Marginalization Leading to Radicalization?

Responding to: Radical Islam, Canada-style

Original Article By: David Frum – October 24th, 2014

In light of the two separate attacks that occurred in Montreal and Ottawa earlier this week, significant speculation and discussion has focused on Canada’s national security. Canadian citizens have had been rudely awakened to the fact that their country is not immune to the types of ideologically motivated attacks that have been seen in the neighbouring U.S.A. David Frum’s article as read on Maclean’s website attempts to provide the reader with some valuable context regarding the individuals responsible for the two separate attacks mentioned above. In addition, the article gives information on persons of similar circumstance that had their plan of derailing a passenger train foiled prior to conception in April of 2013.

The article begins with a premonition delivered to the Canadian Senate by the country’s head of security. The address warned against the increased likelihood of smaller-scale terrorist activities being conducted against unpredictable targets. Without spending too much time dwelling on the specifics of both attacks mentioned above, it is worth noting that they could both be considered small in scale and perpetrated against unpredictable targets. While some may have initially cast this warning off as paranoia based propaganda (communication designed to elicit an emotional response leading to change), there does appear as though there was some validity to the concern brought before the Canadian senate.

In addition to being a very recent and traumatic event, the article is also relevant given the topic of worldviews that was recently covered in my Religious Studies 349 course. As the concept was defined there, a worldview can be seen as either a roadmap, or a controlling vision for one’s life. The latter definition allows for less individual choice, and a more coherent group ethos (characteristic spirit of a culture). Regardless of how one’s worldview can best be defined, it will inherently aim to create religious and/or political commitment. The discussion of worldviews is always a pertinent topic when addressing the concept of “radical Islam” (as referred to in the article).

Without providing a concrete definition of what exactly constitutes “radical Islam”, the reader is directed towards blaming this “specific” worldview for the incidences of violence that occurred in Montreal and Ottawa earlier this week. In addition, it is suggested that radical Islam is to blame for the majority of political violence that has occurred or been plotted in Canada since 2001. While it would be foolish to deny the connection between these attacks and Muslim extremist positions, we must remember the context within which these incidents occur. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and it would be an act of extreme prejudice and paranoia to suspect that all proponents of this religion share the extremist position.

The article suggests that the marginalized individuals in society may be more easily motivated to action by radical Islamic propaganda compared to their more well off counterparts. Perhaps “radical Islam” is seen as a convenient alternative to poor circumstances in life. If this is true, providing assistance to individuals identified as marginalized may be more effective than attempting to track those who have already become radicalized.

#349 #uwreligions


3 thoughts on “Marginalization Leading to Radicalization?

  1. I agree with the idea that the American war on terrorism, which has eradicated the ISIS leaders, brought about the trend of everyday people who convert to Islam taking the teachings/interpretations of the Qur’an into their own hands. I also agree that marginalized people are targeted to join ISIS. This is the idea that people of Middle Eastern decent face discrimination daily in Western societies and they are looking for an answer to the injustices they face; this mistreatment stems from Westerners naturally assuming that anyone with brown skin is part of ISIS. Possibly if the people of Canada didn’t lump all Middle Easterners as one there would be less likelihood of terrorism on Canadians by Canadians. Unfortunately the reality is the Canadian public is afraid and so ‘prejudice paranoia’ is to be expected. At this point not much can be done about the fear of ISIS from Western societies because it is a very real threat and with the use of negative propaganda through all forms of media by jihadists and constant attacks, Westerners can’t escape the terror. The Western fear perpetuates the war on terror and stigmas/stereotypes against Middle Easterners, which will only lead to more people adopting the ISIS worldview – it is a never-ending circle. As well the ISIS belief is a worldview but is a result of the fact that it is also a political religion and will literally engulf the lives of those who let it.


  2. Excellent blog post and article; you provided important insight into how we can peaceably combat ISIS (and other radicalized groups) propaganda via supportive networks and resources for the marginalized. This is such an important area of focus, as we often feel we have our hands tied when dealing with radical groups; we can’t negotiate, and often a violent response to quell a radical group leads to the further perpetuation of violence. The article was thoughtful to not just examine the underlying causes of homegrown violence but also to suggest mechanisms of change. One issue you bring up is the painting of “radical Islam” as a violent, extremist group. You seem to hesitate to accept this rendering, and understandably so; we do not want to be fabricators of our own propaganda that negatively presents a group without critically analyzing the complexities of said group. However, I think that the painting of “radical Islamists” as violent is justified; I believe the use of the term “radical” sufficiently denotes a separation between radicalized and non-radicalized sects of Islam. We do the same with other religions; “radical Christians” have been known to blow up abortion clinics. The term radical is itself suggestive of “the ends justify the means” kind of thinking- radicalized individuals will prove a point regardless of what they have to do to get that point across, including the use of violence. I value your hesitancy to accept that all radicalized groups are violent, but I think the most important thing is to not equate violence with and religious group, or any specific religion. Similarly, it is important for us to recognize the increased vulnerability of marginalized groups in succumbing to radicalized propaganda, but again not to equate the marginalized with violence; if we apply these labels they may lead to further marginalization of groups and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overall, this was a very interesting article and a wonderful analysis. It was a good reminder that in our age of globalism, propaganda can have far-reaching and violent effects with little predictability. It is good to keep in mind that the best way of fighting radical ideologies is not through radical backlash, but through a measure of trust and support extended to the most vulnerable. It seems that we are involved not only in a brutal and violent war in the Middle East, but also a ruthless war of propaganda upon our own soil.

    -TM #349

  3. This is a great, well written article. I think you are quite right in not associating radical Islam with the vast majority of muslims. To add to what you’ve already said, I think it may be fair to say that ISIS’ worldview is not actually consistent with radical Islam. When we see such extensive political intent (e.g., desiring quite literally to take over the world), ISIS begins to look more like a political group and far less a religious one. To put this into perspective, if we compare ISIS to most other terrorist groups, we can see that, while most tend to use terrorism for purposes such as liberating their people or forcefully spreading their beliefs, ISIS appears to use terrorism to make territorial gains. They seem far less focused on Islam, and far more focused on world domination.

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