New Terrorism Adviser Takes A 'Broad Tent' Approach
by Dina Temple-Raston, NPR, Jan 24, 2011
January 24, 2011 There's a pattern to recent terror attacks in the United States: Americans — either citizens or residents — have been behind them. In the past two years, dozens of American citizens and residents have been arrested on terrorism charges.
In some cases, the suspects were young Muslims traveling overseas to train for violent jihad. In others, they're accused of actually trying to launch attacks. Attorney General Eric Holder said homegrown terrorism is one of those things that keeps U.S. officials awake at night.
Now there is someone new at the National Security Council who won't be getting much sleep: He's a former Rhodes College professor named Quintan Wiktorowicz, and he's an expert on, among other things, how some people decide to become terrorists.
"A number of years ago, before he went into government, he did some of the most path-breaking work not only on who was susceptible to being radicalized, but most importantly, who was the most resistant to being radicalized," says Christine Fair, an expert on terrorism and radicalization at Georgetown University. "And the findings that he came up with based upon his work really shattered some of the stereotypes we have about Muslims and radicalization."
As part of his research, Wiktorowicz interviewed hundreds of Islamists in the United Kingdom. After compiling his interviews he came to the conclusion that — contrary to popular belief — very religious Muslims were in fact the people who ended up being the most resistant to radicalization.
Fair, who has done a great deal of work on radicalization in Pakistan, said Wiktorowicz's work stayed with her forever. "It really was revelatory for me," she says.
Revelatory because, as it turns out, Wiktorowicz found that it was people who did not have a good grounding in the religion who were the most likely to be attracted by radical Islam.
Peter Neumann is the director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College, London. He got to know Wiktorowicz in London three years ago. Wiktorowicz was at the U.S. Embassy there, studying how the British dealt with radical Islamists and then finding ways to apply those lessons to the United States.
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