What should Canada do about returning jihadists? Lorne Dawson interview

Good interview with Dawson, whose work I continue to find impressive.

Nice contrast with some of the shallower pieces on the issue of returning extremist fighters (e.g., ‘Canada does not engage in death squads,’ while allies actively hunt …BONOKOSKI: Kill them before they come home? Too un-Canadian):

What to do about Canadians who joined the so-called Islamic State when they come home—now that ISIS has been routed on the battlefield in the territory in Iraq and Syria that it used to call its “caliphate”—has emerged as a challenge for Justin Trudeau’s government.

The return of battle-hardened ISIS terrorists is a disturbing prospect. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office says the number of individuals shouldn’t be exaggerated, though, telling Maclean’sthat Canadian intelligence agencies are aware of about 60 terrorist travellers who have returned to Canada from conflict zones in the past decade, including a small number from Syria and Iraq.

Even lumping them together under the heading “foreign fighters” isn’t entirely accurate, since some were involved in financing terrorism or generating propaganda. An estimated 180 to 190 terrorist travellers with ties to Canada have not come back, but a spokesman for Goodale said in an email, “We don’t expect many to return with the number of casualties and the challenge of leaving those areas.”

Still, figuring out how to handle any who do make their way to Canada is now a pressing concern. Lorne Dawson, a professor in the University of Waterloo’s sociology and legal studies department, has a unique perspective on what might work—and what likely won’t. Dawson is part of a team of academic researchers who have systematically interviewed dozens of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria over social media, trying to formulate a picture of their motivations and backgrounds.

He’s also closely familiar with programs in Europe that tried to prevent radicalization of young men in the first place—approaches that have been adapted to cope with former ISIS fighters when they straggle back from the conflict zones. Dawson spoke with me earlier today about what Canada should be doing, including what the federal government might learn from Britain and Denmark, where the scale of the problem is much larger.

Q: Given how bad ISIS is, shouldn’t returning fighters just be arrested?

A: It’s going to be almost impossible under most legal jurisdictions to find enough solid evidence to really convincingly prosecute them. So you could waste your time prosecuting them and have about half your cases fail in the courts, which no government wants to do on terrorism issues because it just looks bad, politically bad, and it’s sets all kinds of bad precedents.

That’s true in Canada, too. You do not want to prosecute unless you think you have a really strong case. Trying to get that kind of evidence, legally viable evidence, out of places like Syria and Iraq, so you could prosecute someone, the challenges are just unbelievable.

Q: So what do you do when the fighters come back? Someone returns who looks to have been involved with a terrorist group in Syria or Iraq, but you don’t have enough evidence to arrest them. What should you do?

A: You need to sit down and have a conversation with these people. They need to enter into these programs for countering violent extremism. But it has to be voluntary, or relatively voluntary, everyone knows that, or it won’t work. But, of course, you make it only somewhat voluntary by saying, “Look, your options are either you enter into this program or we’re going to continue to do a full-court press on you to prosecute you.” And most of them are aware they could end up in prison. So there is a strong incentive.

Q: And what does the program they’ve signed up for look like?

A: You have panels of experts that gather and they are supplied with all the information that can be found on the person. These experts are from multiple backgrounds. So social working, community working, educational specialist, occupational therapist, religious leaders from the community—anyone who’s thought to be relevant.

Q: So you’ve assembled experts. What’s their job?

A: First you do assessment. What is this person’s situation? Well, they’re not going to be able to reintegrate into our society because they didn’t even finish their high school. Right away, let’s start finding a way for this person to complete their educational requirements. They’re going to need some subsidy to do that. They’re going to need some assistance in getting into a program. Provide that.

They then also initiate family counselling and try and get the person, if there’s strained relations with the family, reconnected to the family and reintegrated in the community in that way. Now, through this whole process they have to report to the police regularly. They’re being monitored, they’re not being surveilled, that would be way too expensive. People are making sure they’re not associating with other known jihadists and things of that nature.

