Understanding how seemingly ordinary people become radicalized and hatch homegrown terror plots is essential for law enforcement officials in the United States and abroad to stay one step ahead, a study released yesterday by the New York Police Department concluded.
The study found that unassimilated Muslims in the United States are vulnerable to extremism, but less so than their European counterparts.
The report's findings were immediately hailed by proponents of law enforcement and some politicians, while harshly criticized by civil libertarians and advocates for Arab-Americans.
Police analysts studied 11 cases from the past six years to better understand terrorist patterns.
Their 90-page report highlighted how ordinary people in Western nations, with unremarkable jobs and with little or no criminal histories, sometimes come to adopt a terrorist ideology. It found a similar dynamic at work in recent terror plots in Britain, Spain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.
The report identified four steps in the process of radicalization: pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination and jihadization. Pre-radicalization, it said, "describes an individual's world - his or her pedigree, lifestyle, religion, social status, neighborhood and education - just prior to the start of their journey down the path of radicalization." Self-identification, it said, marks the point where people begin to explore militant Islam "while slowly migrating away from their former identity." Personal crises - such as losing a job or suffering from racism - can serve as a catalyst for this "religious seeking," the report said. While people can move gradually through the early phases, over two or three years, they can pivot quickly toward violence, the report said. The Internet, it said, can enable them...
The "sweeping generalizations" of the report may serve to cast a pall of suspicion over the entire American Muslim population, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said yesterday.
"The report also claims that signs of radicalization include positive changes in personal behavior such as giving up smoking, drinking and gambling," said Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the group's board, adding that the report made similar claims about those who wore Islamic clothing. "Is Islamic attire or giving up bad habits, which is something recommended by leaders of all faiths, now to be regarded as suspicious behavior?"