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Discuss Why Some Diaspora Populations Are at Risk of Radicalization

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Since its creation in 2012, the National Institute of Justice’s Domestic Radicalization to Terrorism program has sponsored research to support community members and practitioners in (1) identifying individuals who are radicalizing to terrorism and (2) developing prevention and intervention efforts

Although several of these projects are ongoing, important findings regarding the potential risk factors and indicators associated with engaging — or attempting to engage — in terrorism have begun to emerge.

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Commentators have explored whether there is a psychological profile of a terrorist, with early commentators proposing mental illness, sociopathy, and psychopathy as risk factors for terrorist activity. However, emotionally unstable individuals tend not to be recruited by terrorist organisations as they are usually deemed too much of a security risk

However, there is a link between ill-health and terrorism; individuals living in war zones commonly experience post-traumatic stress disorder, ‘survivor’s guilt’, and bereavement of close friends or families. For some, such traumatic life-events are factors leading to committing terrorist acts.6 Symptoms of guilt, anxiety, grief, and a need for vengeance, combined with a strong religious belief of a better afterlife in which they will rejoin lost loved ones, explains some terrorist acts. However, while individual illness may be a contributory factor in an individual becoming radicalised, terrorist activity cannot be explained by a simplistic model of individual illness. Rather than mental illness, for some, identity issues play a pivotal role in the radicalisation process, with a need for belonging, purpose, and meaning cited as significant motivators to join terrorist groups. People experiencing major life transitions appear to be much more at risk of becoming radicalised, particularly young people still going through psychological development and identity-based changes.8 Such transitions might include individuals having to adapt to major educational and/or residential changes. It is argued that such a life stage will make some, who are already vulnerable, open to recruitment to extremist groups through the social identity conferred from new ways of thinking, different experiences, and an ideological view on world events which resonates with the individual.

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In recent years the focus of terrorism research has shifted onto the terrorists themselves, and onto militant Islamists in the West in particular. We owe to these studies much knowledge and insight into the process in which average young males can be transformed into individuals willing to kill innocent people. Nevertheless, from a more analytical point of view, there is a lack of a theoretical framework linking these different pieces of knowledge to each other –not an overarching general theory but what Merton would have called a middle-range theory to shed light on the strange phenomenon of ‘homegrown’ terrorism in the West–. Roughly speaking, the concept of diaspora refers to groups of people who live in a foreign country but maintain a close relationship with their country of origin (Waldmann, Peter, 2005). The classic cases of diaspora communities are ethnic or religious minorities like the Armenians, the Greeks of Asia Minor and, especially, the Jews who had been forcibly expelled from their homeland and dispersed all over the world while retaining a nostalgic vision of their native country (the slaves deported from Africa to America also belong in this category). Over time the term has been extended to cover processes of migration whose origin does not lie in expulsion from the home country by force. What is important in our context is that processes of transnational labour migration, which have become the main type of migration in the last few decades, can also lead to the emergence of diasporas. In this respect, we have Maghrebi, Turkish and Pakistani diaspora communities in Western Europe today

Yet the concept should not be abused. Not every migratory movement or migrant colony can be called a diaspora. If, for example, pensioners from northern Germany decide to spend the rest of their lives in the pleasant southern German region of Bavaria, they might form a group but they do not form a diaspora (Smith, Anthony, 1971).

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All in all, critical issues include incidents that prove these communities will indeed attack their adopted homelands; that recruits come from converts to Islam, first-generation migrants disaffected with their new society, and second-generation failed assimilations; that Diasporas create financial lifelines to propagandize, recruit, raise funds, procure weapons, and that they lobby their adopted governments to pressure the government of their country of origin. Second- and third-generation immigrants who oppose their home governments represent adversaries almost impossible to profile

Many share a growing sense of aggrievement and frustration with a perceived war against the Muslim world by the West, fueled by events in Iraq, Palestine, and the Balkans. The challenge is to identify emerging threats in Diaspora communities, but to avoid alienating these groups and becoming forced to follow only reactive policies with regard to this growing threat.

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Smith, Anthony (1971), Theories of Nationalism, London.

Tietze, Nikola (2001), Islamische Identitäten: Formen muslimischer Religiösität junger Männer in Deutschland und Frankreich, Hamburg.

Toynbee, Arnold (1949), Studien zur Weltgeschichte: Wachstum und Zerfall der Zivilisationen, Hamburg.

Waldmann, Peter (2005), ‘The Radical Community: A Comparative Analysis of the Social Background of ETA, IRA, and Hizbollah’, Sociologus, vol. 55, p. 239-57.

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