“Why Some Muslims in America Fall Prey To Extreme Ideology of Violence” By F. Sheikh

There could be different factors involved in rest of the West, but this article deals mainly from American perspective. Recent study by the George Washington University, From Retweet To Raqqa, concludes that there is no specific profile of a Muslim terrorist and they come from all demographics. They are not necessarily raised as religious fanatics, uneducated or disadvantaged as one might expect. As per study 40 % are under the age of 21 year. I think the proper question is not what motivates them, rather what makes them vulnerable to extreme ideology of violence? Many experts are still at loss to answer this question. There may be some other factors, but I think, unfortunately one of the major contributing factor is that Muslims are living in a  charged anti-Muslim environment that makes them feel insecure, depressed and marginalized. It is especially true of teenagers. Some teenagers sense additional pressure of feeling different from their peers, and even target of anti-Muslim insults, ridicule and taunts from their own friends. It can lead to alienation, isolation and being bottled up in anger. Teenagers usually do not want to talk about it at home because they do not want to upset their parents. If teenagers do not have an outlet to express their feelings and anger at the dinner table at home or in Muslim community centers, unfortunately this bottled up anger and alienation may make them vulnerable and prime target of extreme nihilistic ideology like ISIS.

 Although Muslim adults have more capacity to absorb such pressures, but for some who face discrimination, ridicule and insults at job may react the same way as teenagers does.

Sometimes the situation described above may get worse if the discussion at home or Islamic centers is ‘limited’ to grievances against the West’s part in the creation of Al-Qaeda, Taliban (Use of Taliban freedom fighters-Jihadis to defeat Russia in Afghanistan), ISIS by military misadventure in Iraq and support of repressive regimes in Muslim lands. This discussion limited to just grievances sometime may leave the wrong impression on alienated teenager or adult of justifying the violent acts of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and which may re-enforce the already bottled up anger and might even inflame it further.

As American citizens, there is nothing wrong in disagreeing with the policies of the West and USA, and many Americans do, but grievances discussion must always be followed by a strong and clear emphasis that to bring the change in situation and policies is possible only through political process and not by the violence as advocated by the extreme ideologies like ISIS. This change through politics and community involvement was achieved by minorities like Jews, Irish and Catholics who faced similar hostility as Muslims are facing today.  In 2012, Douglas Saunders wrote in NYT in his article ‘Catholics Then, Muslims Now’;

 “As late as 1950, 240,000 Americans bought copies of “American Freedom and Catholic Power,” a New York Times best seller. Its author, Paul Blanshard, a former diplomat and editor at The Nation, made the case that Catholicism was an ideology of conquest, and that its traditions constituted a form of “medieval authoritarianism that has no rightful place in the democratic American environment.”

 The hostility against Catholics was so virulent that many liberals, including Bertrand Russel, supported the above view. Catholics, Jews and other minorities were able to overcome this hostility and become part of American fabric by involvement in politics and community works like building charity hospitals, Museums, colleges and universities.

I strongly feel having such discussions at dinner tables and in Islamic Centers, including Sunday schools and emphasizing on right course of action through political process and community involvement will provide the opportunity to some of the teenagers and adults who feel alienated and bottled up to open up and prevent them following a wrong path-and may also lead to some observation that who needs more help and attention. Such discussions will help regardless the cause of alienation and anger.

There is a great fear in Muslim communities that any such open discussions may lead to some misunderstandings by the law enforcement officials with untoward repercussions. Many Muslims are afraid to write even ‘terrorist’ in their emails that it may trigger automatic surveillance. These fears may well be true and not without foundations, but remaining behind the bunkers carries even more disastrous consequences both for current and future Muslim generations.


Fayyaz Sheikh



6 thoughts on ““Why Some Muslims in America Fall Prey To Extreme Ideology of Violence” By F. Sheikh

  1. I fully agree with the crux of this statement by Dr. Fayyaz Sheikh.
    To find out any solution to a complex problem – an objective and in depth analysis is required.

    As law abiding citizens of this society we are collectively obligated to discuss ‘Terrorism’ issue at our dinner tables, community centers and mosques.

    ‘Terrorism’ is not an acceptable option, no matter what the grievances are.
    ‘Terrorism’ is using destructive force against a soft target – violence against innocent human beings is a crime against humanity.
    It must be condemned under all circumstances – there is no exception.

    We all know it is a complex and painfully difficult issue – but it is our collective responsibility to sort it out. We (Muslim religious leaders, political leaders, intellectuals and thinkers) have to get together and initiate the processes of discussion and analysis.

    It is not one person’s job. Because of its complexity and severity, it needs collective endeavor and response of Muslim communities.

