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Islamic Radicalization in the United States: New Trends and a Proposed Methodology for Disruption


Authors: Samuel Musa & Samuel Bendett

Date of Publication: 2010

Journal / Publisher: National Defense University


Design of the study


Case studies



Type of ‘participant’ 

Islamic terrorism, lone actor


Mobilisation to violence in general

Key findings 

There has been an evolution of methods, tactics and idea proliferation where many of the stages and indicators used to identify increasing likelihood of mobilisation to violence are no longer present. Several examples are given of individuals self-radicalized on the Internet into radical Islamist ideology, without any offline, physical connection with an indoctrinator or the Muslim community.

Key recommendations 

Understand the regional, country, and ethnic divisions within the Muslim American community; first- and second-generation immigrants from certain countries (Somalia, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) may be more amenable and susceptible to the message of Islamic radicalization.     

Monitor the availability and download traffic of YouTube videos that are hosted by radical Islamic clerics/imams/speakers who advocate harmful acts against the American people/interests/places/targets. Encourage YouTube to remove such videos altogether through existing YouTube Community Guidelines by highlighting that the presence of these videos on the Internet serves as inspiration to individuals who seek to follow radical Islamic teachings and practices.  

Enter into direct debate in the “marketplace of ideas”—promote/support/endorse/ disseminate across the Internet the teachings/sermons/arguments of moderate Islamic clerics and scholars who argue against war/Jihad/combat with the United States and American citizens; special attention should be paid to content that refutes, discredits, and counterbalances the speeches by main Jihadist clerics on the U.S. list of international terrorists. 

Promote relationships between authorities and amateur/unofficial groups that monitor Internet traffic for terrorist, criminal, and other unlawful behavior. This type of activity helped alert authorities to Coleen LaRose’s activities and led to her arrest.

Utilize search engine optimization that promotes one type of Internet-based content over another, particularly as it applies to search for content related to radical Islamic teachings/texts/sermons/explanations of Koran/debate on Jihad/role of Muslims in non-Muslim societies.113 

Monitor websites/discussion boards/chat rooms that espouse radical Islamic teachings and serve as communication portals for American and foreign individuals. U.S. law enforcement and the intelligence community must go a step further and target such websites for complete removal/incapacitation from the Internet so as not to give an opportunity for men and women in the United States to absorb radical Islamic message that calls for a violent confrontation between Muslims and the Western world, particularly America.  

Recognize that passengers returning from/having evidence of being in specific countries—Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia—can run a higher risk of coming in contact with/having engaged with/having spent time with/having met with individuals/groups/organizations that espouse radical Islamist ideology that calls for a confrontation with/targeting of the Western world, especially the United States. Therefore, effective security technology, funded and managed through the DHS and FBI, should be utilized for the following purposes: 

  • Share/train/familiarize local as well as Federal law enforcement bodies with biometric databases containing information on specific individuals. 
  • Utilize electronic and surveillance-type facial recognition technology at points of entry to the United States—airports, sea ports, rail terminals, significant border crossings. -  -

Continue to facilitate information exchanges and establish faster linkages between the DHS, domestic intelligence agencies, and the security/community representatives at the governors’ offices, the U.S. Marshals Service, chiefs of police, and attorneys general in all U.S. states and territories.

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