RadicalTerrorism: The factors that can affect the mindset and actions of anindividual
Individualsare not born with jihadi mentality. Rather, several factors andchanges relating to a person’s mindset influence their actions.Before a person becomes an extremist, they begin believing in aparticular ideology. Such an ideology does not follow the norms ofsociety or those of a particular religion. That is why terrorismpiggybacks on Islam to provide it with a foundation to justify jihad.Additionally, such ideologies teach a person to embrace the use ofviolence in creating what the members believe is an ideal society.Also, the person has to accept that such a dream community subscribesto strict interpretations of Islam and encompasses totalitarianism(Huq, 2010).
Accordingto the Countering International Terror Strategy of the UK government,the effects of globalization are some of the factors that make peopleturn to radicalization as a solution. The extremists hold the viewthat foreigners are invading their country and taking control. Also,anti-western sentiments compound the issue of extremism. Anti-westernsentiments arise from the numerous conflicts, involving westerncountries, which occur within Islamic nations. For instance, theUnited States and its allies have participated in conflicts inAfghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The fact that these wars are stillongoing supports the claim by radicals that western countriesunfairly target Arabic speaking nations (Huq, 2010).
Also,there are those who believe that Western countries apply doublestandards when it comes to their foreign policy. The handling of theIsrael-Palestine situation can serve as a source of grievance forpotential extremists. Furthermore, some events can alter a person’smindset. For instance, Mubin Shaikh developed an extremist mindsetduring the years after the Gulf War, and this went on even after theSeptember 11 attacks in New York. These events made him feel as ifthere was an ongoing war that pitted Western nations against Islam ingeneral. Such a mindset made Shaikh feel as if he had a responsibleto defend his beliefs (Huq, 2010 Cirincione, 2015).
Fivemodels attempt to explain the development of radical ideas within themind of a person. These models also factor in the adaptive nature ofterrorism that has seen it shift from being a foreign-led agenda to adomestic issue. The first model is Borum’s Pathway. According toBorum, four stages lead to radicalization. During the first stage,the person identifies a grievance within them or one that isaffecting others. In the second stage, the individual compares whatthey view as an ideal situation with the real situation. Thirdly, thepotential extremist identifies an entity to blame before finallydeveloping negative stereotypes that promote violence (King andTaylor, 2011).
Thesecond model is Wiktorowicz’s theory. Similar to Borum’s pathwayit has four levels. In the first level, one experiences cognitiveopening (realization of an issue) which is triggered by an event suchas the loss of employment or even a conversation. Subsequently, aperson performs “religious seeking” which involves the use ofreligion to explore their standpoint. Then an individual reconcilestheir views with that of the world (in the third stage) before theyjoin a group with similar ideologies. The third model is Moghaddam’sstaircase to terrorism. This model resembles a decision tree. At theground floor, an individual develops feelings of deprivation becauseof their one sided (subjective) perception of an issue (Nutter, 2011King and Taylor, 2011).
Thosewho move to the second floor ignore the real causes of the problemand spread the anger to generalized targets like America. People onthe third floor begin devising ways to counter their “enemy.” Thefourth floor contains people who join a terror organization. Thosewho get to the fifth and sixth floor have a willingness to committerror-related acts. The fourth model is the New York PoliceDepartment (NYPD) model. This model has four stages namelypre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and joiningthe jihad. The fifth model is called Sageman’s four prongs. Itshows how the interaction of cognitive (moral outrage, globalinterpretation, resonance to personal opinion) and situationalfactors can lead to jihadism (King and Taylor, 2011).
Thefirst similarity between the models is the mention of relativedeprivation. The sense of deprivation refers to the realization thatsomething is not going according to the way one would expect it to.Borum and Moghaddam rank deprivation as the first stage towardsradicalization. A person experiences deprivation when they comparetheir situation to that of others. One then becomes sympathetic tothe other person’s plight. Also, one may experience deprivationwhen they are in the disadvantaged position. They view theiroppressor’s life as being superior to theirs. Sageman does notexplicitly mention deprivation but it resembles his third factorwhich talks of resonance to personal opinions (King and Taylor,2011).
Secondly,all the models highlight a situation whereby the radicalizedindividuals display some form of identity-related crisis. Theidentity crisis stems from a dissatisfaction with the currentpractices and the desire to right the wrongs. Muslims who settle inthe U.S and those who grow up in close-knit communities usuallyexperience a form of identity crisis. There are many stereotypesleveled against Muslims, yet they also have to fit in with the normsand practices of ordinary Americans. Thus, they find themselves in anidentity crisis caused by social prejudice, identity handling, andintegrating with the general society (King and Taylor, 2011).