    For the sake of our children who are born, raised and educated here we have to get together and find a rational and judicious response to this curse of ‘Terrorism’.
    What we as Muslim community can do, we have to find it out through mutual discussions?

    nSalik (Noor Salik)

    • Noor Sahib, the pages of history clearly reveal that the Saudi clan was a group of terrorists who would often attack the Ottoman empire. Empowered by the Wahhabi ideology of Abdul Wahhab and getting support from the British and French, they under the guidance of Lawrence of Arabia helped the Europeans shatter the Ottoman empire. Again the same tribe and the same Wahhabi ideology was used to destroy the Soviet empire. Everyone knows that all over the Muslim regions, they are financing madrassahs and are imparting Jihadi Wahhabi ideology. A recent bad incident is that Maulvi Burqa of red mosque is back as he is supported by the Saudi Wahhabi Ulema. I am glad that finally the Germany’s Vice Chancellor has spoken this clearly and loudly. Mirza Ashraf


    December 6, 2015, BERLIN: German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Sunday said “Saudi Arabia must stop financing fundamentalist mosques abroad which are accused of breeding extremism. Gabriel, who is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy in a left-right coalition, warned against alienating Saudi Arabia, a crucial player in the bid to end the Syrian war, with too much criticism.
    “From Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi mosques are financed throughout the world,” said Gabriel. “In Germany many extremists considered dangerous persons emerge from these communities,” he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “At the same time we must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over,” said Gabriel, who is also economy minister. The preaching associated with Wahhabi thought, including a return to Islam as practised by the first generation of Muslims, has been accused of inspiring extremists from Osama bin Laden to the Islamic State group.
    Gabriel, head of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), urged decisive steps in Germany against radical mosques associated with Islam’s ultraconservative Salafist strand. “This radical fundamentalism taking place in Salafist mosques is no less dangerous than right-wing extremism,” he said. The head of the SPD parliamentary group, Thomas Oppermann, also urged steps against preaching that contradicts the basic freedoms guaranteed in the German constitution. “We will prevent Saudi help in the building or financing of mosques in Germany where Wahhabi ideas are to be disseminated,” he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
    Wahhabism provided the “complete ideology of the Islamic State and contributes in other countries to a radicalization of moderate Muslims,” he said, adding that “this is something we don’t need and don’t want in Germany.” The SPD leaders’ comments were published days after Merkel’s government was embarrassed by the release of a damning report on Saudi Arabia by its own foreign intelligence service, the BND.
    The report accused Saudi Arabia of an increasingly “impulsive” foreign policy with the goal of becoming the “leaders of the Arab world.” Merkel’s government Friday rejected the BND’s findings and called Riyadh, the world’s top oil exporter, a key partner in regional conflict resolution.”


  3. A comment by Dr. Nasik Elahi
    Entered here by nSalik (Noor Salik)
    NOTE: Dr. Nasik Elahi entered his comment in the email he received and not in
    LEAVE A REPLY in the website.

    The only true statement is that there is no set profile or set of motivational
    factors or causative factors that can explain the mindsets of suicide bombers and
    mass murders coming out of the Muslim world. The latest pair of mass assassins is
    a married couple with a six month old baby. What manner of religious fervor or
    hatred could trump motherhood. The husband was a product of a dysfunctional family
    but supposedly came out of it to be gainfully employed, raise a family while
    collecting a vast arsenal of pipe bombs and automatic weapons.

    Dr. Fayyaz gives a list of grievances suffered by Muslim Americans. It is not
    unique to Muslims. Go to any campus and you find black and Jewish students
    protesting about their victimization. Perhaps the more salient challenge is
    the inability of Muslims to externalize issues of concern to them. Muslims
    need to learn from their Jewish counterparts. Keep the faith but organize to
    be heard, accept critical analysis, not try to define every issue in religious
    terms and get over the sense of victim hood.

    Nasik Elahi

  4. Agreeing with all the previous comments I might add that for very conservative Muslims migrating to the West is an opportunistic enterprise. Besides making money and accumulating worldly goods they have no other preoccupation. Holding on to their cultural values of small town and villages they live in cultural ghettos in the West. Even their children in the Western universities do not venture beyond Islamic Associations and Muslim clubs where they get more of the same. They seem not to subscribe to the global values of tolerance , open mindedness and cultural sharing. Most are even afraid of thinking beyond a certain point and never entertain self doubt. The have no connection with the great arts, music, and literature which is all around them. This ultimately leads to alienation and otherness.

  5. Following is an excerpt from the George Washington University Research Report; Keep in mind we are talking about USA and not Europe which has different dynamics.

    “The profiles of individuals involved in ISIS-related activities
    in the U.S. differ widely in race, age, social class,
    education, and family background. Their motivations
    are equally diverse and defy easy analysis.”

    There were 71 terrorist related arrests in last 18 months.Vast majority of them were American born Citizens and not very religious. They were moderate all American and vast majority of them did not join ISIS because they were religious, but some un-explainable factors lead them to this dark alley of ISIS. The question is what are those factors that lead these moderate Muslims to extremist ideology, and not about ISIS itself and how it was created. My article is about this unknown vulnerability of moderate American born Muslims who join ISIS. As above excerpt says ” Their motivations are equally diverse and defy easy analysis.”. In vast majority, it is not the religion that drives them towards ISIS, perhaps they use ISIS to take out their own bottled up anger against the people they perceive are doing harm to him/his family/ Muslim community. The obvious question is is how we can find out these factors and what can be done to prevent it which will affect not just us but our future generations also in USA. My article deals with this subject.

    (The full report can be read at the following link. Just above “Reply” section there is orange hyperlink to report saying ” ISIS In America: Full Report” Click on this and it connect to the report;

    http://www.thinkersforumusablog.org/archives/8557/isis-in-america-full-report )

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