Q: Is there any evidence this sort of approach works?

A: We don’t have exact numbers, but the Danish government basically is saying they’ve now dealt with dozens of such individuals and that there’s not a single case yet where they’ve encountered someone going through one of these programs who then went and committed a terrorist act. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

Q: What would you say to people who’ll respond to all this by saying, “Oh, come on, professor—these are hardened, horrible people, who are implicated in all kinds of atrocities. How can you talk about a rehabilitation?”

A: I recognize the resistance to these ideas. But, from the best studies we have available—which admittedly do not deal with people coming from Syria and Iraq and from ISIS, where we have a much more extreme circumstance—but from all of the real studies done of the people who fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia and elsewhere in the world, involved in jihadist struggles, the numbers show that about a third die in the fight, about a third never come back because they want to go live in a Muslim-majority country and they disappear into Morocco or wherever, and about a third come home.

Of the ones that come home, the vast majority are either disillusioned or they’re to some extent traumatized and feel they done their bit—”I did my service to fight for the Muslim people against their oppressors, but I’m done.” A tiny fraction of them will be coming back actually still radicalized and interested in engaging in some kind of, you know, further terrorist action. And so this is why you have to have a really careful debriefing process, an assessment process, and of course our security officials know how to do that. That’s their job.

Q: Are you still in contact with active foreign fighters? Are you talking to them, the way you’ve done in the past through social media?

A: Yes and no. Our channels are still open, but there’s nothing happening. Because ever since the major assault on Mosul, almost all the presence and social media of the individuals we were talking to, or watching on Twitter and other social media, they just disappeared.

Q: Do you think they are dead?

A: Many I think are dead. And I think what happened is, of course, once full military activity happened, they were just told, “You do not use your phone.” Obviously phones can be tracked in various ways. All communications stopped. We haven’t had an actual live conversation with anyone in Syria and Iraq in a couple of months.

Q: Do you get called by CSIS and RCMP regularly about what your online contact with jihadists in Iraq and Syria? Do they ask you for information?

A: No. Our funding is from the government. It’s through competitive programs. Our current funding is from the community resilience fund, through this new Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. So of course they recognize, and it’s always stipulated in there, that we have academic freedom.

It’s arm’s length, independent, all subject to normal ethics procedures through the universities. And so they know the only way we got ethics clearance to do this research was to have extremely high guarantees around confidentiality. They recognize, in the end, they will get our results, which are beneficial to them, but they don’t get details.

Liberals replacing Harper Tories’ anti-terror project with new program

Looks like the Kanishka Project, one of the previous government’s rare and good “committing sociology” initiatives, will continue albeit in different form:

As the Liberals prepare to launch their signature anti-terrorism initiative, they have closed the door on a previous one by the Conservative government.

On Thursday, Liberal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released a report on the terrorist threat to Canada that said the Islamic State is the main concern. The report also said that a five-year initiative by the Tories that had delivered $10-million, mostly to academics researching terrorism in hopes of finding ways to understand and fight it, had ceased operations in March.

The initiative, known as the Kanishka Project, began in 2011, and the Conservatives promised last year to renew it if they were re-elected. The Liberals pledged a more hands-on approach. Last week, Mr. Goodale said that by the end of the summer, he will appoint an official to advise the government on de-radicalization.

The office of the adviser is expected to cost $7-million to $10-million a year, and the government says it is intended to get civil servants, academics, religious and ethnic communities to work together to find ways to deal with extremists.

The Liberals are calling this a wholly new approach for Canada, but experts say this office may absorb the function of the Kanishka Project.

“In a sense, the new office will be the successor of Kanishka. … There is more continuity than discontinuity,” said Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo professor who studies terrorism. The one big difference, he said, is “that there is now a stress on actually doing something in terms of [countering violent extremism].”

