February 20, 2017

Xenophobia won’t protect us from terrorists

Xenophobia won’t protect us from terrorists

With America and Europe divided, we can ill-afford to take policy decisions rooted in emotion and xenophobia. We need practical solutions to fight terrorism, argues Rupert Scofield.

With its march across the Middle East, and recruitment and nurturing of ‘lone wolves’ in Europe and the United States, ISIS has demonstrated that terrorism transcends borders. Populist leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have been carried to power on a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric, promising solutions to everything from unemployment to radicalisation. Ironically, their approach of excluding, marginalising and alienating immigrants could backfire and even exacerbate these problems. Taking steps to engage the disengaged before they become radicalised is a far more promising approach to tackling terrorism.

Across the world, and especially in developing countries, governments need to deliver a package of solutions focused on engaging those who feel removed from the rest of society. In countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the promise of an AK-47 and a few hundred dollars a month constitutes a powerful ‘value proposition’ for a young, unemployed man or woman. Many suicide bombers are brainwashed as children in madrassas by radical Imams who source poor, uneducated kids delivered to them by impoverished parents who are unable to feed them.

To counter this tragic pipeline, new and more attractive economic opportunities must be stepped up immediately – beginning with supporting people of limited means to start their own businesses. Entrepreneurship is one of the greatest weapons in our armoury against poverty, and microfinance provides even the most poverty-stricken families with the means to start or grow an income-generating initiative.

Not all colleagues in the field of development economics subscribes to this view.  I have been criticized previously for arguing that microfinance should be viewed as a tool to reduce the threat of terrorism. In 2015, an interview published in The Independent was seized upon by sceptics who dispute the effectiveness of microfinance in providing the poor with a pathway out of poverty; even though over 200 million families in developing countries make use of micro loans, a number that is growing at a double-digit rate annually.

An absence of economic opportunities was undoubtedly a factor in the rise of terror in Somalia, following its descent into a failed state after the collapse of the Barre regime.  Mohamed Ali, a courageous young Somali social entrepreneur, understands how terrorist groups seek out and recruit uneducated, unemployed young people without prospects or opportunities. Ali also recognises the power of entrepreneurship as an antidote to the allure of terrorism. As Executive Director of the Iftiin Foundation (an organisation that builds and supports young entrepreneurs to encourage a culture of change and innovation in Somalia and other post-conflict countries), Ali – with very limited resources – is taking the path governments should follow.

Microfinance is not a silver bullet in the fight against terrorism. But there is no doubt that a lack of economic opportunity contributes to an environment in which radical sentiments emerge and ferment.

At a time of almost unparalleled political division in the US and Europe, we cannot afford to make ill-informed policy decisions rooted in emotion and based on xenophobia.  We need practical solutions with substantial, far-reaching impact, and we need them fast.

2.75 avg. rating (56% score) - 24 votes
Rupert Scofield
Rupert Scofield

Rupert Scofield co-founded FINCA with John Hatch in 1984 and together they helped inspire and build the global microfinance movement. Their work was rooted in the belief that market-based principles, trust in individuals, and involving women in local business activities were critical to the economic and social well-being of families and nations.

  • Speedy

    Islam is the oppressor, not the oppressed

  • Derek

    The rich prefer maximal inequality to boost their wealth. Its the way the human brain works. As example Nigeria is an £40bn oil economy with almost 100 million people living on less than a $1 a day.

    The UK can’t cure poverty especially where corruption is the norm, and even where its not as in the UK/EU.

    What reduces terrorism in the UK is mass surveillance. This EU courts have declared this level of surveillance to be illegal, but the UK is leaving.

  • sandy winder

    Xenophobia is an irrational fear of foreigners. There is nothing irrational about a fear of certain foreigners from cultures where violence, misogyny, homophobia is the norm.

  • Lamia

    He, along with the rest of the deluded liberal-left, has to pretend that C21st Islam is the sigh of the oppressed, rather than what it really is: the war-cry of the patriarchal theocrat.

