(ISIS photo)

PERSPECTIVE: Ideological Factors of Radicalization

There are a large number of books and journals that discuses provocation and the effectiveness of terrorists’ strategies, but still we know little about their tactics and ways of attacks. The basic idea is that provocation is of much importance in terrorist operations. Terrorists are trying to avoid provoking the state, but favor to provoke citizens against the state. The basic factor in the effectiveness of terrorist strategies is provocation, which requires a forceful response from the state. Forceful response to a terrorist attack carries costs to the state in addition to those incurred from collateral damage. For instance, states with more resources and greater capacity will find forceful response less costly to employ.

According to Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter in “The Strategies of Terrorism” (International Security, Vol. 31, No. 1 Summer 2006), “There are five principal strategic logics of costly signaling at work in terrorist campaigns: (1) attrition, (2) intimidation, (3) provocation, (4) spoiling, and (5) outbidding.”

Terrorism is closely related to power. In most cases, we can observe this by how terrorist groups have power over certain areas or groups of people by targeting them. For instance, Boko Haram and its attacks in Nigeria. They have spread fear around the country, which has given them this feeling of having power. The money circulation in financing terrorism is very important; however, it depends on the type of terrorism. For instance, narco-terrorism clearly has a desire of achieving high economic benefits. But I think in other cases the need for money is just because these groups need to finance themselves.

Many terrorist groups have/are using religion in order to establish power and control over people. They “take advantage” of people’s situations and beliefs to convince them that radicalization is necessary to achieve goals (and a better life for them, perhaps). What is an understanding of “illiterateness in terrorism”? If we mean people who join terrorist organizations are uneducated or illiterate, then I will say that many supporters who join terrorist groups such as ISIS have diplomas and higher education. Of course, there are a percentage of people who are uneducated and they perhaps may be easier to persuade because they have a more closed mentality. In many cases, they live under poor conditions so they feel like they have no opportunities in society and have nothing to lose. These elements are called grievances.

I guess that they are the ones who are truly committed to the cause and do what they do for the goal of their ideology. But we have to pay attention to the fact that in most of the cases the ideological goals are about power. For example, ISIS’ objective was to impose a global caliphate and for this they needed to take the power and seize all the money they could to survive longer. I didn’t see much power without money around the world. I’m not trying to legitimize terrorists’ pursuit of money and power but trying to show that in most of the cases they are a kind of criminal with an ideology. Radical leaders are just trying to get money and power by using the ‘quest of significance’ of people who are easily manipulated and are constantly searching for significance and importance in their lives, but these leaders aren’t preoccupied about the world’s environmental, political, economic or religious concerns, although they try to convince everybody else about their consternation, but in the end, they’re just looking forward to become powerful or rich or even both. Sometimes it’s just their egos and they try to convince themselves about their importance in this world and the way they might become heroes by saving us.

Prof. Peter Neumann attempted to address a specific distinction in this research on “Prisons and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in 15 Countries” (2010) with the focus on terrorists in the prison system in Afghanistan, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United States, among others.  “The principal difference between politically motivated offenders and ‘ordinary’ criminals lie in their intention,” Neumann says. “While ‘ordinary’ criminals commit crimes in pursuit of selfish and/or personal goals, politically motivated offenders believe that they are acting on behalf of a certain group, society or humanity as a whole.” Interestingly, Neumann described the behavior whether political or ordinary individuals, in this context of terrorism as criminal behavior, but was careful to assert, “Not all politically motivated offenders are terrorists, but all terrorists are politically motivated offenders.”

This distinction burdens us to be mindful in using a “conveyor belt” analysis concerning the relationship of power and money with terrorism.

Many groups, since the beginning of human history, have fought for power and wealth without this self-annihilation strategy of terrorism, especially suicide bombings, to escape the reality of accountability. No doubt that this should inform us that terrorism is more than just power and money. How will a terrorist gain power or wealth when such individual is willing to commit suicide for a cause? As Neumann correctly put it, “Politically motivated offenders commonly distinguish between ‘legality’ and ‘legitimacy,’ arguing that breaking the law is justified when a particular policy or the entire political or legal system are illegitimate.” But these kinds of politically motivated offenders do not engage in brute inhumanity or beheading of defenseless persons, strapping themselves with bombs and blowing up buildings to murder defenseless civilians, and committing suicide bombings in the name of martyrdom.

