WASHINGTON, MARCH 17, 2016 — Why do Americans join terrorist groups, despite their obvious anti-American ideologies?
Our decisions are based on our life experiences. Those experiences work together to shape who we become as a person. That is also true of individuals who join terrorist groups. They were not born with the goal of becoming a terrorist, nor did one particular event or idea cause them to stray down that path. Instead, their life experiences as a whole ultimately lead to them making that decision.
However, not everyone with similar experiences make the same decisions. Two people can have the same life experiences, but still diverge in completely opposite paths. This is due to the power of choice.
If a person is consistently bullied at school they can respond differently. If their main goal is revenge, they could potentially bring a loaded gun to school and shoot their former bullies. However, if their main goal is to make sure that other students are not bullied, they would go a completely opposite route, and instead would initiate anti-bullying campaigns and initiatives that combat school bullying.
Although terrorism is on a much larger scale than school bullying, the fact remains that similar experiences can lead to completely opposite outcomes depending on the goals and attitude of the person in question.
There is no cookie-cut recipe for becoming a terrorist, as the same life-experiences that lead one person to terrorism could potentially lead to someone else becoming a human rights activist.
It’s all about attitude.
Does religion play a role in terrorism at all?
The answer is yes. Although extremist and terrorist groups do not necessarily reflect the teachings of the religions that founded them, they still gain inspiration from those religions. Extremists and terrorists interpret their religious texts – regardless of the religion – in a way that justifies their actions.
Every religious leader views the teachings of their God in a slightly different way. There is no universal definition of God’s will or intentions.
However, religion is also an effective and important tool in stopping and preventing terrorism. For example, a Muslim religious leader from a mosque in Northern Virginia dissuaded one person who was considering joining ISIS, from going toward extremism. The religious leader was effective because he was able to explain to the individual why terrorism is wrong in the eyes of that religion, and how the message of terrorists had twisted the religious message.
This was effective because that person thought that joining was the right move on behalf of his religion, until he found out from a religious leader that terrorism was not a good move in the eyes of the religion.
Extremists often believe their views reflect the true meaning of their religious texts, and justify their actions as attempts to carry out God’s will.
However, extremist segments are the minority in every religion they occupy. Therefore, it is impossible to “blame” the religion itself for the growth of the extremists. It is only the individuals and leaders of that particular segment that are responsible for the extremist interpretation, not the religion as a whole.
Extremism and terrorism are the fault of the individuals and not of any one religion as a whole.
Terrorism is a perversion of religion for people filled with hatred, and not a true reflection of any religion’s true aims.