An act Of Terror: Factors Motivating Engagement in Terrorism

Terrorism is a global problem and stakeholders in the global security have been cooperating in addressing the problem.  In the past, terrorists have caused untold suffering to innocent people necessitating the implementation of sound antiterrorism policies and systems.  The United States have in the past faced many terrorist attacks that have led to the establishment of a sound antiterrorism mechanism aimed at preventing and mitigating terrorist activities. The major recent international terrorist attack in the homeland was the 9/11 attack that claimed hundreds of lives (McCauley & Moskalenko, 2008). This attack made the United States make major changes in security organs to ensure the various security bodies have the ability to address terrorism exposures. The Department Of Homeland Security was established to provide a better perspective for addressing the terrorism threat. Stakeholders found it necessary to consolidate the security organs to promote objectivity in the fight against terror. The Department of Homeland Security coordinates different security organs to enable them to combat terrorism. The department has managed to reduce the country’s exposure to both domestic and international terrorist risks (McCauley & Moskalenko,2008). Stakeholders in the fight against terrorism have been focusing on understanding radicalization since it is a major cause of terrorism. Young people are being recruited to join terrorist groups that are complicating the fight against terror. Young people of between 14 and 24 years are joining terrorist groups at an alarming rate. Research has been directed towards understanding these trends and identifying factors that motivate young people to join terrorist groups.  The engagement of youth in terror activities is influenced by complex factors.

Factors Motivating The Youths To Engage Terrorism

Some of the factors that motivate the youths to engage crime include religion, family influence, environmental factors, and social networks. Each of these factors has is significant in America and other parts of the world. However, there are factors that are dominant in some regions and terrorist groups.  For instance, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria influences potential recruits using religious beliefs making religion a dominant factor in the group.


Religious beliefs can motivate   youths to engage in terrorist activities. Some religions have strict doctrines and exposing believers to such doctrines leads to radicalization. Youths are easily swayed by religious doctrines since they are in the process of socialization.  Radical groups understand that it is easier to influence a youth to engage in terrorist activities during teenage and early twenties.  Values are inculcated on people in childhood and teenage implying that introducing radical values to young people shapes their behaviors in the long run.  The different terrorist groups are associated with specific religions.  The world has a misconception that Islam is the source of terrorist problems facing the world today.  This misconception emanates from the increasing terrorist groups that are Islam-based. The Islamic terrorist groups that have been causing havoc in the past one decade include Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Bokoharam, and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (Wilner & Dubouloz, 2011). These groups are governed by strong Islamic beliefs that are easily inculcated in youths.  ISIS is based on strong Suni beliefs that require Suni Muslims to perpetrate violence against the Shia Muslims and other religions (Wood,2015).   Strong Suni believers easily engage in terrorist activities due to the respect they have for their religion.

Family Influence

The family plays a crucial role in shaping the behaviors of young people. Children acquire values from family members due to the constant interactions with the family members.  Some parents have negative values that can be transferred to children consciously and unconsciously.   Radical parents can deliberately train their children to acquire radical behaviors. Such   behaviors become stronger as children grow that permanently influence behaviors in adulthood. Parents and senior family members can also influence the youths to engage in terrorist activities unconsciously.  Family unrests can make the youths develop a defiant behavior that in turn motivate a youth to engage in terrorist activities.  A substantial portion of defiant behaviors observed in youths stems from family problems.  Some families are characterized by domestic violence that makes youths develop violent attitudes. A violent youth is easily recruited by terrorist groups. Some parents do not monitor their children thus failing to shape their behaviors positively. Responsible parents monitor interactions between children and peers to identify any defiant behavior.  Children that are not monitored actively easily develop undesirable behaviors that may encourage them to engage in terrorist activities.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factor motivates young people to engage in terrorist activities. The television media has to a great extent influenced the engagement of youths in terrorist activities. Research shows that a correlation exists between watching television and violent behaviors.  Youths who spend a lot of time watching television are likely to engage in violent behaviors.  Television media has been dominated by violent programs for many years. These programs target the youths thus playing a crucial role in socializing the youths. The producers of movies and televisions have been focusing on terrorism and gun violence when developing programs that have encouraged youths to engage in terrorist activities. A little exposure to terrorism makes the youths develop an interest in gathering more knowledge about terrorist activities.  The contemporary society is information based as it has become easier than ever to access information. Information communication technology provides vast information resources for individuals who wish to   research a particular subject.  Search engine optimization gives youths access to terrorist information that in turn encourage them to engage in terrorist activities. Political unrest can encourage youths to engage in terrorist activities. Evidence shows that youths from areas characterized by violence are likely   to engage in terrorist activities. Some parts of the Middle East that  have been facing political unrests such as Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq register the highest number of youths engaging in terrorist activities. The economic environment also motivates the youths to engage in terrorist activities. Economic hardship can encourage the youths to engage in terrorist activities. Some terrorist groups have vast resources that are used to entice potential youths during recruitments. Poverty stricken youths are easily swayed by the financial support promised by terrorist groups (Porta & LaFree, 2012).

Social networks can encourage the youths to engage in terrorist activities.   Terrorist groups have been using the social media as an avenue for recruiting youths. The social media is able to span different parts of the world making it easy for radical groups to reach many youths. Individuals conducting recruitments remain anonymous due to the absence of physical contacts with the targeted youths.  Most terrorist groups have social media sites that create a platform for sharing ideas. The youths use these sites to have access to information concerning the terrorist groups.   The social media sites also enable youths to interact with terrorists that encourage the former to engage in terrorist activities (Neumann, 2014).

Gender and Terrorism

Traditionally, terrorism is associated with the male gender and women have in most cases remained victims of the heinous acts of terrorist groups.  However, evidence shows that women play a crucial role in recruiting youths into terrorist groups.  Women are able to interact with the target population without raising an alarm. As a result, they gain access to many youths who are then influenced to join terrorist groups.  In the recent past, women have been involved in violent terrorist activities.  The CIA has identified a British national by the name Samantha as a terrorist leader who has been organizing attacks in Africa and the Middle East.  In the year 2013, she organized a terrorist attack in the Kenyan capital that killed dozens of people in a shopping mall. She is believed to be in the United Kingdom having managed to bypass many security checks from Africa to Britain (Neumann, 2014). Women also play a role in encouraging their children to join terrorist groups. Children are easily influenced by their mothers and are therefore likely to heed their mother’s advice concerning joining terrorist groups.

In conclusion, the increasing number of youths engaging in terrorist activities has been raising serious concerns. There are some specific factors that motivate the youths to engage in terrorist activities. These factors include religion, family influence, environmental factors, and social networks.  The role of women in radicalizing the youth has been increasing where some women are event engaging in violent terrorist activities.


McCauley, C., & Moskalenko, S. (2008). Mechanisms of political radicalization: Pathways toward terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence20(3), 415-433.

Neumann, P. R. (2014). The trouble with radicalization. International Affairs,89(4), 873-893.

Porta, D. D., & LaFree, G. (2012). Guest Editorial: Processes of radicalization and de-radicalization. International Journal of Conflict and Violence6(1), 4-10.

Wilner, A. S., & Dubouloz, C.-J. (2011). Transformative Radicalization: Applying Learning Theory to Islamist Radicalization. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism,34(5), 418-438.

Wood, G. (2015). What ISIS Really Wants. The Atlantic21(2), 26.



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