Ethno-nationalist Ideology

There is another ideology which is a fast-growing ideology in the west called ethno-nationalist ideology. I would consider ethno-nationalist ideology a type of separatist ideology. I am still trying to figure out some sort of possible difference; the only think I came up with is that perhaps separatists focus more on territorial goals and once they have established their territory/borders they move on to develop their own ethnic and linguistic identity.

Whereas ethno-nationalists do it the other way around: they first became a minority in their country/state due to ethnic and/or linguistic reasons, so in their case first came their identity and then they proceeded to the desire of having their own territory. Or perhaps the difference relies on the fact that separatists do not want to live under the government because they feel like politically and economically they are too different or even superior; for instance, they could be the wealthiest state out of all states in the country.

Whereas for ethno-nationals its more about their cultural identity than about governance; what I mean by this is that once they become independent, they share common aspects in their system as when they were still part of a country, but the only actual difference is the official language and things like that. I believe it is safe to say that there is considerable overlap, as most separatist movements are ethno-nationalist in orientation (Kurdish groups, the Basque separatists, etc.). Occasionally, however, we come across a separatist movement that does not define itself strictly on an ethno-linguistic identity, but on a slightly more inclusive conception of identity – specifically the case of black separatists and (frequently white) anti-government separatists in the United States, who use a general conception of race (which might include members of many different ethno-linguistic/nationalist groups) and an intense dislike of their government to demarcate the lines between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is no language barrier in these somewhat unique instances, and because the idea of the United States is not based historically on an ethno-national idea (the Francs in France, Germanic tribes in Germany, the Visigoths in Spain and Italy, the Celts in Ireland, etc), there are no ethnic boundaries inherent in the U.S.

So I believe that ethno-nationalist movements are separatist movements (in that they seek some degree of autonomy and self-rule), and the vast majority of separatists are ethno-nationalists, but there can be separatist movements that seek to carve out their own governance based on other ideological reasons. In this case, their ideological reasons are too dangerous for the nation as Islamist extremists.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.

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Noor Dahri is the founder and Executive Director of ITCT. He was born and raised in Pakistan. Mr Dahri is currently studying MSc in Terrorism, Security and Policing from Leicester University. He has studied Forensics and Criminal Psychology from Oxford – UK, Counter Terrorism from the University of Maryland – U.S.A and also studied Counter Terrorism from International Institute for Counter Terrorism ICT- Israel. He is an independent researcher in Counter Islamist Terrorism and Islamist Extremism. Mr. Dahri has written many research articles and journals on the hot issues such as Counter Terrorism, Violent Extremism, De-Radicalisation and Israel-Palestine issues which have been published in various newspapers and CT organisations. He has attended many events, conferences on the threat of Counter Terrorism. Noor is a Middle East Analyst at The Great Middle East and a regular contributor at the Times of Israel (Israel) and The Daily Times (Pak). He has appeared on numerous TV and Radio shows for his interviews. Noor had been invited to deliver his speeches at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism -ICT in Israel on the topic of “From Daw’ah To Jihad: Breaking the Radicalization and Violent Cycle”. Mr. Dahri is a fellow member of the Intelligence Community USA and a member of a UK’s security think tank Henry Jackson Society. He regularly attends discussion-based events in the House of Commons and the House of Lords (UK Parliaments). He has visited many countries for his research work. Mr Dahri has also worked with the London police department for the last 7 years and received a “Life Achievement Award Certificate” by Lord Frank Judd at The House of Lords- UK. He has recently authored two books called “Global Jihad, Islamic Radicalisation and Counter Strategy” and “Terra Nullius: The Rebirth of a Land Without Peace” which were published from India in 2019. Noor is currently working on his third book on the subject of “Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism” where he would counter the Islamist’s narratives from the theology of Islam.

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