In 2012, Dr. Dawson co-founded the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, which got hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Kanishka. Saying the old program blazed a trail for serious study of terrorism, he anticipates the new government office will also finance such work.

The terrorism report said Kanishka was not renewed when its five-year funding ran out in the spring. “Public Safety and its partners continue to publish results and build on the program’s research,” it said, adding that the new counterradicalization office will “foster research on radicalization to violence” among other functions.

Source: Liberals replacing Harper Tories’ anti-terror project with new program – The Globe and Mail

What motivates a Canadian jihadist?

Interesting study by credible researchers:

 A new study based on interviews conducted over social media with foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria raises doubts about the commonly held notion that young men in North America and Europe who are drawn to violent Islamic extremism must be marginalized loners looking for an alternative to their dead-end lives.

Three university researchers who contacted dozens of jihadists from abroad in Iraq and Syria, including some Canadians, say they seemed to be drawn mainly by the religious ideas—“no matter how ill-informed or unorthodox”—behind jihadism. Rather than being isolated individuals who self-radicalized in front of their computer screens, the report says they usually found mentors and, at least in the case of the Canadians, joined the fighting in “clusters.”

In the working paper entitled Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-Economic Push versus Existential Pull Factors, the researchers caution against assuming that radical Islam appeals only young men on the edges of society, those without good job prospects or supportive family and friends.

They suggest previous academic studies have put too much weight on those “push” factors—the problems and frustrations in the lives of young men who turn to extremist Islam and, ultimately, terrorist violence. “Based on what we are hearing in interviews with foreign fighters—more interviews than anyone has yet to report on—we think more attention and significance should be given to the repeated affirmations of the positive benefits of being jihadists,” they say.

From mid-December 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016, the researchers put questions to 40 foreign fighters, 60 family members, friends and associates, and 30 online fans, recruiters, and potential fighters. (Among the Canadians the interviewed was Aaron Driver, the would-be terrorist killed last week in a confrontation with police in Strathroy, Ont.) Those fighting in Syria and Iraq were interviewed through “extended social media dialogues.” But their working paper, posted recently on the website of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, is based on an initial analysis of just 20 interviews with foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The researchers are Lorne Dawson of University of Waterloo’s sociology and legal studies department, Amarnath Amarasingam of George Washington University’s program on extremism, and Alexandra Bain of St. Thomas University’s religious studies department. Dawson told Maclean’s by email that they plan to eventually publish a more complete paper on their research in a peer-reviewed journal, and are also “being pressed to write a book in short order.”

In the working paper, they write that the foreign fighters they contacted “run the gamut from troubled youth with personal problems to accomplished young men and women from stable backgrounds.” In the 20 interviews they analyzed, not one of their subjects suggested “directly or indirectly” that being marginalized socially or economically pushed them onto such an extreme path. “Anger and frustration have their role to play in the process, but it is the positive investment in an alternate world-saving role that matters most, no matter how strange it may appear to outsiders,” they say.

As well, the paper points to the importance of influential radical voices who carry some form of religious authority. “In most cases, we would say the help and encouragement of some other outside mentors is required to complete the process of radicalization, to turn wannabe terrorists into deployable agents or independent martyrs for the cause. The process of self-radicalization needs to be legitimated to be complete.”

To probe the views of radicalized young men directly, the researchers had to assure them that they were not seeking “operational information” that would put them at risk. The questions focused on personal and family background, their sense of identity, and how they became fighters.

Along with information about the individuals, the researchers assembled a sort of group portrait of the Canadians fighting for various terrorist and radical factions in Iraq and Syria. “It is extremely difficult to verify any of this information, however, and for the most part we are merely reporting what one or more individuals have told us,” they admit. Still, the outline they sketch is intriguing.

