Monday, April 04, 2016

Today’s new terrorists were radical before they were religious

By Fareed Zakaria Opinion writer March 31, WashPost

The attacks in Brussels, on the heels of those in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have stoked an already white-hot debate about Islamic terrorism in the United States. Many in the West, including the two Republican presidential front-runners, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), urge a campaign that targets Muslim communities more directly, searching for those who might be prone to religious extremism and thus terrorism.

But the recent bombings in Europe are being perpetrated by a new generation of terrorists who are upending our previous understanding of what motivates such people and how to find and stop them. To put it simply, today’s terrorists are not religious extremists who became radicals but rather radicals who became religious extremists. The difference is crucial.

Look at the two brothers who planned and executed the Brussels bombings, Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui. Born into a working-class immigrant family (from Morocco), they were not particularly religious and early on chose a life of crime. By their mid-20s, the two had participated in carjackings and armed robberies. Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison for attempted murder; his brother, five years for armed robbery. And then, it seems, in prison or after, their path to jihad began.

Their story is strikingly similar to those of many of the other terrorists in Belgium and France. Few were devout Muslims. Abdelhamid Abaaoud , the ringleader of the Paris attacks, regularly used drugs and drank alcohol, as did many of his comrades-in-arms. In August 2014, the New Statesman reported on two British jihadis, both 22, who, before leaving Birmingham for Syria, bought copies of “Islam for Dummies” and “The Koran for Dummies.”

(More here.)

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