Prall: Targeted, alienated, then radicalized


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A lot has been said in regard to stemming the flow of potential militants of ISIS from Western nations from joining its jihad in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials have come out urging young Muslim men not to join the organization. While a noble gesture, the reasons for impressionable young men to join such a sinister operation is not increased religiosity, and it will not be curtailed by officials wagging their fingers. There must be a fundamental change in the way our society looks at, treats, and understands the Muslim community if we want extremism within our own borders to die.

Young Muslim (specifically Arabic) men experience a unique challenge when living in the United States. Like other minorities, they are targeted by police, the NSA, and the Transportation Security Administration more frequently and with more scrutiny. Because of the nature of the 9/11 attacks, however, there is an increased animosity from their peers and from those sworn to protect them.

They are treated like suspects without a crime, and this form of “guilty until proven innocent” denies them the privileges of being citizens of the United States, privileges they deserve and are guaranteed by our Constitution.

The Muslim community as a whole has frequent expressed grief over being targeted, alienated, and profiled on a local, state, and federal level. Their cries have fallen on deaf ears. Therein lies the real problem we face today. When we alienate, disadvantage, and profile young Muslim men, we build a system that creates spiteful, disillusioned men who are ripe for the taking by a movement such as ISIS. They’re easy prey, when the world around them is all glares and pitchforks.

Bombing terrorists into the ground will not stop terrorism. Terrorism is an idea, it is a state of mind, and like a state of mind, it is created by circumstances. Groups such as Al Qaeda would not be sustainable if they didn’t have support from the locals. They have their support because unlike their own governments, terrorist groups often allocate huge resources to ensure the acutely starving are fed, to develop infrastructure, and cultivate national pride. Had the United States shown up in Pakistan during that country’s devastating floods with the kind of food and support offered by terrorist cells living there, we would see a growing pro-Western sentiment and a decrease in extremism. The religiously motivated extremists are a minority when compared with extremists created by extreme situations of destruction, chaos, disenfranchisement, and starvation.

Stability breeds community, peace, and understanding. Military action may be needed to turn the current tides, but it would not have been needed had the world treated the region as autonomous in the past 100 years. It takes time to build trust after an era like that, but we can start. At home and abroad, the Muslim community needs to be treated with respect, with reverence, and with understanding. That doesn’t leave it to our governments to change. The social implications of the majority embracing equal treatment and respect is what will change things drastically here. If you don’t want young Muslim men to become recruitment opportunities for ISIS, you have to change the society and culture they live in to one in which they don’t feel like the outcast. When they are included, as they should be, there will no longer be a reason to fight, to hate, and to feel hated, because we will have embraced them with open arms.

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