Exclusive: Recruiting in the West: The Lure of Radical Islamic Terror
Dr. Deborah Schuman-Kauflin

Author: Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: July 12, 2007


This is a positively spine chilling analysis of the brutal realities enticing people to become barbaric killers. FSM Contributing Editor Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin’s expertise helps us to understand how and why terrorism is so wickedly beguiling to some personality types, and not to others. 

Recruiting in the West: The Lure of Radical Islamic Terror


By Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin  


Many question why individuals located in or raised in the freedoms of the West would ever want to engage in terrorism. What would make someone who had seen all of the good things freedom has to offer, turn against that freedom?  When consulting with and training law enforcement I point out that often, members of terror groups are professional and very well educated. Terror organizations purposely encourage recruits to become learned, particularly in hard sciences, so that they can understand Western technology and use it against the enemy. Every facet of the enemy should be contemplated, absorbed, and repackaged for use by the terror group. Thus, it was not surprising that the latest terror plot in Europe involved doctors. Anyone can be recruited into a terror organization as long as the individual has the right mindset. Whether one is African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, professional or blue collar, male or female, young or old, the terror draw is always dependent upon the individual’s personality.


Simply, the basic concepts for terror motivation include identity and injury.


Those who are radical in any religion identify themselves first and foremost as members of the religious group. The religion dictates everything, from law to private life. Of note, this is true of all religions. One’s faith and religious obligation are put above everything and everyone, and there is no room for question.


This creates a dissonance for some Muslims who are raised in and those who move to the West. There is a discrepancy between what they read in the Koran, what they observe in Jihad (there are over 150 versus about Jihad in the Koran), and how they view those Muslims who lead peaceful, tolerant lives. They often feel inferior because they do not necessarily fit in, and they can perceive discrimination whether it occurs or not. In essence, in the West there are many young Muslims who believe that they do not have community. Suspicious glances by non-Muslims and contempt from Muslims in the Middle East make them feel like second-class individuals. That is, they know that because of the actions of many violent Muslims, they themselves are looked at with question. At the same time, those they encounter from the Middle East view them as innovators who do not practice true Islam. Because they live in the West and may partake in Western behaviors (including speech and style of dress) they are mocked by more fundamentalist Muslims as being taghut (impure). So they are not quite fully Western and not ‘fully’ Muslim. This can make them uncomfortable and question identity.


Usually it is at this time that the individual on the radical path suffers a life set back. Whether it is due to the West or not, the young Muslim loses someone or something dear. This may be very personal such as the death of a loved one, or it may be viewing Muslims injured around the world. It may be a personal illness, which precludes him from following a dream. Whatever it is, there is something that forces the Muslim to reevaluate his life. Many times, he feels as if he has lost that which matters most to him. With loss and the identity question, dissonance grows. In an effort to escape the pain of loss, young Muslims on the path to radicalism search for more substance in their lives. A psychological struggle ensues. On one hand, they are part of the West, and they can see some good aspects to it, such as specific kind individuals. On the other hand, they are Muslim, and they see the struggles of Muslims worldwide. They see oppressive regimes propped up by the West. And because they perceive themselves as outcasts, they gravitate toward their religion because it cuts across cultures, socioeconomic status, race etc. In this, they find community. Then they focus their attention to the plight of Muslims worldwide in a search for self-fulfillment and acceptance. They hear the ever-present call to defend and spread Islam and become psychologically isolated from the West. When they internalize perceived/actual discrimination and zero in on global Islamic causes, they come to an understanding that Muslims suffer because of Western influence and policies. Slowly, the West is viewed as a villain, and anxiety and questions plague the young Muslims.


Therefore, they search for answers from their families and religious authorities. However, traditional mosques seem to be unfulfilling for them. The older and moderate imams are less appealing to the younger generation for several reasons. First, they do not work hard to bring the younger generation into the fold, so they are viewed as complacent. As a result, some of the younger Muslims drift from moderation. Second, such Muslims can see two faces of Islam. The first face is that of moderate Muslims who are peaceful and work in their respective societies with tolerance. The second face is that of radicals who view the ancient texts as pure guidelines that must be used in all aspects of life. When such a person is struggling with Muslim oppression and is drawn to the second face of Islam, dangerous thoughts occur.  Jihad is exciting, it fills a void, and it provides purpose. One can be drawn to an eternity of bliss in exchange for self-sacrifice in the present. No matter what status one has, isn’t it better to have eternal pleasure than instant gratification? This fantasy is seductive.