They say Canadians tend to be radicalized in “clusters” and travel to the conflict zone in small groups. Of those who have made the journey, at least 19 Canadian men have died fighting in Syria and Iraq, five or them converts to Islam, the rest from Muslim backgrounds. Eight were from Ontario, eight from Alberta, and three from Quebec. The researchers say they “have good reason to believe” most of the radicalized Canadians in the war-torn region have joined ISIS, but others are fighting for less well-known groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar as-Sham, while at least 15 have fought with Kurdish or Christian militias.

The paper estimates that between 10 and 15 women have gone from Canada to Iraq and Syria to back ISIS, often marrying terrorists. “We know that three have given birth to babies as a result of their marriages to ISIS fighters, who are usually other foreign fighters,” they say.

Throughout the report, the authors repeatedly note that they are summarizing only preliminary findings. “Things may change as more of our existing interviews are analyzed and more interviews are undertaken,” they say. Still, they assert that their interviews with actual fighters have been more extensive than those relied on for previously published scholarly studies.

Source: What motivates a Canadian jihadist? – Macleans.ca

Family, friends of radicalized persons wary of reporting: experts

Some of the challenges in encouraging families and friends to play a greater part in de-radicalization:

Part of the problem is that friends and family members of individuals who are radicalized believe their only resort is to report their loved one to the police, which might then lead to criminal charges, according to Dr. Lorne Dawson, a terrorist radicalization expert and professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo.

“They (family members) have conflicting loyalties. They don’t know where to report the individual except for the police and they don’t want to be responsible for their loved one being arrested.”

As well, he says, family members may not take the threat seriously. “Maybe the person has a reputation for being over-the-top, or exaggerating things, or being rather extreme in their judgment and views on things.”

Calling the authorities is not ideal for a family that believes it may simply have an emotionally strung-out individual on their hands, he says.

Staff Sgt. David Zackrias heads the Diversity and Race Relations Section of the Ottawa Police Service, which aims to provide outreach and build bridges between police and diverse ethnic communities in Ottawa. He’s also the vice co-chair on the policing side of the Community and Police Action Committee (COMPAC), a community-police advisory body in Ottawa that meets once a month.

He urges family and community members to report an individual who is seemingly in the early stages of radicalization so the person can get help before a violent threshold is crossed.

“If public safety is in jeopardy, we need to make sure the right people are notified,” he says. “But if this is something that we could work with in terms of engagement and there’s an issue with a certain person who is in the infancy stage of being radicalized, then we engage the community and address those issues and share what resources are out there in the community.”

Such community resources may include a psychiatrist or social worker with the skills to help the person address the issue.

Most of Zackrias’ work within the Muslim community involves taking part in panel discussions with imams and Muslim community leaders, in which their concerns and grievances are brought forward.

“When the community comes and informs us about certain things in terms of they’re concerned that certain people are coming to town and giving hate speech, we provide them with the information to make an informed decision,” he says.

Last year, Public Safety initiated a strategy for countering violent extremism with a major focus on engaging and interacting with communities and individuals in order to research the root causes of terrorism and how to combat them, according to the department’s website.

Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a non-partisan international governance think-tank based in Waterloo, Ont., says one of the biggest challenges facing a CVE strategy is building trust between communities and law enforcement.

“The RCMP and different municipal police forces have worked with vulnerable communities and leaders,” she said. “They’ve reached out and some of these programs are really fantastic.”

As well, she says that having an open dialogue among family members about the risks of extremism is vital, because young people are adept at hiding their lives on the Internet from others, and many people may not believe that radicalization could happen in their own homes.

“Having parents and families involved is a really important tool for not only deradicalization but also in preventing wannabe foreign fighters. Like any social problem, dialogue, bringing it to the fore, and having a conversation can be helpful,” she said.

According to a Dec. 2013 study in the Journal of Forensic Science of 119 lone-actors who engaged in or planned to commit acts of terrorism in the United States and Europe, in about 64 per cent of cases friends and family members knew of the individual’s intent to commit terrorism-related acts because the individual had verbally told them.