  • Lamia

    Ironically, their approach of excluding, marginalising and alienating immigrants could backfire and even exacerbate these problems. Taking steps to engage the disengaged before they become radicalised is a far more promising approach to tackling terrorism.

    This is faulty reasoning. We don’t have to ‘take steps to engage the disengaged’ native born citizens for fear of them becoming terrorists – because hardly any of them ever do. It is Muslim immigrants or children or Muslim immigrants who are responsible for the vast majority of terrorism in the west. The problem is the sheer scale of immigration from Muslim countries, the low requirements for such people to integrate… and rubbish like this article.

    Lets have far fewer immigrants from Muslim countries for a start, and let’s also see the authorities, especially police and courts, getting their act together and requiring the same standards of behaviour from everyone, rather than the cowardly and wrong appeasement and special treatment accorded to Muslims in western countries.

    We shouldn’t have to ‘take steps to engage disengaged’ immigrants, because they should either be taking steps to integrate themselves (as many, but not nearly enough, do) or they should be kicked out. We shouldn’t be having to worry about anyone who comes to this country becoming ‘radicalised’ (i.e. taking up wholeheartedly the violent intolerance mandated by their ancestral cultures.

    We don’t have any obligation in this, Rupert, apart from to treat immigrants as we would treat others. The overwhelming obligation is on immigrants themselves. Western countries have been very tolerant, welcoming and patient. It’s the other side of the equation that has failed to do its part.

    We shouldn’t even need to think about this. It is only because of mass immigration that we have to. And people like you wonder why most people aren’t rhapsodic about immigration. It is an unnecessary problem that we ought never to have had. the people who inflicted it on ours societies are incompetents and traitors.

  • CheshireRed

    Not interested in indulging handwringing cr*p like this anymore. Liberalism had its chance and spent 20 years blowing the doors off a protected, secure Europe. Capitalism has been brilliant for those who want it but will be useless if it’s buried under a religious doctrine of hate. The west faces a terrifying demographic bomb and the time for nicey nicey has long past. If people like Rupert can’t see the main problem when it’s staring them in the face then there’s no hope for them.

  • Nockian

    Except the left who have encourages the propagation of Islamic supporters within the democratic strongholds of the West and then used the Christians altruistic beliefs against them by preventing any criticism under the guise of multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance. Labour wanted to rub the rights nose in diversity. We now have a serious issue in the West, we have moderate Muslims who would support radical Islam if it came to a vote-many, as with the recent revelations in Stoke, have communities which are effectively threatening other Muslims with damnation if they don’t vote Labour.

    Where Christians and Jews are now part of Government, they are relatively benign. We don’t have radical Christians and Jews, but Islam does have serious radicals and we simply cannot tell who might be a sympathiser and who isn’t. It isn’t the Muslims walking around on the street that are a threat (although some might be militant extremists bent on Jihad), it’s the possibility of MPs, high ranking civil servant and military officers being Isamists that pose the real risk.

  • Prompt Critical

    “In countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the promise of an AK-47 and a few hundred dollars a month constitutes a powerful ‘value proposition’ for a young, unemployed man OR WOMAN.”

    What is this nonsensical rot? There are no women involved. How can he say such nonsense?

  • ratcatcher11

    For over a thousand years Islam has been a threat to everyone, nothing has changed.

  • ratcatcher11

    Microfinance is simply more of the same failed policies of trying to buy off the terrorist groups by treating them as misunderstood freedom fighters. This soft left/liberal attitude as practised by Obama has encouraged terrorists because they think the West is too soft and weak to defend itself. Terrorists must be faced down under the barrel of a gun if need be and never mind their human rights, they don’t exist for terrorists. Searching them out and attacking them with drones has been a massive success and more of the same as well as boots on the ground to track their movements and destroy them even if they reach Europe must be the order of the day. Never mind their human rights and those of the States that support them, every pressure must be placed upon these evil people until they realise that they will never win and the West will not negotiate any kind of political deal with them.

