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How are terrorists made? This is a question that must have been addressed in our collective minds when reading the biographical information about the mysterious circumstances that surround some of these youth who turn from ordinary and peaceful individuals into aggressive terrorists.

I believe that several factors may contribute to transforming one into a terrorist, but the most significant and important of these factors, is that of family. That is, if somebody is born into an [ideologically] extremist family that lacks the correct understanding of religion, then this family, either intentionally or unintentionally, may be inciting this individual against others that do not share his narrow viewpoint and extremist ideology. If we study cases of those involved in terrorist activity, we will discover that the family factor is present as one of the prominent reasons [for this] even if some families try to deflect attention away with talk about bad acquaintances. On the other hand, negligent and slack families may cause the same psychological scars on their children, and these families therefore also become a terrorist resource.

In an article entitled “Looking for a Terrorist’s Family” published in the UAE newspaper “al-Ittihad” writer Ahmed al-Amiri discussed the family situation of Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian who recently attempted to blow up a US airliner. He revealed that Omar Farouk is the sixteenth son of his Nigerian father, from his father’s second wife, of Yemeni descent. Omar was born into a family that was busy expanding and accumulating wealth, this resulted in him emigrating at a young age, and thereby becoming isolated. He expressed his concerns on the Internet, where he met others who turned him into a terrorist prepared to kill 300 passengers whose only crime was boarding the same flight as this neglected son. If the information [presented in the article] is true, it will no doubt prove to be the most decisive factor contributing to the serious changes experienced by the Nigerian youth. Negligent families are no less dangerous than hard-line families, in terms of the destructive effects that they can have.

In a number of interviews conducted with the families of those involved in terrorist activities, it is easy to see the terrible family climate that those individuals lived under. This is what brought extremism and violence into their lives. I remember a televised interview with a terrorist’s father in an Arab country; he implored the authorities to show mercy to his son, saying that his son lived in a pure family environment with no television or radio, or even magazines, and that he had no friends or acquaintances. The father then ended his statement by contradicting what he had previously said, saying that “bad acquaintances” were responsible for what happened to his son.

We must admit that a family factor does not contribute to the creation of every terrorist, but neither are all families innocent of the fate that befalls their sons. Reality indicates that some of these families, consciously or unconsciously, contributed to creating this disaster.

Muhammad Diyab

Muhammad Diyab

Muhammad Diyab is a well-known Saudi writer and journalist.

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