Home-grown terror in a globalized world.
The spate of home-grown terrorists in the United States gives new
meaning to the saying, "Think globally and act locally".
Neighbourhood violence and disenfranchisement, alienation and isolation,
have the potential to jeopardize safety on a worldwide scale in an
increasingly globalized, thus smaller, world. Angst and anger are no
longer contained by borders and large bodies of water; chat forums,
mobile phone technology and blogs make the world a much more intimate
place. Today's local youth are not only the potential leaders of
tomorrow but also the potential aggressors.
Keywords: Global Terrorism, Global Safety, Social alienation, Neighbourhood Violence
(Forecasts and trends)
Globalization (Forecasts and trends)
Religions (Political aspects)
Religions (International aspects)
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences Publisher: Oxford Mosaic Publications Limited Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Oxford Mosaic Publications Limited ISSN: 1756-7483|
|Issue:||Date: Jan, 2010 Source Volume: 3 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks; 200 Management dynamics Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis; Company business management|
|Product:||Product Code: 9101340 Terrorist Control; 9916550 Security Mgmt-Kidnapping & Terrorism NAICS Code: 92212 Police Protection|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom|
One of the recent news threads to have emerged in the mainstream
media coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the spate of
home-grown terrorists--Americans who have attempted to or succeeded in
perpetrating violence against the United States and its citizens.
Unfortunately, this coverage has been particularly critical of the
Muslim faith, as if the religion itself is conducive to fostering
terrorists. Islam has emerged as a popular scapegoat for other larger,
systemic problems that underlie the recent crop of home-grown
terrorists. Additionally, the recent spate of home-grown terrorists is
not the first instance in recent history where America has been targeted
by its own citizens.
In 1993, David Koresh led his Branch Davidian followers in a standoff against the FBI which resulted in the deaths of eighty-two people in Waco, Texas. Koresh thought of himself as a prophet, believing he was doing God's work by establishing a camp in Palestine, Texas, where he lived with his followers. He, too, experienced visions and felt himself to be God's tool in implementing the Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem.
Meant to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the Waco Siege, Timothy McVeigh perpetrated the Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest incident of terrorism on U.S. soil pre-9/11 (168 people died and approximately 700 injured). Although McVeigh was not a religious figure in his community, his obsession with firearms became his own religion.
But it was the 1999 Columbine High School massacre that left an indelible imprint on my memory. I'll never forget watching the constant news coverage of the incident from the safe confines of my dormitory room. Ironically, I was living in Manhattan's East Village, not far from Tompkins Square Park and Alphabet City, neighbourhoods known as the seedy underbelly of Manhattan, yet I was safer than the teachers and children in a public school in suburban Colorado.
What is striking about the massacre is that although it spurred a nationwide debate about gun control, no one connected the anti-social behaviour shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold expressed in their website and blog with the anti-social narcissism, loneliness and isolation which characterise Timothy McVeigh and David Koresh's biographies. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, like McVeigh, were not religious teenagers, yet they worshipped anarchy and scoffed at their local community's conventional social mores.
We can see two major themes emerge from briefly recounting the above-mentioned incidents of terrorism on U.S. soil: that God, whether the Baptist or any other Christian faith's vision of Him, can be misappropriated as a motive behind widespread violence. And that human psychology, particularly in the forms of emotional distress and mental disorders, is a powerful lens with which to distort religious teachings and one's world view.
Not coincidentally, present-day home-grown terrorists are men as young as the Columbine shooters or as established in their community as Koresh. Tarek Mehanna sounds eerily like the Muslim version of a Columbine shooter: twenty-seven years old and guilty of planning an attack in a large public space (this time a mall rather than a school) and sharing the same angst against the U.S. government McVeigh expressed.
The "Washington Post" recently reported the aggressive and successful recruitment of Somali-American men by al-Qaeda that has come to light after a truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, a terrorist incident in which Americans are suspected of participating. These radicalised youth who are training in al-Qaeda camps receive the support and community they seek while being appreciated for their American nationality and passports. According to the "Washington Post", Somali-American men are more successfully recruited to al-Qaeda than Pakistani-, Afghani- and Iraqi-American men.
David C. Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, two U.S. citizens who had spent time living in Pakistan, were recently arrested for conspiring to perpetrate acts of violence against the Danish newspaper that published the infamous cartoons caricaturing prophet Muhammad. U.S. home-grown terrorists are now taking their agenda global.
America is not alone in managing the problem of "home-grown terrorists". The seeds of this problem have also been sown in England where the four perpetrators of the 7/7 (July 7, 2005) London bombings were British men, three of Pakistani heritage and one Jamaican. They claimed that they were protesting America's and England's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. All four bombers were men between the ages of eighteen and thirty, half of whom were not financially independent and all of whom referenced Islam in their statements.
Infrastructure to support young men with a proclivity towards extremist behaviour is necessary in both England and America where all too often youth fall through the cracks despite the countries' generous public sector budgets. I foresee a steady proliferation of home-grown bombers until we address the causes of widespread alienation and confusion among American youth: inadequate public schools that fail to provide skills training, educational instruction, and the opportunity for philosophical debate; a popular culture that produces and re-produces slightly-altered versions of violent, hyper-sexualized and bigoted media product; and communities where those who don't seamlessly fit in due to their skin colour, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, clothing style, physical disabilities and challenges with depression are ignored and ostracised at best and bullied, sometimes killed, at worst.
Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago is currently partnering with President Obama in leading an initiative to address the city's youth-related violence and recognises that it is an "American problem" rather than one that affects isolated communities. I challenge the mayor and his colleagues around the United States to contemplate the implications of local violence and disenfranchisement, alienation and isolation, and how these psychological factors potentially play out in an increasingly globalized, thus smaller, world. Angst and anger are no longer contained by borders and large bodies of water; chat forums, mobile phone technology and blogs make the world a much more intimate place. Today's local youth are not only the potential leaders of tomorrow but also the potential aggressors; at this moment in history we can observe that because the world is a much smaller place than it was even fifteen years ago, alienated youth have more global outlets through which they can express their alienation and frustration, clouded anger and mis-directed passion.
The disenfranchised don't look at their passports to remind them that the people and institutions who make them feel isolated and insignificant, deliberately or not, are their countrymen. Perpetrators of physical, emotional and psychological trauma know no borders; why should their targets? Sharing a national anthem or benefiting from the government's legal and welfare systems do not enter the minds of "home-grown bombers" whether they are white American youth, Somali-American men, or English sons of South-Asian immigrants.
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