Abraham Kuruvilla, who recently obtained his Master’s degree in Defense and Strategic Studies, says that analysts studying the challenge of defanging radical Islam are stymied. The various strategies they’ve deployed — e.g., pushing for democracy in the Muslim world, co-opting Muslim organizations in Europe — have not worked, he observes. Writing on a blog of a charitable organization dedicated to the welfare of Coptic Orphans, Kuruvilla suggests another path:
What, then, is the answer? We must remember that jihadists are humans just as we are. They are made in the image of God and are called to become like God—Who “is love”—as much as anyone else (1 John 4:8). St. Augustine famously wrote that “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” But what does that mean in this context?
Jihadism, like any ideology based on hatred, does not satisfy the longings of the human soul. To live meaningful lives, people need to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). However, how will they learn to worship truly unless, like the Ethiopian eunuch, they have “someone” to guide them (Acts 8:31)?
This is why I believe in the work of Coptic Orphans. Even in this age of satellite broadcasts and mobile apps, there can be no substitute for a local Christian community. Historically, Muslims have been at their most moderate when they’ve been impacted by their Christian neighbors. By maintaining ancient Christian shrines, inviting Muslim friends to their weddings, teaching Muslim students, and treating Muslim patients—by living out the love of Jesus–Christians in the Middle East have wielded an influence far beyond their numbers. Thus, the survival of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt should not only concern Egyptians on humanitarian grounds, or Orthodox Christians based on religious solidarity. It should concern all those wish to see something “new” in the midst of our troubled times (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I remember shortly after 9/11, going into an Islamic bookstore on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, attached to a radical mosque, and buying some English-language books that had come from a Saudi publisher. One of the books offered advice for new Muslim converts. It sternly warned them to stay away from people who were not Muslims, because if you spend any time around infidels, “you may come to love them.” Seriously, it said that. That’s Wahhabism for you.