In more than 65 per cent of the cases, the individual expressed intent to hurt or harm others while in almost 80 per cent of the cases, others knew of the individual’s commitment to an extremist ideology. These findings suggest “friends and family can play important roles in efforts that seek to prevent terrorist plots.”

Of course, recent federal government messaging makes it harder for this kind of outreach and engagement.

Family, friends of radicalized persons wary of reporting: experts | Ottawa Citizen.

Don’t equate radical thoughts with actions, academics tell senator

Sigh ….

Conservative Senator Daniel Lang told a crowd of students at the University of Ottawa’s Public Policy Conference on Saturday that “we need to recognize that radicalized thoughts lead to radicalized actions.” But just last week Lorne Dawson, co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, told the committee that research on radicalization consistently demonstrates that very few individuals who hold radical ideas ever actually graduate to committing violence and that generalizations about radicalization don’t help the fight to counter extremism in Canada.

“Research literature is overwhelmingly clear there is a very poor correlation between espousing ideas and engaging in action,” Dawson told iPolitics on Monday. “Obviously some people on the committee heard what we were saying and some didn’t.”

Dawson’s co-director, Daniel Hiebert, also said he disagreed with Lang’s point and noted it’s important to keep in mind the distinction between having radical thoughts and acting on those thoughts.

“You can’t perform a radicalized action unless you had a radicalized idea so yes, there is a connection between those things but nowhere near everyone who has radical ideas will perform radicalized actions,” he said.  “The literature on these issues is very clear that it’s another conversion process. There’s one conversion process that happens between thinking mainstream ideas and having extremist ideas – that’s a pretty big kind of hurdle to jump over, it’s a pretty big conversion process that happens there. There’s yet another conversion process that happens between having extremist ideas and thinking that violence is an appropriate way to propagate those extremist ideas. So there’s no simple linkage between those two things. There’s sort of a necessary linkage — as I said, you can’t have B without A but A does not necessarily lead to B. “

Lang’s office sent an emailed statement in response for a request for clarification of his comments.

The statement reiterates the text of his speech at the conference.

“To be clear, I stated: We need to recognize that radical ideas lead to radical actions. It does not mean we should criminalize ideas, but we need to identify them; state that they have no place in Canadian society, even at university campuses – where sometimes the cloak of free speech is abused; and denounce those promoting them and facilitating such ideas – even if they are done in the name of religious ideology or doctrine,” the statement reads.

Don’t equate radical thoughts with actions, academics tell senator (iPolitics)

‘Soft security’ measures also needed to battle home-grown radicalism, experts say

More coverage of the work by Lorne Dawson and Dan Hiebert on the need for greater emphasis on anti-radicalization and de-radicalization programming, the softer yet necessary prevention programming:

It would take an immense public education effort and support for families and Muslim communities to have difficult conversations, to provide support and resources. Dawson draws the comparison to how we now approach suicide. Just as parents and teachers should never ignore a 14- or 15-year-old who says he’s going to kill himself, Canadians have to respond to young people espousing sympathetic feelings for extremist ideologies from the get-go.

“If someone says, ‘Anyone who is not a Sunni is a kuffar and they should all be killed,’ that’s not a line you let pass. The trouble is if your only recourse right now is to phone the police or the RCMP, it’s not going to happen,” says Dawson.

That’s because the Canadian government has chosen to focus on “hard security” — boosting investigative powers, intelligence gathering, arrest powers. There is no provision in the Conservative government’s massive anti-terror Bill C-51 to provide new resources for de-radicalization programs — the kind of “soft security” measures that Dawson, Hiebert and others say are key.

By that they mean interventions involving law enforcement, teachers, social workers and psychiatrists — resources that are woefully lacking at the moment for Muslim communities across Canada, the Senate committee has heard.

