Radicalisation is not brainwashing. We need to rethink how we tackle it

Why would young British men go off to risk their lives fighting jihad in the Middle East, and perhaps then return home to commit atrocities here? A consensus has emerged that they have been “radicalised”. This is understood to involve a kind of brainwashing whereby impressionable young men are led astray by malicious manipulators.

[long section in which the writer dismisses “brainwashing”]

To understand this, we need to start by accepting that even the criminally insane do things for reasons. In the case of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, who believed God was calling him to kill prostitutes, those reasons are clearly the product of a deluded mind. But usually there is at least something plausible in the reasons people have to do wicked things.

For jihadis, the narrative is that Islam is the true faith and that it is threatened by a hostile, kafir world. Given that millions throughout history have died to defend their religions, we cannot dismiss those who do the same now as simply deranged. What’s more, living in a country with a lot of anti-Islamic feeling, there is plenty of positive reinforcement for their feelings of persecution.

But of course, people’s beliefs are rarely determined by good evidence and sound reasoning alone. There are all sorts of psychological biases that make us more ready to believe some things rather than others. Young British Muslims who believe they are seen as nobodies in their own country are bound to be attracted by the idea of being heroes elsewhere. And once inside the bubble of an online network dedicated to the same cause, all their pernicious beliefs are reinforced…

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“Hostile, kafir world”? But they are going to Syria and Iraq, not exactly the fount of kafirs.

Comment and reply:

Comment: I suspect it’s largely old-fashioned adventure and an escape from a dead end existence, which has come about because Muslims haven’t integrated and they haven’t bought-in to the society they live in. That’s partly our fault but mostly their own.

Reply: How comes Indian or British Hindu’s don’t have the same dead end existence?

Making excuses for people who want to fight for terror groups who bomb maim slaughter torture is unbelievable.