Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Looking for a Few Vulnerable Youth

The New York Times has a story today that says some of the UK suspects in the airline bomb plot were recent converts to Islam or had recently become much more radical about their faith.

Like Mr. Khatib, 19, a number of the two dozen individuals arrested in last week’s antiterrorism raids had become much more devout in their faith or converted to Islam within the last two years or so.
This fits a pattern for terrorist recruiting. Often, recruits are young people who feel estranged from their communities and/or families. These young people are typically trying to find a purpose in their lives. (In 2005, Foreign Affairs provided an excellent, thorough analysis of how the recruitment system works in Europe.)

After the London tube bombings in 2005, The New York Times reported (<-- pay-for-link) that those bombers met this profile. I thought it was also interesting that at least one of the airplane-bomb suspects had two of the common characteristics of a terrorist recruit. He had previously lived a wild lifestyle and had lost a father. This fits the idea of a terrorist recruit being vulnerable and searching for a meaningful future. It's all part of how a terrorist is made.

Update 08-17: The NYT has a new story today that focuses specifically on how radical Islamist groups "pounce" on recent converts. The article quotes a recent convert from Great Britain who said:

“As a new convert, when you first become a Muslim, a lot of people try things out on you,” said Mr. Lock, 24, who also uses the Muslim given name Mahdi and runs a support network for Muslim converts in Nottingham. “They want you to come to this meeting, this talk. Certain radical groups want you because you’re impressionable, and it looks good to get white guys.”

Mr. Lock likened some of the organizations that approached him to cults, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, which says it is nonviolent but preaches the establishment of a caliphate, or pan-Islamic government, and has been banned from some Middle Eastern countries. “They think you don’t know anything, and they pounce.”

The article also quotes a researcher who reaffirms the link between a convert's prior aimlessness and the likelihood of radicalization:
Myfanwy Franks, a researcher who has studied converts to Islam and is the author of “Women and Revivalism in the West: Choosing Fundamentalism in a Liberal Democracy,” said, “Being troubled does not necessarily lead people to conversion — people who aren’t troubled convert — but it could lead to extreme radicalization.”
For anyone involved in local preventive efforts, it is certainly important to try to prevent new converts from accepting the ideas of violent radicals.

No comments: