In Theory: Is 'radicalization' child abuse?

The mayor of London wrote in a March 2 column in the Daily Telegraph that Muslim children who are at risk of radicalization by their parents are victims of child abuse and should be removed from their homes.

Mayor Boris Johnson says that such a move could stop the children from becoming "potential killers or suicide bombers," but the Muslim Council of Britain cautions Johnson that his remarks risk flaming an anti-Muslim feeling.

Q: What is your opinion of Johnson's suggestion?


Radicalization that leads to hate divisiveness, or violence against people or groups in society should be shunned, condemned, and countered. For Muslims this is clear in the Koran "…[God has] made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another…" (49:13). In addition, taking a moderate and middle way is mandated "And thus We have willed you to be a community of the middle way…" (2:143)

Europe's historic cultural norms have resulted in a poor integration of Muslims, leading to geographical ghettos there. This has been a contributing factor to the problem of rioting and radicalization. When people are socially or economically frustrated, radicalization (however it is justified) is sure to follow.

Muslim integration in America is a wholly different and more positive success story. U.S. Muslims embrace and contribute in America, with basic American values and culture congruent with Islamic values.

But with regard to the issue, two fundamental questions come to mind: (1) should government set the standard of what constitutes radical thought or speech (1st Amendment freedom of speech issue)? and (2) is it government's role to intervene in families and remove children from environments where the government "thinks" radicalization pervades (4th Amendment unwarranted seizure issue)?

If a child is being raised in a household where white supremacy/anti-black prejudice is being taught, should the government remove children from those households?

What if one opposes our nation's Middle East policy? Does that constitute "radical" thought that could lead to hate or violence?

Government should regulate behaviors that will harm society, but not thought or speech, no matter how anathema it is. But it is society's solemn duty to use legal means to counter hate, or in this case, misinterpretation of religious texts that leads to radicalization. 

Omar S. Ricci


The vast majority of us don't want any child raised to become a terrorist. But the state has no right to remove children from their families just because it disagrees with the doctrines the child is being taught. However, wherever there is a direct, imminent threat to the physical welfare of others (including the child) the state does have the obligation to intercede. So if the parents are training a child for a specific attack, the child should be removed. But short of that God has given priority to the family unit. We don't arrest people for radical views. We arrest them for radical acts.

From the beginning of creation, and before any human government was formed, God established and blessed the basic family unit of husband and wife ruling over the earth, bearing and raising children together. The fifth of the Ten Commandments is: "Honor your father and your mother." God doesn't even mention government there. The parents have priority over the government. The corresponding obligation of parents, particularly fathers, is "not [to] provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4).

To me the idea of any government becoming the "thought police" in a family's life is more scary and a greater threat than that of the handful of radical terrorists our governments are already dealing with.

Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church


Who in their right mind would not remove a child from a home that encourages the child to become a suicide bomber? I think the mayor of London's suggestion is not only smart, but absolutely necessary. It is needed to save the lives of both the would-be Muslim bombers and their potential victims. What Mr. Johnson is proposing is a common-sense solution to a very real problem that has already manifested itself in Britain and may become far more common if authorities don't step in to stop the madness of Muslim radicalization.

Furthermore, while I may understand the Muslim Council of Britain's concern about stereotyping if it leads to public mistreatment of Muslims, I cannot understand how this group seems to downplay the welfare of Muslim children and the potential victims of suicide bombings. There is something very wrong with an organization or culture that preaches caution when innocent lives are at risk.

I applaud Mayor Johnson for taking this courageous step in dealing with the radicalization of Europe. I hope that leaders of other major European cities will learn from his example and enact regulations to halt the dangerous hate speech and invective which have become commonplace across the continent. Removing children from situations in which they are being indoctrinated to launch suicide attacks will not only spare the children from a horrible fate — it will remove the threat to the thousands of innocent civilians who would be their targets.

Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center


If it is true that people are brainwashing children to be murderers for the sake of their ideologies, then yes, by all means remove them from such a situation. Then prosecute the parents for insurgency and treason, as well as all the various crimes against minors.

But I wonder how this can be proved. How would the government know what a radical Islamist is teaching his children down in the basement of his own home? If this is some sort of group indoctrination that may be observed or recorded, then maybe, but one wonders how the government would get its eyes and ears inside a family situation to appropriately assess the situation.

We have seen how governments often make fiat determinations as to what constitutes illegal activity and then destroy Christian families simply because they wanted to home-school. Germany currently comes to mind. And why? Apparently because the home-schooled kids would not be properly indoctrinated with government-approved curricula. In our own country this issue is hotly debated, not only over the loss of revenue, but because home-schoolers are less likely to be taught the theory of evolution as fact, and this radically stunts the children's education, supposedly. And what if a family is into some end-of-the-world cult that spends its time training to survive the zombie apocalypse; is it the government's prerogative to just go in on them, Ruby- Ridge/Waco style? What precisely constitutes "radicalization" and who defines it?

