For U.S. political and pundit classes, “radical Islamic extremism” has become a catch-all term to describe acts of mass violence committed by individuals and groups believed to be Muslim. This label has fueled the incitement against Muslims mounting during the US presidential election, which has been highlighted by Donald Trump calling  for a Muslim registry and a ban on Muslims from entering the country.
But as a wave of mass killings sweeps Muslim-majority countries, staining the month of Ramadan with the blood of innocents and even targeting the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad, it should be clear that Muslim people and institutions are the primary victims of this week’s staggering violence. Given this reality, observers argue that it is time to stop reflexively relying on the overly-broad category of “radical Islamic extremism” and instead interrogate the global factors that have set these these cycles of violence in motion.
As Muhammed Malik, co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson and former executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in Miami, put it in an interview with AlterNet: “Perhaps the point is not to focus on who is an ‘extremist,’ much less who is a so-called ‘radical Islamic extremist,’ but rather on the social economic and political conditions that give rise to forms of violent extremism that seek to divide and instill fear.”
According to Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, “deviancy” is a helpful category for understanding the latest rash of attacks: