A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Marginalization, discrimination create greater risk of radicalization for immigrants

Immigrants who feel marginalized and experience discrimination are at a greater risk of radicalization according to a new report authored by START researchers and published in Behavioral Science and Policy. The researchers surveyed 198 first- and second-generation Muslim immigrants living in the United States and found that:

  • Immigrants who identify with neither their heritage culture nor the culture they are living in feel marginalized and insignificant;
  • Muslims who feel marginalized often experience a significance loss, or a loss of belongingness, meaningful existence, control and self-esteem, as well as feelings of humiliation, shame, hopelessness and anger;
  • Experiences of discrimination may lead to greater support for radicalism, which promises a sense of meaning and life purpose; and
  • Many of the counterterrorism initiatives and surveillance policies currently being used by policymakers to identify violent extremists may paradoxically fuel support for extremism.

The report “Belonging Nowhere: Marginalization and Radicalization Risk Among Muslim Immigrants“ is based in part on research conducted by Stanford Professor Sarah Lyons-Padilla as a START Terrorism Research Awardee (TRA) under the mentorship of START researcher and UMD psychology professor Michelle Gelfand. Hedieh Mirahmadi, Mehreen Farooq and Marieke van Egmond are co-authors on the paper. The START TRA program is supported by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs.

Lyons-Padilla and Gelfand recently published a fact sheet summarizing this work and presented it on Capitol Hill.