Islam in Boston: Religion should be radical. It should not be violent.

People link hands to form a human chain from a makeshift memorial for fallen MIT police officer Sean Collier to … Continued

People link hands to form a human chain from a makeshift memorial for fallen MIT police officer Sean Collier to a campus police station at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., Monday, April 22, 2013. A moment of silence for victims of the marathon bombings was also observed during the event. Collier was fatally shot on the MIT campus Thursday, April 18, 2013. Authorities allege that Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were responsible. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Once again we find ourselves in the wake of senseless violence groping for words and a way to understand what just happened. We think if we use the correct words to articulate a correct formulation of the problem perhaps we can find a solution. We can put the correct laws and procedures in place that will keep us safe. Because Tamerlan Tsarnaev—the suspected Boston Marathon bomber killed by police—and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—also suspected of the crime but survives—are Muslims, we are once again talking about radical Islam and the process of radicalization.

Let us be clear. Radical and violent are not the same thing. “Radical” means at the root, foundational, extreme. “Violent” means extreme physical force to injure. When we conflate the two, especially as it relates to Islam, we build into the concept of radical Islam the notion that the faith is at its root violent. It is not.

Allow me to quote myself. I say in the introduction to my book, “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation”:

It is also important to remember that Islam reveres Jesus as a prophet and Muslims submit to the teachings of Jesus as a prophet. So, radical Islam would include a radical submission to the teachings of Jesus, including the command to love one’s enemies.

Within the context of extreme submission to compassion, grace, mercy and love, it is more accurate to talk about the indoctrination of these young men. They were indoctrinated into the deception that violence is necessary or effective in bringing about a better world. We ought to think about what made them susceptible to a lie.

Radical Christianity is radical love. Radical Islam is radical submission. In Islam, the greater jihad is our personal struggle to submit to a gracious and merciful God. The lesser jihad is the struggle for social justice. These struggles have nothing to do with violence against innocents. The questions for those of us who are believers are: Can we love with a radical love? Can we love Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Can we pray blessings upon the soul of Tamarlan Tsarnaev? Can we insist that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receive all of the protections that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to citizens? Can we forgive the unforgivable? Can we pray clarity of thought for all the sad, disaffected young men in the world?

Radical love and radical submission do not mean that we overlook the crime. Forgiveness does not mean that we forget or that the surviving brother will or ought to escape justice. He ought to have his day in court, and, if he is convicted, face very serious consequences for his acts.

In the interfaith memorial service in honor of the victims of the bombing, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts spoke of the scriptural imperative to give thanks in all things. He admitted that he was obedient even though he was not feeling especially thankful–until he started to give thanks. President Obama spoke of the scriptural wisdom that reminds us that “God has not given us the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Biblical wisdom also teaches us: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18) Our willingness to love with a radical love and our struggle to submit with a radical submission to the difficult teachings are our shields against fear that leads to hatred that leads to violence.

When we think of a radical, we ought to think of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed in the bombing. His radical statement was: “No more hurting people. Peace.”

Martin Richard (Neighborhood House Charter School/EPA)

Dixon is founder of; former teacher of Christian Ethics at Andover Newton (Mass.) Theological School and United Theological Seminary in Ohio.

  • tlwinslow

    This article is moose hockey, because the Quran never teaches love, only hate of non-Muslims. The one verse where it seems to teach love, 5:32, is actually quoting the Jewish god Jehovah and his commands to Jews, not Muslims. The very next verse 5:33 gives Allah’s commands to Muslims, to kill, torture, maim, and imprison anybody causing “corruption” in Allah’s perfect Law of Sharia, which he commands to be extended worldwide, trampling non-Muslims’ rights. This verse justifies the violent actions of any jihadist, sorry, it’s cast in concrete and can’t be wished away. Go view the great new Youtube video “Understanding the Islamic Bombing of the Boston Marathon” by Acts17Apologetics for a simple explanation and see how the PC media and Obama and Bush admins. are lying about what Islam is really about.

  • Rongoklunk

    9/11 showed us that Faith is nothing to brag about. In its day Christianity was every bit as violent as Islam.
    Hundreds of years of wars between religions should tell us all we need to know about these ancient superstitions. They are founded on wishful thinking and avoidance of death – and contradict everything we know about reality. It made a kind of sense when we knew nothing about the real world. But today the evidence is totally against the god hypothesis. 95% of the members of The Academy of Sciences do not believe in a God – but a 100% of fools DO believe. Go figure.

