Face Reality of Radicalization

Original Article

Where does it come from? How does it happen?

If culture cannot discuss the sources of Islamist radicalization, it must go on responding to their symptoms.

The pattern we are beginning to see with the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston is a familiar one. Young men of the second generation of immigrants, if they are Muslim, can wind up being radicalized. If they are close to their parents it probably won’t happen, but if they are distant (as the Tsarnaevs were) or if they are alienated from their parents–their fathers, especially–the chances grow that some online fanatic or a terrorism-training cell will get ahold of them. If they are loners or unsuccessful, they may find that the Islamists’ emphasis on putative victimhood and the catharsis of violence have great ideological appeal.

It doesn’t help that in the West the universities, the media and even the U.S. military are tolerant of radical Islamist thinking. Foolish leftists in this country and Europe often lack a convinced appreciation of their own culture’s virtues and are ready to excuse or even re-enforce the false consciousness of young radical Muslims. The Muslims I know deplore this attitude. We have had several events at Discovery Institute to underscore the point.

At this point, however, the political correctness crowd still holds sway. Even in the military, officers’ training has been censored of any ideological description of Islamist extremism. Meanwhile, however, an anti-Muslim phobia is astir in the public, one that doesn’t distinguish between law-abiding Muslims who value the traditions of freedom in America and the Islamist extremists. You don’t get less of such anti-Muslim phobia by adopting more of the political correctness.

You need the truth. Not the squish conformism one finds on campus, but hard-headed defense of American principles: insistence on free speech, freedom of religion and honest dialogue and debate on issues. Since these norms are not respected on social issues, defense or even economic issues, it is not a surprise that they are not followed on the serious problem of Islamist extremism. The failure of education and government to support democratic standards makes radicalization of immigrant Muslim youth like the Tsarnaevs more likely. This is a disservice to them and their future and it is an intolerable threat to the rights of the great majority. First among these rights, of course, is public safety.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.