Onthe other hand, there are some differences between the various modelsthat make them unique with regards to each other. For instance, thesemodels do not have a similar format. The sequence of radicalizationdiffers from one model to the next. Additionally, some of the modelshold the view that radicalization is the result of multiple factorswhile others show a linear sequence of events. For example,Moghaddam’s staircase to terrorism envisions a situation wherepeople make different choices in their life while the NYPD modelshows a sequence of events. Also, the models do not have a standardcriterion to demonstrate the degree of influence that religion exertson people who want to be terrorists. Some of the models do not eveninclude religion as a factor (Al Raffie, 2013 Silber and Bhatt,2007)
Themodels also have different depictions of the role of extremist groupsin a person’s radicalization. According to the models presented byWiktorowicz and Moghaddan, terror groups are active agents in theprocess. In such a situation, the extremist group looks for membersto recruit and then convinces them to believe in jihad. This processis usually gradual and involves altering the mentality of anindividual so that they end up believing in the ideology of theterror group. However, the NYPD and the Sageman extremism models holdthe view that terror organizations are passive entities. The NYPD andthe Sageman theories believe that terror cells come from radicalizedindividuals who are on the lookout for people who have similarbeliefs. As such, the actual terror organization does not participatein recruitment (King and Taylor, 2011).
Psychologicalissues that cause a person to disengage from a terror network resultsfrom the development of negative feelings towards the group. Thesesentiments arise from pressure by the group’s leadership, anxiety,and the realization by a person that the beliefs they had, are nolonger valid. Due to the pressure, an individual experiences a changein goals. This happens when a person desires a return to normalcyafter realizing that they have invested so much in the cause of theterror group and they are not getting the returns that they hadexpected. Further, some of the aims that the terror group developsseem over the top and contrary to the beliefs that a person held whenjoining (Silke, 2010 Horgan, 2008).
Behavioralissues leading to disengagement are externally visible. For instance,an individual may develop negative sentiments towards the extremistgroup when they are given a role (as a form of punishment) that putsthem at risk of arrest or dying. Additionally, if a person is removedfrom their terror group, they lose contact with the other members.Also, in a similar fashion to psychological issues an individual candevelop a new set of goals and priorities. Lastly, a terrorist canexperience behavioral disengagement if they are removed from theterror organization because of poor compliance with the rules orinsubordination (Horgan, 2008 Silke, 2010).
Counteringterror related activities and radicalization calls for cooperationbetween communities and the respective government agencies.Alienating communities and applying collective punishment because ofthe acts done by particular people will not result in collaboration.When the government partners with community members and leaderswithin the Muslim society then they will receive a lot ofintelligence. Also, efforts should be made to counter anti-westernperceptions because they are one of the biggest contributors ofradicalization of youth who are taught view western countries as theenemy that is fighting Islam in general.
AlRaffie, D. (2013). Social Identity Theory for Investigating IslamicExtremism in the Diaspora. JournalOf Strategic Security,6(4),67-91. Retrieved fromhttp://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1242&context=jss
Cirincione,M. (2016). MubinShaikh: From Islamic Extremist to Government Informant.USNews & World Report.Retrieved 26 October 2016, fromhttp://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/15/mubin-shaikh-from-islamic-extremist-to-government-informant
King,M. and Taylor, D. M. (2011). The Radicalization of HomegrownJihadists: A Review of Theoretical Models and Social PsychologicalEvidence. Terrorism & Political Violence 23(4): 602-618.
Horgan,J. (2008). Deradicalization or disengagement? A process in need ofclarity and a counterterrorism initiative in need of evaluation.RevistaDe Psicología Social,24(2),291-298. Retrieved fromhttp://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/32/html
Huq,A. Z. (2010, March). Modeling Terrorist Radicalization. RetrievedOctober 25, 2016, fromhttp://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/file/301-ah-modeling.pdf
Nutter,W. (2011). RadicalizationAnalysis: Self-Awakening and Social Conduit.AmericanPublic System. Retrieved26 October 2016, fromhttps://www.apus.edu/content/dam/online-library/masters-theses/Nutter2011.pdf
Silber,M. D., Bhatt, A. (2007). Radicalizationin the West: The homegrown threat.New York, N.Y.: Police Dept.
Silke,A. (2010). Thepsychology of counter-terrorism.London: Routledge.