The researchers say Ottawa should look to other countries, pointing to a program in Britain called Channel that draws in police, social workers, psychiatrists and teachers “to deal with the other aspects of that person’s life that need to be fixed, to get them to divert from that path towards radicalization and violence.”

“That’s expensive, but, again: an ounce of prevention, a pound of cure.”

And they urged continued funding for research projects such as theirs. “We don’t adequately understand radicalization yet,” said Dawson. “To put it in simple terms, we’re very worried . . . . If you don’t have a fine enough conception of what’s causing the problem, it’s difficult to develop the most effective counter measures.”

‘Soft security’ measures also needed to battle home-grown radicalism, experts say | Toronto Star.

And a good interview with Dawson:

The lure of terrorism: Q&A with cult expert Lorne Dawson (with video)

If IS falls, Canada must be ready for the return of foreign fighters – Momani and Dawson

Sobering assessment of one of the major gaps in the Government’s overall approach in reducing the risk of radicalization and returning fighters by Bessma Momani and Lorne Dawson:

The provisions of Bill C-51 attempt to stem the supply side of terrorism, by censoring online conversations and beefing up CSIS and RCMP capacities. But the bill does not have a strategy to tackle the demand side of the problem, such as de-radicalization programs, building capacities and resilient communities through political empowerment, and supporting alternative narratives in vulnerable demographic groups. Security measures have a troubling tendency to feed back into the radicalization process itself. If IS is decapitated, the threat posed from returning fighters is theoretically higher than if it is simply contained, and it is unlike the consequences of defeating al-Qaeda for the radicalization of Western youth.

What can be done? Investing in prevention tools can help stop the feedback loop that could further radicalize new recruits and returning fighters. Prevention means we need to understand the appeal of IS as a cult, couched in medieval misinterpretations of an otherwise peaceful religion. Stemming the supply and re-offence of returnees requires detoxing wannabe fighters; understanding how vulnerable youth and misfits are searching for identity online; working with religious and community leaders to help would-be radicals discern the difference between scripture and propaganda; and de-glorifying the violence and militancy of travelling to Syria or other fronts. Disillusioned returnees can be used to describe the mundane and hypocritical life under IS rule. Some of the fighters who have returned to civilian life tell tales of how quickly they became disenchanted, as they were assigned to cleaning toilets and working Twitter accounts, and not trusted with combat or decision-making roles. This is not to say that we can expect a flood of ‘innocent’ returnees, but there will be some and we ought to be prepared with a variety of tools to suppress further radicalization other than our prison system.

Investing in de-radicalization/reintegration programs will address the demand side of terrorism that Bill C-51 does not. This will cost money and require considerable ingenuity, but other nations facing a much more severe threat from returnees, such as Germany and Denmark, have initiated such programs. The government should acknowledge that using the law may seem like a quick and cheap fix, but ignoring the need for a more “sociological” approach will cost more in the long run.

If IS falls, Canada must be ready for the return of foreign fighters – The Globe and Mail.

Imams divided on how much scrutiny to give would-be Muslim converts in wake of recent terror charges

Good debate regarding some of the challenges:

Syed Soharwardy, a Calgary imam who founded Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, says he will publish in the coming weeks a checklist of questions that he thinks all imams should ask prospective converts.

This is not meant to be an interrogation, Mr. Soharwardy said, but rather “passive” questioning aimed at finding out why the person wants to become a Muslim.

“I’m not saying imams should be detectives, but I need to know what kind of person I’m talking to,” Mr. Soharwardy said. “Since many have become Muslim and have shown violent behaviour, I think it is an obligation of our imams to not let Islam be dragged [down] by people who don’t understand Islam.”

It is also “absolutely critical,” he said, that leaders work to stay connected with new Muslims by inviting them to social gatherings and assigning trusted individuals to serve as their mentors.

Aasim Rashid, a spokesman for the B.C. Muslim Association, said the handling of new Muslims can’t be overly prescriptive; otherwise, you run the risk of unfairly stigmatizing them.

