Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what drives young people to commit terrorist acts and to be honest it isn’t a one size fits all sort of story. However I do feel that the narrative a lot of the time lacks depth, more often than not radicalisation or terrorist acts stem from religion or they don’t. The story never begins with cause, and then there is also that double standard with mental health issues and the colour of the killer. My problem is that as people we are incredibly complex and add on top of that the influences of our environment and society at large, huge shifts in our psychological and emotional states are rarely from a single trigger, but we never discuss this.
There are many young people from immigrant families in Western countries that fall between the cracks, lose out to a system that was never in favour of them and are all together forgotten. Whether it be the lack of access to quality education due to a zip code, or lack of support and understanding at home, young immigrant people are at a disadvantage from the get go. I can tell you that there is an entire generation of my Somali brothers who due to gang violence and drug pushing are behind bars at this very moment. When young people begin too feel like they don’t fit in anywhere; when cultures and values begin to clash at home and society has a toxic narrative embedded in country where you are deemed ‘other’…that is where the danger comes in.
There are many people out there searching for acceptance and love. I know it isn’t as simple as that, but there are many young people who have had absentee fathers or mothers. So when you are looking for that nurture or love, you start forming your own family around your friends and I don’t mean like how my best friends are like my sisters because as much as I love them I wouldn’t give my life for them. When all of these factors are put in play you get young adults that mentally and emotionally are children. Then these young people roam a world with sick individuals that are hunting for people that are broken and find them. They take them under their wing, and nurture and become like the father figure they’ve been searching for. The human psyche is a very fragile one, and when you are in need of love, or you are in search of identity or acceptance, it is very easy for people to manipulate you. I don’t care who you are. This is also one of the reasons why some people stay in abusive relationships or have a pattern of dating the same type of asshole.
So when it comes to radicalisation in the West, or around the world to be honest, it is a growing problem. And the solution is within homes, communities, societies. It isn’t about religion and sometimes it isn’t even about what I mentioned formerly but just simply that they are evil human beings from the get go. The Manchester bomber was reported to the authorities on 5 different occasions, once by his friends, another time by the local mosque that he was banned from. So why was nothing done? We are humans not computers where you can stick in an algorithm and it will give you the probability of someone blowing themselves up or if they should be behind bars or not (although the latter if we can work that out, do it for the safety of the masses).
The problem with a lot of people is ignorance. I see the narrative every other day and then something heinous happens and I see it all the more. Many people in the West see their world from their narrow perspective, which I can’t really blame because if all you know is London and everyone around you looks like you, how do we expect any different from you? I see that world too…but I also see the perpetrator’s world, I see society’s stance and I see community and home too. This doesn’t mean that I sympathise with murderers, it means that I can be cognisant of and understand someone else’s point of view regardless of who they are. Unless leaders and people in power start looking at these issues holistically we’re not gonna get anywhere. People don’t wake up and decide to kill and I’m not talking perverted men who rank high in ISIS, I’m talking about the regular young people like you and me who decide that ISIS is the way, that taking a life is the way. It does not work like that.
It’s heartbreaking that we live in a time like this and I pray that wherever you read this from you and your loved ones are safe. We may not live in the calmest of times but we do live, and as long as we have life, we have something to be hopeful for.