Monday 14 October 2019

Declan Power: 'Full probe into how she was radicalised would be revealing'


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Declan Power

At this point in the Lisa Smith saga people are most likely perplexed as to how a woman from a typical Irish Catholic background got attracted to a violent and extremist form of Islam.

By her own account she was a happy 'party girl' who grew up in a Catholic family in Dundalk. However, recent studies of those caught up in jihad and other forms of violent Islam show their motivations to be deeply personal rather than political.

Over the past few years I've been teaching a course on extremism and terrorist methodologies to security professionals. One thing we have concurred on is how attractive extremist entities become to people who feel isolated, forgotten or discarded by society.

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The Iranian psychologist and researcher Dr Fathali Moghaddam coined the phrase 'The Staircase to Terrorism'. His key point was there were a number of common factors to be found in people susceptible to extremist activities. They included a sense of victimisation and the attraction to being part of a group with a strong sense of identity.

The essential point Moghaddam and other researchers make is that under such circumstances, the personal becomes political. In order to contain this type of aberrant thinking, society must protect itself by not just developing anti-terrorist tactics and forces, but developing tools and training to counter extremist thinking in the communities it emanates from. Lisa Smith may provide us with the necessary catalyst this State needs to begin a process to develop this. It should start with an attempt to examine and understand her motives.

However, the fact the Taoiseach and Justice Minister say Ireland will accept the former airwoman back and there will be no attempt to strip her of her citizenship does not necessarily mean she is on her way home. It may take a definite expression of intent by the State to investigate and likely seek prosecution to ensure she does not end up convicted and confined at her current location.

The practical and compassionate thing would be to state there will be a frank and full investigation into her activities and the means by which she was radicalised.

Declan Power is an independent security and defence analyst who has worked on counter-terrorism and conflict limitation programmes for the UN, EU and NATO. He leads the course on terrorism and international security at City Colleges Dublin

Irish Independent

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