For this week, I looked at an article in the New York Times that focused on the similarities between how individuals join different extremist groups such as ISIS or Neo-Nazi organization. The article examined these similarities by looking at the personal stories of two individuals who had joined two extremist organizations with arguably vastly different ideologies. Ibrahim Ahmad, one of the two men the articles looks at, grew up in a non-religious family in South London but ended up involved in a Muslim extremist organization as a way of dealing with racist violence from white Europeans. The other individual, Robert Orell, was a Swedish national who joined a neo-Nazi organization due to a combination of family problems and conflicts with young immigrants as a child. Although Ibrahim Ahmad was motivated by religious ideology and Robert Orell was motived by race, both individuals were strongly influenced by negative experiences with different groups at a young age.
The article effectively argues that specific ideology is not as critical as the actual process of radicalization – personal troubles which are externalized on to some group of “others” which then become the target of hate and violence – and that addressing the process of radicalization is more effective than attempting to argue against each specific ideology. In this regard, the article examines an outreach group called Exit which is now run by Robert Orell that attempts to connect people who are affiliated with radical organizations with individuals who have left extremist groups in an attempt to connect them with individuals who understand and can counsel them without passing judgment.
"Same Anger, Different Ideologies: Radical Muslims and Neo-Nazis" by Katrin Benhold