Many recent cases have not resulted from a top down process of recruitment and radicalization initiated by al-Qaeda and its affiliates or radical preachers, but rather from a bottom up dynamic. Today, individuals like Nigeria’s Abdulmutallab, Fort Hood’s Maj.Nidal Malik Hasan, and the five American Muslims from Northern Virginia, are the initiators. They turn to radical imams—like the American-born and educated Yemeni radical preacher Anwar al-Alwaki, and the Jamaican-born cleric Abdullah El Feisal—for advice, justification and legitimacy. Would-be terrorists can also find a sense of solidarity and community in chat rooms.
Addressing issues of terrorism and framing de-radicalization programs requires paying attention not only to the war in cyberspace, but also to individuals’ psychological and identity problems and political concerns. The point here is not to excuse or explain away but, most importantly, to understand and prevent.
Many bright, talented and otherwise well-balanced individuals are profoundly affected and changed by what they see as endless oppression, corruption and injustice in Muslim regimes and failed states and Western foreign policies. They see Western powers, particularly the US, as supporting and aiding autocrats or as using power and military force to threaten, invade and “occupy” Muslim lands. The perception of occupation and injustice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine continues to be a catalyst heavily exploited in the rhetoric and ideologies of terrorist organizations.
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