We had to do an assignment for class (same course as in this post) where we wrote four different pieces shaped as Matryoshka dolls, focused on our selves. This was the third piece in my assignment, a personal essay.

Featured picture from Google.

The Radicalization Theory

At a time when Muslims became the center of the media’s attention, my untimely decision-making gut decided it was time for a spiritual transformation. The suspicious timing only makes things comical in my head. I was also baffled at how little me actually dared to make a move like this while other women were throwing off their hijabs. I was either extremely brave, stupid or… I was being, what they call, “radicalized”. Changing your clothing, going to the mosque, tweeting about the injustices carried out towards Muslims all around the world… the signs are all there, no?

What is it then, that makes my “transformation” different from theirs? Am I too old? Could be, but age alone doesn’t account for it. Old people do stupid stuff too. Social status? Now we’re getting somewhere. Being born and raised in a country where social classes aren’t as visible definitely helps. But once again, that’s not enough. What about religion? Contrary to popular belief, radicalized youngsters usually do not come from a religious background[1]. That actually puts me in a similar boat as the radicalized. My mother, in recent years, has started to criticize Islam more and more. It does anger me, especially as I know she indirectly targets me with her comments. And my brother is never slow in deeming any young hijab-wearing woman an extremist. I guess I’m lucky he doesn’t dare to confront me. The fact that I’m single doesn’t work in my favor either; no husband or kids to keep me tied, I should be the perfect prey to any deranged and murderous cult hungry to recruit my Western passport.

What is it then, that makes my transformation different from theirs? Well to begin with, radicalized people don’t attend the mosque; they go to their secret gatherings with their strange new friends. If I ever heard of radicals attending the mosque, I’d stop going because I’d be afraid they’d bomb it. Secondly, these young people are mostly not practicing Muslims, but drinking, partying, brain-cell losing young adults. They have little to no religious literacy (see footnote 1). They don’t become radicalized by reading the Quran and having an epiphany after 21 hours of fasting; they become radicalized because somebody, probably online, gives them purpose. We’re talking about individuals that lack a sense of belonging in their community, maybe even coming from troubled homes. These are teenagers that aren’t able to make sense of the generational and cultural gap between their parents and themselves. They are lost. And I? I’ve always been the favorite among the aunties. Probably because of my fluent Bengali and frequent visits “back home”. I was never lost, but was found.

[1] MI5 recently published a report that states this. The summary of the report can be found in this Guardian article: “MI5 report challenges views on terrorism in Britain” http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/aug/20/uksecurity.terrorism1 (accessed 2015-11-08).