“As long as they are accepting Islam for the right reasons I would feel compelled to welcome them warmly and give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

He does agree with Mr. Soharwardy about the need to encourage new Muslims to join classes and programs so that they acquire a solid understanding of the religion and are more integrated into the Muslim community.

There is also a need for Muslim leaders to come up with programming that has broader appeal, said Amira Elghawaby, human rights coordinator with the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

One Ottawa mosque held a discussion a few weeks ago about the term “jihad” and it drew hundreds of attendees, she said. But people do not always believe that the topics discussed at sermons are that relevant to them, she said.

Inclusivity is key, said Lorne Dawson, a University of Waterloo expert on radicalization. “Converts to Islam — and especially those who later radicalize — commonly report that while their conversion was encouraged, they did not feel welcome in the often very ethnic mosques and communities with which they tried to associate,” Dawson said in an email.

As a result, they go “searching on and off-line for a Muslim home and that can be the kind of de-cultured fundamentalist forms of Islam associated with the promotion of jihadism.”

Imams divided on how much scrutiny to give would-be Muslim converts in wake of recent terror charges

More articles on radicalization of interest

Ongoing amount of reporting and commentary on radicalization and fundamentalism.

Starting with Premier Couillard’s measured (i.e., not rushing it) legislation requiring faces to be uncovered when giving or receiving government services, and what initiatives, if any, are planned with respect to non-violent fundamentalists inPhilippe Couillard promet d’agir sur lintégrisme religieux | Politique québécoise.

More meetings within the Muslim community in Montreal, reminding of the need for measures to improve the economic integration as part of any anti-radicalization in L’intégration plutôt que la stigmatisation.

CBC report on Self-radicalized and adrift: The shared traits of the ‘lone wolf’ killers discussed the commonalities but with experts (Dawson, Zekulin) noting correctly that there is no one pattern for those drawn to violent extremism.

For those interested, a fairly good overview of the respective roles and responsibilities of the security agencies involved in countering radicalization in Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau: How Canada tracks homegrown radicals.

And while only one “slice” of those radicalized, Maclean’s discusses issues related to converts as many extremists are in Islam’s conversion problem, echoing Imam Soharwardy’s call for more “vetting” by mosques of those wishing to convert (Prominent Muslim cleric urges imams to vet new Islamic converts).

Radicalized young people feel like ‘a speck of dust in an uncaring universe’ before joining extremists like ISIS | National Post

More good reporting on motivations for radicalization by Tom Blackwell in the Post:

What little evidence exists now indicates terrorists generally are no more likely to suffer from psychological problems than the general population, he [Lorne Dawson] said. As for the homegrown variety, some are second-generation immigrants struggling to find a place between their parents’ culture and Canadian society. Adhering to a dogmatic ideology might give them the direction they seek, said Prof. Dawson, noting that not all young people are craving freedom.

In fact, “there is a whole group to whom that is totally perplexing and frustrating,” he said. “They don’t want that. They want structure and order. They want a clear vision.”

Research that Prof. Bélanger and colleagues have done with Tamil Tigers and extremists in Jordan and the Philippines point to a single, overarching motivation, what the academics call the “quest for personal significance,” leading them to join a community they believe gives their lives meaning, and adopting its ideology in an effort to be accepted.

“When, for instance, [they feel they are] not important, they don’t matter, they are a speck of dust in some kind of uncaring universe, it increases psychological pain,” he said. “One way of assuaging this negative feeling is connecting through a group.”

That connection might occur in person or, in the case of “lone-wolf” radicals, through online correspondence with an extremist overseas, like ISIS members who have posted propaganda videos on the Internet, said Prof. Belanger. Once hooked, the home-grown radical may be willing to sacrifice his own life – as well as take others’ – thinking “they will have more in death than they had in life.”

Radicalized young people feel like ‘a speck of dust in an uncaring universe’ before joining extremists like ISIS | National Post.