Islamic 'Pipeline to Extremism' Turns Out to Be Mostly FBI Set-Ups
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These so-called counter-radicalization policies focus on individuals rather than structures, symptoms rather than root causes. A more proactive domestic approach would include policies that prevent radicalization instead of focusing on arresting and prosecuting perpetrators. The aggressive and overt policing and prosecution of marginal cases may deter some, but has the strong potential to breed anti-Muslim and anti-American sentiments at home and abroad. The retaliatory arson attack on the mosque, where the Portland bombing suspect allegedly worshipped, is but one example.
There is an urgent need to change direction by establishing “pipelines to integration” to counter the efforts to establish a pipeline to extremism. Such pipelines could include tackling poverty and unemployment by expanding English as a Second Language classes, after-school programs, job training, and citizenship programs in Somali communities. These, in turn, would engage the youth in positive alternatives to the lure of extremism, gangs, drug dealing, and prostitution. In addition, integrating Somalis into the larger community, while respecting their cultural heritage and traditions, requires cultural competency training for law enforcement personnel, teachers, and other public officials.
Somali immigrant youth, often children of immigrants themselves, are in danger of losing connection with their ethnic heritage and values. This dilemma of being neither American nor Somali leads them to search for identity and belonging that some satisfy by turning to religion, following a radical preacher, or in rare cases joining a jihadist group. The overwhelming majority of Somalis, even those who oppose U.S. policies abroad, do not join jihadist groups. For those few who do, it is the exposure to particular personal and communicative networks that turn radical thought into violent action. Trying to identify and neutralize the few youth who attempt to join al-Shabaab does not even begin to deal with the problem.
Francis NJubi Nesbitt is a Foreign Policy in Focus contributor. He is the author of Race for Sanctions: African Americans against Apartheid, 1946-1994 and is currently completing a book on U.S. foreign policies in the Horn of Africa.