Daveed Gartenstein-Ross explains in FrontPage, in the course of an interview about his new book My Year Inside Radical Islam, how he was convinced as a new convert to Islam that the jihadists were right — by their theological arguments. He went to work at what turned out to be a terror-linked charity, and gradually they convinced him that their views were Qur’anically correct.
This is no surprise. The jihadist appeal within the larger Muslim community is theological, calling Muslims to the observance of what they characterize as “pure Islam.” Moderate Muslims have never mounted any significant counter-movement to this, although virtually everyone takes for granted that they have a strong and traditional theological basis within Islam for their views. This is the great Emperor’s New Clothes aspect of today’s public debate.
FP: So what was the process of radicalization inside Al Haramain, the radical Islamic charity you worked for? And how did it happen that teachings that you once held as abhorrent eventually struck you as compelling?
Gartenstein-Ross: When I took the job, I assumed that I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye with my coworkers on some spiritual matters, but that we could simply agree to disagree. Little did I realize that my ideas would instead fall into line with theirs. There were a number of reasons for this. I felt a great deal of peer pressure to accept radical conclusions. I complied more and more with external manifestations of the faith (growing a beard, eating only with my right hand, rolling my pants legs up above my ankles, refusing to pet a dog or shake hands with women) that were themselves not radical, but coupled with the prevalent teachings inside Al Haramain pushed me in a radical direction. The biggest factor, however, was that over time I became persuaded intellectually by the theological case advanced by my coworkers and the visiting scholars who frequently joined us.