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November 16, 2015

What with all the coverage of the horrific events in Paris, I keep coming across the word radicalise, or radicalisation, to refer to a process which converts normal young Muslims into Islamist terrorists. For some time I’ve felt slightly dissatisfied with this word, but never quite worked out why. But now I’ve put my finger on it. The point is that radicalise is too neutral a word, too euphemistic a word, to describe what’s happened. The problem is not that these young men (they’re usually men) have a radical ideology. Radical is not always bad. The problem is that they have an intolerant, racist, murderous ideology. Would one refer to a Nazi, for instance, or a member of the Ku Klux Klan as having been radicalised? I don’t think so. We need another word. I’m not sure what. Indoctrinated, maybe?

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