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HOMEGROWN TERRORISTS IN THE U.S. AND THE U.K.: An Empirical Examination of the Radicalization Process.

HOMEGROWN TERRORISTS IN THE U.S. AND THE U.K.: An Empirical Examination of the Radicalization Process

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Laura Grossman

The authors of "Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and U.K."--both members of the Center for Terrorist Research of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies--offer readers an empirical approach to the radicalization of 117 homegrown terrorists, individuals born or raised in the West. Understanding that process is important, the authors maintain, because increasing numbers of Westerners are joining militant Islamic movements and pose a special threat due to their understanding of the societies they might attack. To that end, Daveed Garenstein-Ross and Laura Grossman studied the terrorists' own blogs, postings on online newsgroups, communiques, comments made when caught on tape by government informants, and records of the terrorists' court cases.

From their study, the authors identified six behaviors that manifest the radicalization of terrorists known to have participated in an attack or an attempted attack. In varying degree all of them possessed a legalistic interpretation of Islam; placed their trust in selected Islamic authorities; believed in an inherent schism between Islam and the West; had a low tolerance for theological deviance; attempted to impose their beliefs on other Muslims; and experienced political radicalization based upon the belief that the West seeks to subjugate Islam, that most Muslims fall short of the true faith, and that military action represents the only proper Muslim response.

That list of manifestations suggests the importance of religion to the radicalization process, especially by turning to jihad as a means to overcome guilt at having fallen short of the demands of extreme Islam. Certain demographic factors--unmarried, low socioeconomic background, poor education, weak employment prospects--also made certain individuals more likely to become radicalized, as did travel overseas for religious instruction or participation in militant training. The authors' empirical approach minimized the influence of having served a prison term, but political views concerning the alleged Islam-West schism contributed greatly to the likelihood of radicalization. The authors nevertheless favor keeping extreme materials out of prisons and encourage Muslim civil engagement with the rest of society as a counter to radicalization.

As observed by Brian Michael Jenkins, senior advisor to the president of the Rand Corporation, Westerners must find "ways to blunt the narrative of our terrorist foes, impede their recruiting, and discourage young men (and women) from destructive and self-destructive trajectories." Failing that, "terrorism will drain our resources, drag on our economy, and, yes, ultimately imperil our democracy." This study will therefore "significantly" contribute to our understanding of how to prevent that outcome.

Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
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Author:Abrahamson, James L.
Publication:American Diplomacy
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 21, 2009
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