Understanding Radicalization Is The First Step to Defending Against It


Dr. Azar Estamypour-King Prepares a Lecture on the Psychology of Radicalization. Photo by Dylan Greene

In the current political discourse, terrorism and radical extremism plays a big role in shaping public policy. In the public consciousness, it has informed the basis of many controversial shifts in legislation including the infamous Patriot Act. Many Americans live under the fear of terrorist attacks, a fact brought to light by the 15th anniversary of September 11th, 2001. But far too often, trying to find the root of the problem doesn’t come up in mainstream discussion.

Dr. Azar Estamypour-King, in association with CCBC’s International Club, decided to bring this subject out into the open last Wednesday on October 5th. Her presentation focused on the current subject of discussion, that being radical Islam. However, what she presented can easily be applied to other ideologies. Her presentation was largely informed by her knowledge of psychology as well as her experiences in Iran, Europe, and the United States. In her own words, “Muslims are held hostage to extremism.”

In order to understand the phenomenon, it is imperative that the political and cultural contexts are also understood. Tensions in Europe are much more overt than in the United States with hostility being more pronounced. According to Dr. King, “Unfortunately a lot of Europeans, especially…the French are very nationalist.” This is evident in legislation in France that bars the wearing of burqas and the modern “burkini”. Homes of Muslims are vandalized with messages expressing attitudes such as “Muslims go home.” and anti-Muslim protests are commonplace. Those who came as refugees to escape the turmoil in their native lands are viewed with suspicion and contempt. Dr. King elaborates, “Racism [in Europe] is very open, people come and they don’t like you.”

As a way of capitalizing on the climate of fear, radical groups step forward with the siren song of an end to the chaos. This is done by manipulating disaffected and disenfranchised Muslim citizens. Usually, the people who are targeted by these groups are young. This is a way of exploiting the identity crises usually faced by the young. Dr. King cites the example of teenagers being given a plastic key as a promise that they will be rewarded in the afterlife.

Dealing with a complex problem such as radical extremism and terrorism will require further examination in public policy. It will also require a much more nuanced understanding than is typically presented. Going forward, policymakers will have to contend with preserving liberties and observing the differences between an ideology and its most radical proponents. However, perhaps the best first step in advancing the dialogue is by deconstructing the methodology used to bring vulnerable people on board.

Downtown Baltimore Feeling The Bern!

A crowd of Bernie supporters gather in downtown Baltimore.

BALTIMORE – Thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters gathered in Baltimore for a rally on Saturday, March 19. Despite Sanders’s recent loss of delegates in Missouri, his supporters remain hopeful. The rally began in Penn North Plaza, leading to a march down to the Hollywood Diner and into the Pulse Nightclub for live music and speakers.

Throngs of Sanders supporters marched through the streets of Baltimore. The entire march took several hours to complete. One member of the rally, Adrian Stanley said, “…Bernie’s the only one in the race that tells it like it is. I know that’s a [Donald] Trump thing, but Bernie doesn’t lie, he’s a good politician.” This sentiment was echoed by other members of the rally. As they marched down the streets of Baltimore, they chanted lines such as “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”

Despite Trump’s threats on Twitter, no protestors were present. Public support for Sanders was at an all time high. People even adorned their dogs with Bernie Sanders T-shirts. Another member of the rally, Katie, said “He has compassion, he’s honest, and has always been consistent throughout his entire campaign.”

Despite this, there was some skepticism from the media on Sanders’s ability to secure a nomination. Keanu Smith Brown told the Real News Network “I think it’s BS, and honestly the only BS we need in politics as you know is Bernie Sanders…” Some of the supporters were longtime followers of Sanders. Deborah Kleinman, a staunch supporter of Bernie said, “I’ve been following Bernie [Sanders] since the 80’s. I’ve been a Vermont person since the 80’s, I go up there and work at a very progressive camp that does a lot of activism, with farming and gardening, and anti-racism work. I saw Bernie speak at Bread and Puppet Theater and he was amazing…”

Still, the largest turnout was by far on the younger side. Nathan Zebrowski, another attendee said “…Quite honestly he’s the only one who has actually made it a point not to take donations from Wall Street, which really separates him from Hillary Clinton,” Zebrowski went on to criticize Trump, “I can’t see…any sane person voting for Trump… He’s pretty much knocking people out of the race left and right and that’s also a really present threat.” Another attendee carried a sign that read “Bernie can stump the Trump.”