Counter-Terrorism: Ignorance That Can Kill You


August 31, 2006: The enthusiasm for Islamic terrorism, among some Moslem migrants in Europe and North America, is not unprecedented. In fact, it's rather common, under the proper conditions. First, you need migrants from a country or region that is undergoing unrest. Such was the case with Ireland and Italy in the 19th century, when millions of Irish and Italian immigrants came to the United States. Many of these migrants got involved in violent political organizations, inspired by the continuing battle for freedom (or whatever) back home. The Irish had a resurgence of these pro-terrorist attitudes in the 1970s, which went on for several decades. Small groups of American Jews joined terrorist groups in the 70s and 80s, in response to the first wave of Islamic terrorism. Armenian, Tamil (Sri Lanka) and Sikh (Indian) migrants to the United States were involved with international terrorism during the last few decades of the 20th century.
But not all the migrants, or children and grand-children get involved in terrorism. Very few do, and those tend to be those who have the most trouble adapting to their new home. In Europe, for example, participation in terrorism, or crime in general, tends to occur among those migrants (or their children) who have the least education, or are unemployed. Terrorism is, after all, just another form of self-justified criminal behavior. Moslem immigrants in Europe, and their children, tend to be represented in prison three to four times more than their share of the population would indicate. In Britain, for example, Moslem migrants comprise 2.7 percent of the population, but eight percent of those in prison. The Moslems have an unemployment rate (15 percent) that is three times higher than the national average. Part of this is because most of these migrants, are uneducated rural people, originally let in to do manual labor that few native born British would do. The middle-class migrants have far fewer problems adapting, and are much more likely to be employed, and not in prison or operating as terrorists.
Indeed, the attitudes towards education plays a large role in keeping migrants out of trouble. All over the world, migrants that are more enthusiastic about getting an education and training that will make them more employable, are much less likely to get involved in crime, or terrorism. But it is also the case the people from rural backgrounds, often have a deep seated resistance to education, or trusting government in general, are more likely to get into terrorism. The middle class and educated terrorists get a disproportionate amount of publicity, because they are uncommon, and more dangerous. But the most fertile recruiting pool for terrorists is among the uneducated, unemployed and criminals.
Unfortunately, it's not easy to get rid of these bad attitudes. Typically, it takes three or more generations to get rid of them. That is becoming more difficult because of satellite TV channels. News and entertainment from the old country is thus easily available, and makes it easier to resist adapting to your new surroundings. That is something new, and the consequences are not yet known.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close