Radicalization in the West

The NYPD’s understanding of the threat from Islamic-based terrorism to New York City has evolved since September 11, 2001. While the threat from overseas remains, terrorist attacks or thwarted plots against cities in Europe, Australia and Canada since 2001 fit a different paradigm. Rather than being directed from al-Qaeda abroad, these plots have been conceptualized and planned by “unremarkable” local residents/citizens who sought to attack their country of residence, utilizing al-Qaeda as their inspiration and ideological reference point.

Some of these cases include:

  • Madrid’s March 2004 attack
  • Amsterdam’s Hofstad Group
  • London’s July 2005 attack
  • Australia’s Operation Pendennis (which thwarted an attack(s) in November 2005)
  • The Toronto 18 Case (which thwarted an attack in June 2006)

Where once we would have defined the initial indicator of the threat at the point where a terrorist or group of terrorists would actually plan an attack, we have now shifted our focus to a much earlier point-a point where we believe the potential terrorist or group of terrorists begin and progress through a process of radicalization. The culmination of this process is a terrorist attack.

Understanding this trend and the radicalization process in the West that drives “unremarkable” people to become terrorists is vital for developing effective counter- strategies and has special importance for the NYPD and the City of New York. As one of the country’s iconic symbols and the target of numerous terrorist plots since the 1990’s, New York City continues to be among the top targets of terrorists worldwide.

In order to test whether the same framework for understanding radicalization abroad applied within the United States, we analyzed three U.S. homegrown terrorism cases and two New York City based cases:

  • • Lackawana, New York
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Northern Virginia
  • New York City – Herald Square Subway
  • New York City – The Al Muhajiroun Two

The same radicalization framework was applied to a study of the origins of the Hamburg cluster of individuals, who led the September 11 hijackers. This assessment, almost six years after 2001, provides some new insights, previously not fully-grasped by the law enforcement and intelligence community, into the origins of this devastating attack.

The Radicalization of Diasporas and Terrorism: A Joint Conference

Certain Diaspora communities, frustrated by a perceived war against the Muslim world, have turned against their adopted homelands, targeting the government and its people by supporting terrorist attacks against Western countries through recruitment, fundraising, and training. The problem is exacerbated by the open borders of globalization. Emerging threats must be identified without alienating Diaspora communities and thereby playing into terrorist hands.

Muslims in the EU: City Reports

This new EUMAP project Muslims in the EU: Cities Reports will focus on the situation of Muslims in eleven selected major cities across the EU with significant Muslim populations. It will look in particular at the extent to which local policy addresses their needs and seeks to include them in the policy-making process. In each selected city, monitoring will focus on the following general areas:

  

  • consultation and participation
  • social protection: covering access to social services in general, with a particular focus on housing and healthcare
  • education
  • employment
  • safety and security

More than 20 million Muslims currently reside within the European Union (EU). Citizens and migrants, native born and newly-arrived, they are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges: how to ensure equal rights for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.

Most communities are the result of economic migration in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, Muslims have arrived as refugees seeking asylum. The economic impetus for the initial phase of migration is reflected in Muslim settlement patterns. Thus, the majority initially settled in the capital cities and in large industrial areas. The concentration of Muslims in these areas ensures that while the overall Muslim population in each state remains low, they are a significant and visible presence in particular cities and neighbourhoods.

The need to develop policies that meet the needs of Muslims in Europe has moved on to the political agenda for a number of reasons:

  • Demographic trends indicate that a significant proportion of the growth in the Europe’s population over the next decade will be within Muslim communities.
  • Government policies must develop and adjust to ensure that they meet the needs of Muslims.
  • There has been growing official acknowledgement of prejudice and discrimination against Muslim communities.Recent studies indicate severe levels of disadvantage experienced by sections of the Muslim communities in the EU; these are among the most impoverished and disadvantaged commnities, suffering from poor levels of educational achievement, employment, income, housing and health.

Muslim community groups and politicians are campaigning for governments to address issues of concern to them.

There has been unprecedented scrutiny and focus on Muslim communities following the attacks Madrid and London, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the riots in France in November 2005.

A preliminary phase of the project was initiated in May 2006 and is now complete. This focused on the selection of the countries and cities that would be a priority to include in the monitoring, as well as refining the project methodology.