Kerry Acknowledges Some Terrorists ‘Radicalized for Reasons Having to do With Religion’

By Patrick Goodenough | June 16, 2016 | 1:01 AM EDT

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Oslo Forum in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (Photo: State Department)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday cited “reasons having to do with religion or politics” in a list of “root causes” of terrorism in which he also included factors ranging from tribalism to frustration and the desire for a sense of identity and purpose.

Addressing the Oslo Forum in the Norwegian capital, Kerry disputed the notion that a “clash of civilizations” is underway, arguing that “there is nothing remotely civilized about the terrorists that we confront in the world today” such as those in Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), Boko Haram or Al-Shabaab.

“So no, this is not a clash of civilizations, this is a struggle between civilization itself and barbarism, between fundamental raw political exploitation and a mix of medieval and modern fascism, together at the same time,” he said.

Calling for a need to have a comprehensive approach to counter the “root causes of violent extremism,” Kerry advanced some factors contributing to radicalization. Among them:

--tribal or sectarian allegiances

--“reasons having to do with religion or politics”

--frustration over an inability to find meaning or economic opportunity

--hopes that a group like ISIS can provide “a sense of identity, a sense of purpose, a sense of power”

--“indignity and marginalization and inequality and corruption” which are used by terrorist groups as recruitment tools

--“a dangerous clash which we haven’t yet fully defined sufficiently between culture, religion, exploitation, and modernity.”

Although Kerry did not use the words “Islam,” “Islamic” “Islamist” or “Muslim” in his address, his reference to religion as a factor marks a shift from some of his previous pronouncements on the subject.

In a speech in Houston in April, Kerry argued that religion was not necessarily a factor, saying that “you don’t even have to be religious” to be recruited by ISIS – or as he prefers to call it, Daesh.

“Daesh recruiting videos include a religious narrative but also point to an idyllic picture of Daesh families having picnics and going to amusement parks,” he said in that speech, which included references to radicalization factors such as political repression, state corruption, as well as the offer “regular meals, companionship, and an upside-down world view in which you have a place on center-stage.”

In October 2014, Kerry said that ISIS terror was not linked to Islam, and instead cited poverty, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and climate change.

On a number of other occasions since becoming secretary of state in early 2013, Kerry in speeches and public remarks has referred to root causes of terrorism including poverty, oppression, joblessness and frustration, while saying little or nothing about Islamic ideology or theology.

President Obama, too, spoke in a 2013 speech of the need to address “the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism – from North Africa to South Asia,” including poverty, repression and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Tuesday, Obama called criticism over his disinclination to use the term “radical Islam” a “political distraction.”

“What exactly would using this label accomplish?” he asked. “What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?”

“The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.”

See also:

Boko Haram Recruitment: Kerry Blames Poverty (May 7, 2014)

Kerry: Potential Terror Recruits Need ‘More Economic Opportunities’ (Sept. 30, 2013)

Former Islamist:  Ideology and Theology, Not Grievances or Poverty Lie Behind Radicalization (Apr. 27, 2016)

British PM: Ideology, Not Poverty, is the Root Cause of Islamist Terrorism (Jul. 23, 2015)

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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