There are many factors that create radicalization and ultimately terrorism. It’s a very complicated process and ideologies such as religion are just one of the many ingredients. However, one thing we know about terrorism is that it usually involves a vicious cycle of hatred.
A recent Onion article titled “Trump Gives Muslim On Fence About Radicalizing Just The Push He Needed” is terrifyingly accurate. If we analyze the recruiting magazines for Al-Qaeda, we see constant themes about how awful Muslims are treated and how they should fight back. With anti-Muslim bigotry being an epidemic in America and all over the world, terrorists have an unlimited source of hatred to fuel their own hateful behavior. A leading candidate for President just said that he wants a “complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. This is ridiculous.
And again, beyond the terrible bigotry and hatred, this kind of hateful rhetoric is used as a recruiting tool for new terrorists! The atrocities that ISIS has committed does not mean we should turn in fear intro hatred. That is exactly what they want us to do. As psychologist and terrorism expert Arie Kruglanski remarks:
“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims… Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.’”
When Muslims are marginalized, they then seek out a community that could support them and that community could very well a terrorist organization. Jocelyn Bélanger, another psychologist who studies terrorism, has found that:
“When people feel a loss of significance — when they are humiliated — that propels them to join a radical group… A group gives them a feeling of significance. It fulfills a psychological need.”
So Donald Trump and the many anti-Muslim bigots who want to seem strong against terrorism are actually enabling it. While it’s easy to blame all of our problems on an entire group of people, it’s a cowardly and counterproductive strategy. Empowering people and Islamic reform are much more effective in the long run. Hatred will only inspire more hatred.
Featured image from CNN.com screengrab