According to the study, the emergence of “homegrown” extremists such as Huzaifa and al-Awlaki coincide with escalating anti-Islamic sentiment in the western world. Analysts have identified this trend as a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS, which depends on Islamaphobia to sway potential converts and promote attacks in western countries carried out by native citizens.
Internet search queries are often the gateway for potential recruits. The study cites the arrests of Muhammad Dakhlalla and Jaelyn Young as a recent example of a young, average American couple who were radicalized through online clips.
“Like, one of the first ones I remember seeing, a video that how ISIS came to be,” Dakhlalla told CNN. “And it was basically mentioning. . . historical struggles in the Middle East. And then somehow it ties that back into, you know, everything is, like, the Western society’s fault. You would see a lot of non-Muslims using like, vulgar language, and a whole lot of slander on top of that.”
Warren Clark, a teacher from a Christian family in Texas, sent his resume to ISIS. Clark converted to Islam in 2004 and became radicalized through YouTube videos posted by extremists. Though he has gone missing, he is currently believed to be alive and affiliated with ISIS.
This pervasive Islamophobia also feeds restrictions on immigration and refugee settlement, which the study identifies as another ironic contributor to extremism. Areas in Europe with similar levels of radicalization and ethnic homogeneity had a much higher incidence of violence compared to their American counterparts. The defining difference seems to be ethnic diversity — the United States may have less attacks carried out by extremists than Europe because it’s less homogeneous.
Although the study was focused on how anti-Muslim sentiment could contribute to Islamic extremism, the researchers said it could act as a springboard to explain the radicalization of white supremacists such as Dylann Roof.
“The study of radicalization remains in its infancy,” Bail wrote Inverse in an email. “Thus there are not yet many theories that can be debunked, in my view. Instead, my coauthors and I hope that this study will inspire future researchers to further examine whether discrimination shapes radicalization—- particularly because internet search data have significant limitations that we describe in the article.”