  • jonmacart

    Unlike other beliefs in the God of Abraham, Islam is a violent expropriation for fascist, expansionist, political purposes which fraudulently asserts Mohammed above and the last spokesperson of God.

  • dave19

    One of the BIG problems with the Islam Faith, based on the Koran – is that there is NO absolute authoritarian figure like the Pope, for Catholic Christianity. And there are so many Muslim ‘scholars’ with corresponding Imams that there is NO consistency in all the rulings they make.

    And the Koran is so shot through with different ‘commands’ to the faithful, I can point to the places in the Koran where the command to Muslims is that they have a duty to either ‘Convert’ the non-believers (infidels) or Kill them.

    Whether you like the teachings of Catholicism or not, the Pope is the final authority and all cardinals, bishops, and priests are compelled to follow his ‘interpretation’ of the Bible and Christian behavior. Or be excommunicated. Even with the decentralization of Christianity that happened during the Reformation – the 10 Commandments still are a quite strict rules of behavior.

    While it seems like any Muslim “Imam” can declare war (a fatwah), a whole bunch of ‘scholars’ can branch off and become the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ centered in Egypt. And then there is the split – to the point of warfare – between the Sunnis and the Shiites.And ‘Extremist’ Muslims can run around and bomb the World Trade Centers, or the Boston Streets.

  • allinthistogether

    While I am not a “believer” in the Islam or Christian (or any other) structured faith, I do believe there is value in “faith” in the power of love, which is the core message of this column. The writer is not saying that we all should become Christians or Muslims and then practice love – the author is directing us to let go of fear, anger and violence and commit to practing love. The key is to detach ourselves from blind obedience to a historical/faith ideology (faith without discernment is a crutch and an excuse for anything we want to do). Dis-attach from belief and practice discernment (mindfulness) compassion and loving kindness. If study of religious teachings helps us in those endeavors, it is useful. If it causes us to value a particular narrative more than we value other people, we are lost.

  • allinthistogether

    To the degree that we practice “this religious teaching is more true than this moment” we have attached ourselves to something other than reality, and are stumbling down a path into darkness.


    “It is also important to remember that Islam reveres Jesus as a prophet and Muslims submit to the teachings of Jesus as a prophet.”

    I’ve been hearing that from muslims for years now and I have not seen any evidence of it and I basically consider it one of those Goebbels-esque “Big Lies”.

    Mind you, christians only follow the teachings of Jesus when it’s something to beat someone else over the head with.

  • leeada47

    By Islamic law, the author has no right to make claims about what Jihad is and is not. We don’t have to think of violent religiously motivated terrorists as apostates, cause they are not. There is ample material in their theology, and ample support in their communities. 25 people died yesterday 4/23/2013 in religious terrorism in Iraq and Pakistan. We find crowds of thousands of lawyers in Pakistan cheering when a Christian Government minister is assassinated, because he spoke in favor of the tiniest Church-State separation. Copts are murdered all the time in Egypt. We are fully aware of the violence in these nations that is religiously motivated, and the violence against women, gays, and those not of the Faith.
    Using this poor 8 year old child’s picture for propaganda about the peacefulness of Jihad, when it was Jihad that took him from the world, shows a special moral deafness.

  • leeada47

    51% of Scientists do believe in God or a Higher Power,
    According to Pew, a survey of scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in May and June 2009 showed 51% of Scientists do believe in God or a Higher Power.
    Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power
    The further assertion that all fools believe in God, needs no comment at all.
    Yes, please do go figure…

  • Corethal

    Our nation, the United States of America, by sheer numbers, is prominently Christian. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as such: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Now I wonder, where are all the Christians? Where are all the voices who proclaim to follow the teachings of Jesus?

    Was is not Jesus Christ that said, “love your enemies”
    Was is not Jesus Christ who taught us how to “forgive”?
    Was it not this same Christ that instructed us to “turn the other cheek”?

    I’ll ask again, where are all the followers of Christ (Christians)?

    Is this a nation of hypocrites? Must be is we are so ready to kill and maim all Islamic or Muslim extremist. I have heard too often these two passages from so called “followers of Christ;

    1) The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.
    2) Let’s just turn the middle-east into a parking lot.

    How many times have I seen our last four presidents of this “Nation under God”, go to their place of Christian worship on Sunday and turn around on Monday morning and order the bombing of radical Islamics leaders in the mist of women, children and the elderly. How can we stand, as a nation, horrified by bombings such as the ones in Boston and yet not be horrified and approve of what our leaders are doing to the innocent around the world?

