The term “radical” frightens many people these days, especially as Curtis Cheng, a police employee, was gunned down a by troubled, radicalised young man in the heart of Parramatta on Friday 2nd October.
What is known as “Islamic radicalism” is impacting on societies all around the world.
This movement has its origins in the 18th and 19th centuries within the tribal areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula. The source of this ideology was a Muslim scholar, Muhammad ibn Abd-al Wahhab and it came to be known as “Wahhabism”.
Wahhab’s brand of Islam involves an “exclusive”, “purist”, “fundamental”, “utopian” interpretation of the faith. It labels all those who do not adhere to the tenants of its warped ideology as being “apostate”. They are “idolaters” who can be punished by death.
With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Wahhabis were able to assert themselves and today the movement, with the support of wealthy interests, has further corrupted aspects of the Islamic faith. It has mutated and it has split parts of Islam into the horror we are confronted with today.
Such a brand of Islam is deeply offensive. It is incredibly frightening to most people including orthodox Muslims.
Jesus also spoke about a radical interpretation of faith. But Jesus’ radicalism was different. There was no “exclusive”, “purist”, “fundamental”, “utopian” worldview here. Rather, Jesus’ radicalism was practiced through the lens of unconditional love. Jesus’ radicalism was realized through a commitment to mercy, compassion, justice and peace.
Here Jesus’ radicalism involves making a “u-turn” in life. It concerns moving away from a preoccupation with self to a focus on loving God and neighbour.
Today we are challenged to be radical followers of Jesus Christ. And this means we are to reach out to our neighbour, including our Muslim brothers and sisters, in love and with mercy and compassion. Jesus’ radicalism calls on us to work for a just, peaceful world where people matter and where human life is valued.
Radicalism, in its many ugly, violent ways threatens many. But the radicalism of Jesus is different. Jesus’ radicalism brings us hope. Jesus’ radicalism gives us a way forward. Jesus’ radicalism offers us a future.
There is no other way!