Countering Islamist Radicalization

Updated on January 23, 2020
Ameraka profile image

Evelyn is a writer who received her Bachelors of Political Science from UW-La Crosse.



Homegrown attacks are increasing in importance in the United States. Over two-thirds of Islamist terrorist plots or attacks after March 2014 were by American citizens. In July 2015, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a Kuwaiti-born US citizen, killed five members of the US military. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 in San Bernardino, December 2015; Omar Mateen, born in the US, killed 49 people in Orlando in June 2016. So it is clear that homegrown extremism is a problem in this country.

Why are people radicalizing in the US? Grievances common to US homegrown terrorists are similar to those in other countries. For example, discrimination can trigger resentment. Vulnerable individuals may react violently against the dominant culture which has marginalized them. Similarly, if Muslims identify with the country where their ancestors came from, they can react with horror at what their adopted country is doing, such as invading a Muslim-majority country. Poverty and lack of opportunity can make people feel trapped and desperate. However, the backgrounds of homegrown terrorists vary as much as the rest of the US population.

Other reasons besides grievance can inspire people to radicalize. Negative experiences that profoundly affect their lives can lead to a divergence from their previous path, and explore a more radical view that seems to reflect the reality they experience. These can be unrelated to Islam, such as a divorce or a death, but force them to confront what they have believed, and with the inclusion of other circumstances, such as online propaganda or a friendship with a radical Islamist, they become radicalized. Searching for a sense of identity and purpose, they find it in radical Islamism.

People would not radicalize if they did not have access to jihadist material. Propaganda videos, featuring execution or charity, figure prominently in the radicalization process; over 85 percent of terrorists had viewed them.

Friends and leaders can influence the radicalization process. The internet provides a way to communicate with those who are like-minded; it also transmits videos, images, narratives which resonate with the searching.

Grievance, ideology, and social milieu can work together to create a perfect storm of radicalization. However, the risk factors increase the likelihood but don’t guarantee someone becomes a terrorist.


In order for a counter-radicalization program to not become a grievance, there needs to be a clear separation between counter-radicalization and counterterrorism, so it’s not viewed as a tool for espionage. Using undercover informants in mosques and other practices has only created mistrust between Muslim communities and the government, which actually prevents cooperation that could lead to sharing information. A partnership should be cultivated between government and local communities for mutual benefit, not a relationship that fosters suspicion.

One way to do this would be a program such as in the Netherlands, where there are “information houses” that people can report at-risk individuals to, addressing conflicts at the local level before law enforcement becomes involved.

A counter-radicalization program should originate bottom-up, not top-down, and focus on the big picture, while the community focuses on the details. The program should arise from the concerns of the community, not federal government. The role of the federal government should empower states, local government, and community to pursue counter-radicalization strategies themselves. It should provide funding and support, not micromanage or invade the space of the states. It should use existing funds and bureaucracies for counter-radicalization, assisting non-profits and private sector.

One of the most important ways for the government to support the private sector is by bolstering mainstream Muslim networks, so they can be the first defense against radicalization. The government needs to support Islamic scholars to create a counter-narrative from Islamic traditions to discredit ISIS’s propaganda.

Similarly, counter-radicalization web sites should be created that educate about mainstream Islam and damage the radical position, emphasizing that it does not represent Islam. These should be made by local community leaders or internationally renowned Muslim scholars. The government should work with social media to shut down accounts with violent content, but not provide counter-messaging itself, because it does not have legitimacy and actually helps discredit the voices when they are seen as coming from the government.

Additionally, the United States should work to integrate Muslim immigrants, not isolate them, and create a welcoming environment for law-abiding immigrants. This would cut down radical propaganda that US is at war against Islam, discourage discrimination in society, and celebrate diversity—strive for the ideal of what America should be.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)