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Internet Spreads Terrorist Narrative But Cultural Understanding Remains A Powerful Tool

Valentina Cala

Since the shootings in Paris, many are wondering whether an attack on US soil will follow. According to experts, many complex cultural and societal factors shape the likelihood of similar events.

Th. Emil Homerin is a professor of Religion at the University of Rochester. He says that in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France, people should resist the urge to draw immediate parallels here.

"For a number of reasons -- because of our own involvement in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan -- people have taken this issue and taken it out of its local context and I think that's sad."

Homerin says France has a frustrated immigrant community due to institutionalized discrimination. He says this creates an atmosphere of oppression, where there are complex social issues at play.

"And this one is not just about Islam and 'secularism.' Because in France, you can't wear a head scarf, you can't wear a yarmulke, you can't -- all of these things. In America we allow that. I think we're a lot more tolerant of religious belief and practice than in France and I think that has also caused some of these issues."

Mark Concordia worked anti-terrorism at the FBI for thirteen years and is a professor of Criminal Justice at Roberts Wesleyan College. He says despite the different cultural issues at work, we need to be aware of the internet’s potential to inspire more wide-spread terrorism.

"We have to pay attention to - globally - every aspect of the narrative and of their events because it’s all geared toward inspiring and recruiting others into this violent narrative."

Concordia says terrorist groups who identify as Muslim use a narrative of faith-based oppression to recruit others to their mission. Islamophobic attitudes help perpetuate that cycle.

"And it's essential to understand the grievances and the frustrations of any disaffected group because with this particular threat, that is the essential ingredient."

Concordia says terrorism spreads in environments where individuals feel persecuted. He says one of the most important tools in anti-terrorism efforts is increased cultural understanding.

Veronica Volk is a senior editor and producer for WXXI News.
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