Every time a domestic terrorist kills innocent bystanders or heads abroad to join the Islamic State group, experts and pundits try to explain the inexplicable: Why would a person do that?
A new study takes a novel approach to studying radicalization. The findings suggest that it may be the outgrowth of ethnic, racial or religious discrimination.
The study, published in Science Advances, finds an association between anti-Muslim hate and susceptibility to Muslim radicalization in regions of the United States that are poorest and most homogeneous. And it suggests the ethnic diversity of the U.S. may protect against radicalization because people are less prone to pit one group against the other.
The study, done by sociologists at Duke University and a statistician from the University of California, Berkeley, examined internet search data provided by Google in 3,099 counties across the U.S. Specifically, the researchers looked at average monthly search data to see if people in the same geographical areas searched for phrases such as “Muslims are violent” and “How to join ISIS.”
The findings, collected between August 2014 and July 2016, suggest pro-ISIS sympathy is most prevalent in communities with high levels of anti-Muslim sentiment.
“One interpretation of this finding is that violent extremism results from the failure of ethnic integration,” said Chris Bail, a sociologist at Duke and the study’s lead researcher. “People of immigrant background experience a disconnect between their family heritage and their receiving society’s culture and thus become vulnerable to extremist narratives.”