At the same time, moderation and tolerance is bland. Older, more peaceful Muslims can be seen as sell-outs who place country above Islam. But traditional Islam provides no distinction between religion and governance. In fact, Islam is supposed to be the ultimate guide. Accordingly, younger Muslims can come to view the older generation as innovators who betray their religion with their action/inaction. After all, the world is supposed to be Dar ul-Islam, the Land of Islam. If the moderate Muslims are living in peace with those of other religions, are they truly Muslim? Shouldn’t they be working to spread Islam by any means as directed by the Koran? These are examples of some of the queries that run through the minds of young Jihadists.

At this point, when they are questioning their societies, they often become more devout. At the same time, they will talk to those around them about fundamentalist Islam. They may go to their local mosque and ask about Jihad and the verses in the Koran, which can be interpreted as condoning violence. This is a critical point because if young Muslims are ignored or shut down, it is likely that they will seek out someone who will answer such questions. Yet, usually if there are any answers at all to the questions, the individuals find them hollow and unacceptable. Again, the answers are coming from the innovators, those who are not practicing true Islam.


Out of frustration, they begin actively look for like-minded thinkers. They are bombarded with propaganda by Jihadists who demand that Muslims fight for Islam. They see Muslims being injured in the causes of Palestine and Chechnya and are flustered by the inability to intervene. They are angered by what they view as Muslim repression in the West and even in the Middle East. As a result, anxiety rises after their questions concerning Jihad are dismissed.


It is their desire to act and be strong in their faith that helps herd them to violence. They believe that they are doing the right thing by answering the call to Jihad, so they seek out those who foster their growing desire to act in the name of Allah.


When they find such a radical Muslim, a dangerous spark occurs. A perceptible persona change begins. The individual will go to extremes to practice “pure” Islam. Those around him may notice that he is more forceful in his commitment to fundamental tenets.  He may begin demanding that Muslim women around him don the hijab if they are not already doing so. He may withdraw from those more tolerant in order to feel more spiritual and connected to Allah. However, this does not necessarily raise any alarms for those around him. Family and friends are usually not concerned because they view their loved one as harmless. How could delving heavily into religion be a reason for concern? Isn’t it better to be religious than be involved in deviant activities? So, those who surround the individual do not see any potential danger. The only thing they may see is a family member or friend who appears to be struggling with life and turning to religion.


This is when the question of identity comes into play, and it is vital. Radicals will ask young Muslims who they truly are. Are you an American, or are you Muslim? Are you British, or are you Muslim? Are you Australian, or are you Muslim?  It is a presented as an either/or proposition. When questioned with such a dichotomy, it can produce great concern. After all, Islam is viewed as being supreme. Thus, one is expected to be Muslim first and foremost. There should be no hesitance in the answer. Islam identity always comes first. And it is here that the path toward violence begins. When one identifies himself by his religion (and with radicals of that religion), it is a short journey to terrible actions.


The individual begins to spend more and more time with fundamentalists. These radicals are clever and play to the egos of those coming to them. They are praised for doing Allah’s work. They are special. They will have eternal joy and be forever immortalized as a martyr. This gives them a sense of purpose, which they are lacking. Though they may be professionals, this truly does not make one immune from depression, anxiety, or any mental illness. If one becomes lost in fantasy and there is no one to pull him out, he will only retreat further into that fantasy. In the case of terrorism, the fantasy is often one of sexual reward and legendary status.


The young Muslim believes that Islam is under attack, and that it is his duty to defend the religion. Members of the terror group will often use insidious tactics to herd the individual toward an attack. When the person is cooperative and does what he is told (including training and remaining quiet), he is bestowed with special access to people and information that others are not. He is a brother held in the highest regard. These privileges reinforce his specialness and spiral him toward becoming a suicide attacker.


He gets lost in the fantasy of becoming immortalized as a hero and admitted into sexual paradise. As he gets closer to actually killing himself for the cause, those around him are more respectful, giving him a glimpse at how he will be seen after his attack. Concurrently, he is pushed to commit the act. Those in the terror group realize that the longer one has to consider dying, the more likely an individual will back out. Once training is complete and the plan set, the terror group continually goads the suicide attacker through praises, promises, and even threats if weakness is suspected.


Whether one comes from an affluent background or from a ghetto, individual identity and injury often guide the martyr. A person suffering internally will search out means with which to cope. Sometimes these means are beneficial, and other times they are not. For the suicide attackers, religion and group identity play a vital role in handling suffering. Acceptance, belief in eternal bliss, and a psychological void play key roles in forming the suicide bomber. Terror groups are approached by volunteers who have gone though this mental and social process. When they prove their commitment, it is only a matter of time before they act.


From Dr. Schurman-Kauflin’s forthcoming book, “Disturbed: Terrorist Behavioral Profiles”.

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