Yes, a ‘few’, since the majority of Muslims -according to empirical data and statistics- aren’t like this.

“What have this fringe group that did become radical miss?” you may ask.

Well, maybe they missed a few lessons about the core of the subject, maybe they didn’t really understand the message, or maybe they have their own shortcomings, their own circumstances that contributed to this failure….

You can ask for example, if Jesus (peace be upon him) is a beautiful peaceful figure, why did the radical KKK group exist? How come they caused such heinous crimes in the name of Christianity? What have they missed?If Islam teaches peace, why are there radical Muslims

With regards to the radical Muslims you ask about, they are not necessarily religiously driven (watch this video for example). There are political, economic, mental, psychological circumstances that might have contributed to them becoming as such.

Based on research, radicalism, terrorism and extreme actions are not necessarily driven by religious doctrines. Robert Pape, a political scientist, studied every terrorism attack around the world since 1980.

Based on a database of over 460 attacks, he concluded that, “There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” (Pape, 2005).

With regards to Islam, think about this: The Quran is the only scripture that is memorized in its entirety, cover to cover by millions of Muslims around the world… since it was revealed 1400 years ago, and until today.  If Islam is really teaching radicalism and violence, don’t you at least think that all those who know the Book cover to cover would have blown up this entire planet by now… with all the radicalism they ‘supposedly’ know by heart?

As a Muslim who reads the Quran entirely on a regular basis (at least once a month), I can confidently and comfortably say that this Book speaks only Truth and Justice… never oppression, aggression or transgression.

It’s not a naive or irrelevant book that overlooks human grievances or detaches itself from human tendencies and shortcomings. It is a Book that deals with reality and orders fairness and justice for the sake of attaining inner and outer peace…

Reflect on the following verses for example:

(Note: Allah is the Arabic word for God or The One and Only God, and it is the word used by Arab Muslims and Christians when referring to God.)

{O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.} (Quran 5:8)

{O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.} (Quran 4:135)

It is worth mentioning here that Harvard Law School has posted this verse (Quran 4:135) aIf Islam teaches peace, why are there radical Muslimst the entrance of its faculty library, indicating that it is ‘one of the greatest expressions of justice in history’.

Are there passages that deal with fighting in the Quran, yes there are. But they’re
not there to initiate violence. They’re there to control human inclinations. They’re there with a specific context.

{Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.} (Quran 2: 190)

{Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.} (Quran 60:8-9)

Again, fairness and justice!

In the words of late speaker and writer, Br. Idris Tawfiq who was a priest before converting to Islam, he said in a lecture I attended for him “there is nothing about Islam that makes me not want to jump on [the table] and say out loud [proudly] that I’m a Muslim.”

Let us not be shortsighted and see the world only through a biased TV lens. Do yourself a favor and don’t let someone with a specific agenda tell you what to think about Islam, Muslims or the Qur’an. Pick a copy of the Qur’an and read it for yourself. There is nothing to hide there. It is genuinely a source of peace, joy and fulfillment for millions of your brothers and sisters in humanity around the world.

Enjoy that with them.

Meet a Muslim and ask about Islam. Have a beautiful calm discussion.

Muslims are not a cult or a fringe group. “Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2010 and 2050 and, in the second half of this century, will likely surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group,” according to Pew Research Center. “Muslims are the only major religious group projected to increase faster than the world population as a whole.” (Pew)

Let your heart be at peace that the Billion-plus Muslims around the world are not out there to harm you. It’s the exact opposite, actually.

But, how to avoid having Muslims who are radical? Well, how to avoid having criminals, murderers, thieves, rapists, molesters, abusers, psychopaths of all walks of life, all ages, all backgrounds around the world?

Is there a way to really do that? To eliminate criminals entirely? Even in the most disciplined, law-abiding societies, crime still happens. These are complex human tendencies that cannot be dealt with simplistically.

In the meantime, let’s not buy into media propaganda and paint millions of people with the same brush. Let’s not buy into fringe radical groups and let them succeed in dividing us and creating fear and hatred. Funny how some media outlets and radical groups seem to have the same goal, huh?!

To avoid being radical and to avoid fear and hatred, you can do exactly what you did: ask and learn, open your mind to new findings and broaden your perception of the people and the world around you.If Islam teaches peace, why are there radical Muslims

Also seek justice and call out corrupt politicians, biased, divisive media and warmongers around the world who afflict major harm, invade countries unjustly, bomb innocent people…and then demonize the victims and misinform the masses in the media.

Those who want to divert the public attention from real problems and create fear of an “enemy” be it Muslims or any other group…you need to think about the real causes and the real problems that they don’t want you to be aware of or reflect on.

At the end, the most sincere advice to give here and always is to speak honestly and sincerely from your heart to The Creator of this heart… The Creator of you and me… ask Him to show you truth as truth and show you falsehood as falsehood and make you among the best of His creations!

Genuinely thrilled to receive your question. May you be rewarded abundantly and may your life be filled with clarity! Ameen.


Esposito, J. L., & Mogahed, D. (2007). Who speaks for Islam? What a billion Muslims really think. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

Said, E. W. (1997). Covering Islam: How the media and the experts determine how we see the rest of the world. London: Vintage.

Terrorism 2002-2005. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (n.d.). (Terrorism 2002-2005). Retrieved from website: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terrorism-2002-2005/terror02_05

Pape, R. A. (2005). Dying to win: The strategic logic of suicide terrorism. New York: Random House.

About Dina Mohamed Basiony

Dina Mohamed Basiony is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt. She is the Chief Editor of ProductiveMuslim.com. She specializes in Islam and spirituality. Dina holds an MA and BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Cairo.

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