Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 6, 2015

On Radicalization

Last Wednesday’s San Bernardino mass shooting by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik injured twenty-one and killed fourteen of Farook’s own co-workers. No one, not even their neighbors, suspected that this couple had turned their rented quarters into a small armory and that Farook and his wife were hatching an unbelievably heinous plan that would forever alter the lives of so many innocent people, including their own six-month old daughter.

San Bernardino Killers
News of this senseless massacre on the heels of the Paris terrorist attack caused us to again collectively sigh and wonder about why anyone would do something so horrible. Days later, authorities discovered that Malik had posted to Facebook a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The social media behemoth quickly removed her post because it violated community standards that prohibit the promotion of terrorism or the glorification of violence.

ISIS, never one to miss an opportunity to advance their own name in the wake of violence, called the murderous couple “supporters” — a somewhat lesser designation than their usual “knights” or “soldiers” designations. Of course, on Saturday, ISIS-sponsored al-Bayan Radio declared,”We pray to God to accept them as martyrs.” Really? Accept cold-blooded murderers as martyrs? Therein lies one of the fundamental flaws of Islamic theology.

Authorities want to know about the radicalization of Farook and Malik, both of whom had ties to Saudi Arabia. Were they influenced by Wahhabism? Perhaps they were motivated by the media of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS — both of which call on people to commit acts of terror on their own and even offer step-by-step instructions on how to make certain weapons, like the pipe bombs found in the residence of the murderous couple. One law enforcement official anonymously commented, “This is looking more and more like self-radicalization.”

The word radical comes to us from the Latin term radicalis or radix which means root. The National Counterterrorism Center defines radicalization as “a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.” Of course, the worst expression of radicalization is the type that leads to politically or religiously motivated violence.

There is a troubling consistency when we hear of the radicalization of Muslims. Somehow this radicalization always leads to the disregard of the sanctity of human life, to violence, and to death. Muslims must ultimately come to terms with the most disturbing and dangerous element of their worldview, something at the root of their theology — the sanction to kill infidels or those who are not of like faith and practice. This in addition to the belief that martyrs can expect to enter a heavenly brothel with as many as seventy-two houri or virgins at their disposal.

Radicalism looks much different among Christ-followers. A Christian who radically lives out the teachings of Christ lives as Christ lived. This kind of radicalism never leads to death but instead to compassionate acts of service, to sacrificial acts of love, and to the affirmation of life, even the lives of those who are not Christ-followers.

When my friend Steve Hyde’s father was targeted and killed by radical Muslims in the Philippines, Steve vowed a vengeance of love. This is, in part, what Steve shared at his father’s funeral:

“I will avenge my father’s death, but not like the plans of the Evil One. To kill and destroy is easy, but to love your enemy is God’s command. The plans of Jesus are peace and love through the forgiveness of sins. I will go and bring Jesus throughout this evil world and take the light of Jesus into the darkness.”

Steve Hyde reminds us of the kind of radicalization that will change our world for the better. To love others, after all, is at the root of what we believe as Christ-followers and what Christ modeled for His followers.


  1. Thank you Omar. It is so easy to hate someone when we should be praying for them and those luring them with false promises.

    • So sad that the shooters never experienced the true meaning of love and consequently robbed others of life.

  2. Omar, I just read your article and want to thank you for putting this situation into a better understanding. It will never be understandable to the Christian as to such an unbearable belief that could urge people to take others lives just because their belief is not the same!
    Praise the Lord we serve a loving God…

    • We do indeed serve a God who loves and calls His followers to do the same.

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