The terrorist’s journey; step one

IMG_3523-0.JPGToday I was asked why young men join terror groups. I’ll also be speaking to this on Al Jazeera America tonight (Sep 25, 11:00 p.m. Eastern) and tomorrow on The Morning Show (9:00 a.m.)
The complete answer goes all the way back to fundamental human nature: each of us chooses what he believes is the best option in any situation, according to his total body of values. Basic self-interest. This is true whether a person is standing by fearfully and letting a friend drown, or putting his own life in danger on the battlefield. I wrote about this in Powerful Peace.
The jihadi, like every other person, has a particular range of experience and information available to him. He can only know what he knows. Much of that knowledge is fed by external “authority” sources, each with its own agenda in mind, and they feed “facts” including the existential threat to society posed by evil Westerners or Crusaders. The young and impressionable man may be merely a thug pursuing personal rewards, or he may legitimately perceive that he is “defending” his people. Often it’s both. In any case, he is acting according to what he believes in—exactly like you and I and every other human on the planet. This is why we’re in a war of the mind as much as of the flesh.

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