I don't know. The parameters would have to be perfectly delineated and the threat glaringly obvious. In the context of this question, there is made mention of a Muslim Council that seems more worried about growing Islamophobia than leading the charge against the radicalization that everyone suspects is occurring. Radicalization is what people fear; that, and anti-integration, i.e., Islamization and Sharia.

The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church


The mayor is wrong on this one. I'm sure the British are aware of the idea that a man's home is his castle, and because of individual rights and private property, the state is not allowed to intervene, unless it can be proven that children are being harmed in some way. And disagreeing with how someone else's children are being brought up is not reason enough to have the state take the children away. How about those who home-school their children? What if the parents are teaching their kids that the world is flat? Unfortunately, there is nothing you or I or the state can do.

I might disagree vehemently with the brand of Christianity that some parent is teaching his child. But that's too bad, and I really have no recourse. And the Muslim community is right to worry about anti-Islam fervor being inflamed.

Back off, Mr. Mayor. This is one battle you have no chance of winning, and even if you should win, think of the damage your actions will cause. The Muslim community will then be able to say that it is the victim of discrimination, and it will be right.

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church


London Mayor Boris Johnson wants to make a strong reply to the brutal killing of British soldier Lee Rigby by two self-proclaimed Muslim extremists. However, the law he proposes would not have prevented this crime as both convicted murderers were not raised in home atmospheres of radicalized Islamic extremism, but converted to Islam as young adults.

On the surface it may seem straightforward to remove children from homes where they are taught to become Islamic terrorists. In actual practice a law like this could be enlarged over time to infringe upon the rights of many groups that are not considered to hold "politically correct" views.

Johnson states that children who are "being habituated to this utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become murderers," are being abused and should be removed from their homes." He further states, "We should be firm to the point of ruthlessness in opposing behaviors that undermine our values." Major questions present themselves to this type of logic. Who determines that a "view of the world is utterly bleak and nihilistic," and in a pluralistic society, which values are "our values?"

Clearly in the United States, such a law would be a breach of privacy and a violation of the right of free speech. Despite many gains in equality, we unfortunately still have discrimination against ethnic and cultural minorities as well as unequal opportunities between the sexes. The majority of this discrimination is learned at home. Does that mean that children exposed to these ideas are being abused and should be removed from their families?

I think Mayor Johnson would be more effective turning his attention to understanding why two young men found radical Muslim extremism so attractive that they decided to commit this barbaric act of terrorism.

Pastor Ché Ahn
HRock Church


Who hasn't witnessed parents having a bad day or being bad parents because they are bad parents, and wanted to take their children away from them? If Mayor Johnson gets to, so do I.

Back in the real world, Johnson's remarks came in response to the conviction of two Muslims for the murder of a British soldier, Lee Rigby. However the BBC reported that the murderers were not from radical extremist families, nor were Muslim criminals who committed previous atrocities.

In his column he goes on to equate teaching radical beliefs with female genital mutilation and pedophilia. So his remarks are not only inaccurate, they are stupid, in my opinion.

Mayor Johnson is a member of Britain's Conservative Party. Like U.S. conservatives they are quick to condemn government so-called intrusions into personal life as creating a "nanny state." These principles never seem to stop them from spouting their own extremely radical nonsense.

In my opinion Johnson would be in danger of losing his children under his own proposed policy.

Roberta Medford


I first need to say that this is not the United Kingdom where "separation of church and state" does not officially exist. In this case, the mayor of London and others appear to be looking more at the potential danger to law enforcement rather than to the rights of parents to provide religious training to their children or to guarantee the safety of those children. In fact, their singling out of Muslim parents or guardians for this treatment smacks of religious persecution to me.

In the United States parents can lose custody of their children if it can be shown that those children are in physical danger. But confirming psychological danger is much more difficult to prove. One of the reasons is that parenting is not an exact science. And parents may wish to instill different values, whether religious or not, in their children. Just because others do not agree with those values does not mean that they are dangerous. Imagine for a moment that some Catholic parents or government officials believed that Jewish or Protestant or atheist parents were endangering their children's lives. Would they have the right to report those people to child welfare services in our country? I certainly hope not.

As much as I think most people in our country and the U.K. want children to be protected from harm, we cannot simply ride roughshod over the ability of parents to raise their children as they see fit. Such interference potentially abrogates the rights of all people. We may not agree with the religious beliefs of others, but we cannot legislate our religious beliefs into law in a free and democratic country. To do so would be to advocate the totalitarian rule that we say we abhor.

The Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta

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