    Because we are a nation of hypocrites. We are a nation of the worst kind of hypocrisy, we look at the world, from out childish, self placing pedestal. We, for some reason, think our lives are more important than those people of the middle-east.

    How will we ever teach our children how to behave as a Christian when we are too busy beating up on our neighbors? How will we ever teach other nations peace?

    I know and fell in love recently with an 8 year old who tried to teach us what the adults are unable or too blind to teach: “No more hurting people”. Every time I see his face on TV, I see Christ. When Jesus can’t seem to get the adults to teach the world love, he will ask a child.

  • macnietspingal1

    Of all places, Boston College Students and Elementary School Teachers should.
    1. OT stands for Original Testament
    2Reachhe out tInterfaithth using Sura 3:3 and Sura 2:113Muhammadad had that right/rite
    3. Learn to read Hebrew and English in the first 3 grades. I learned in two different schools at the age of 7. Van Ness Elementary School for English and South East Hebrew Congregation for Hebrew. Both on M-Th every week. I really was angry that the segregated black kids didn’t simply just each Hebrew and English in their own school because they had the freedom to do this. I lived in an all black neighborhood. No one would have cared. Missed opportunity and completely their ministers’ faultNowNOw that I’m 83YO I can support my 8YO brain. That’s what’s great about a second childhood.

  • cs9243

    “We think if we use the correct words to articulate a correct formulation of the problem perhaps we can find a solution”
    It does not make sense playing with words. It does not matter whether the terms “radical” and “violent” do not mean the same thing. We are talking about violence and killing in the name of any religion. Extreme religiosity of any religion is bad except for probably jainism. No one would beworried about a radical jain or jain extremist. Most other religions promote violence in one way or other..

  • Kingofkings1

    Martin Richard is a cute boy who was probably more mature than his age. I would say that for each Martin Richard, there are hundreds of Majid X’s (same age, same innocence, same potential for success) in Afghanistan and Iraq who have been wrongfully killed by our military apparatus

  • Kingofkings1

    Just a few years ago, the area with Jain majority in India was involved in one of the worst massacres in Indian history with thousands kiled and hundreds of thousands who suffered. And to top it off, the constituency in this area twice sent the architect of the massacres to the state governorship

  • cs9243

    I think you are talking about the 2002 Gujarat violence when a train carrying hindu pilgrims was burned by the muslims,this in turn prompted a retaliatory attack by the hindus and lot of people died but this incident has nothing to do with the jains.

  • FindTheTruth

    The Quran teaches that the unbelievers should be killed – I’ve read it and there are no 2 ways about it Islam is not a religion of peace. Thank God Muslims only recognise the Quran as authentic in its Arabic version. Most Muslims do not read Arabic and few read it in their own language. They parrot the Arabic as the Catholics did Latin without understanding. If all the Muslims could understand it we would probably have a lot more terrorists, something to be thankful for.

  • FindTheTruth

    The source meaning of the word ‘radical’ means ‘of the roots’. So a there may be nothing wrong with being a radical religionist. It just depends on what the original teaching of that religion was and how it was demonstrated by it founder. A radical Christian should be one going back to the teaching of Jesus and emulating his non violent pacifist teaching. Ghandi though a Hindu drew much of his inspiration from the example of Jesus.
    For a radical Muslim it means following the teachings of the Quran. This can be somewhat confusing for the non Muslim as there are both peaceful statements like “There is no compulsion in religion” and 149 what are called ‘sword verses’ advocating death to non believers in the Quran. So the issue is which should the ‘true Muslim’ follow?
    For the informed Muslim this is simple they must follow the interpretive ‘Law of Abrogation’. This simply means that the latest revelations are the ones to follow as they cancel any earlier revelations. All the peaceful full revelations of the Quran by Mohamed were the earlier revelations made before he realised that he was not going to be accepted as a prophet by either Jews or Christians. All the violent verses / revelations are the later ones and 149 ‘sword verses’ are in the later revelations. So as far as going back to the original teachings of Islam we find it teaches violence towards non believers. So what do Muslims find when they try to follow the example of their prophet I would need to check the exact number but I believe Mohamed was involved in 29 battles and we find Islam spread through violence and war.
    It’s true that so called Christian nations (of course there has never been any such thing as a Christian nation) did the same and fought many more battles. The difference is that doing so was / is in direct conflict with the teaching of the founder of Christianity.
    My own families claim to a little part of infamy and oppression is that my father was on guard duty in Poona Jail keeping the peace