  • Andrew Mitchell

    The old sayings are usually the best, and one which we should be thinking about is “the best form of defence is attack”, we have been trying to talk to these people for years, trying to persuade, trying to change and trying to understand, but the sad truth is their ignoring those things, they see our ” tolerance ” as weakness, unless we demand respect we’re never going to get it, we should say “if you plot, plan, promote or fund Islamic terrorism in this country, then you and every single blood relative you have will be sent back to the country of origin, and if you were born here, then your parents, grandparents, even great grandparents country of origin, some will think we can’t do that! Ask yourself this, how many of the 7/7 London bombers would have still carried out their attack had they known in advance that although they will die making their attack, every blood relative of theirs will be sent back to the 3 star tent they came out of in the old country?

  • Very true.

  • Callumity

    Clear thinking would recognise that ‘terror’ is a tactic, not a cause. It is the war of the flea available to anyone minded to attack the innocent for political leverage because they lack the capabilities to achieve their ends by more conventional means.
    Dealing with a terrorist insurgency requires, inter alia, that you address and degrade its narrative. The average jihadi with whom we have to concern ourselves in the West seems to be a social misfit, borderline psychiatric case often with a history of drug dealing and abuse. Their redemption/self actualisation through Islamic radicalism might not be reached by microfinance. It may have a role over time in addressing the inherent failings of their culture which makes them feel so ragingly inadequate. Hence most of the xenophobia is theirs, not ours.

  • Nockian

    The problem as I see it, is not xenophobia, it is the lefts conflation of race with religion as the White Western countries have abandoned any further progression of socialism. In particular their religion of choice is Muslim Islamiscism. It cannot be Christian, because of the connections with right wing conservatism/republican, neither is it Judaism-as that has proven itself to be pro-White Christian and in Israel it is seen as anti-Muslim because of Palestine. Meanwhile, Conservative Right wingers cling to religion and are unable to condenm Islam.

    It is not that religion is an issue within the general population or in and of itself, but it is a problem when spiritual mysticism of any kind ends up in the halls of power and can then use the Government as a hammer to promote its philosophy and those that are in support of its philosophy. It does not matter if it’s Christians, Jews or Muslims, they are all a problem, but of all the religions, Islam is the worst because of its authoritarianism and lack of human rights.

    People seem to feel they are threatened, but they are unable to identify the threat except as migration from middle eastern/African countries. Governments fail to condemn religion generally in respect of political ideology, but are failing dangerously over Islam. We are seeing why democracy is a danger, at the same time as the establishment realise that democracy is a double edge sword in regard to retaining the status quo.

    The way to reduce the threat of terrorism is to rediscover scientific reason in politics and end pragmatic moral relativism. The world gets better when one man takes a stand against mysticism, it improves immeasurably when the intellectual classes of an entire nation state do so. For too long we have been praising democracy as the politics of freedom and have seen the result. Bringing democracy to states which are run by autocrats is futile, it simply ushers in more extreme fundamentalism. Nation states must find their own way, we can only demonstrate by example we cannot force or bribe states to adopt reason in politics.

  • Paul in Eastern Europe

    A truthful headline would read: “Xenophobia won’t protect you from all terrorists.” but the writer clearly has his own distorted view of the truth.

    A man in Afghanistan can’t hurt you. But the same man in London certainly can. Even worse, you have no idea which person poses the biggest threat nor the legal framework or the resources to manage any threats identified. Thus, not only does xenophobia certainly protect you from many forms of terrorism, it is probably the only really effective method currently available.

  • geo

    think your interpretation of “xenophobia” has a significant better chance of protecting people than paying this “protection money” (like ethanedwards2002’s danegeld analogy) or what the liberal left have insisted we do the last 20 years … ie welcome incompatible cultures into the country, given them benefits to breed so solidifying their voter base, allow them to be more loyal to their 7th century medieval death cult than the country they live in, let them apply a system of law that is barbaric (death to gays, non-believers especially jews, apostates, women are second class, rape gangs etc) AND demand that we continually turn a blind eye to the fact they hate our culture and way of life from democracy down to the humble bacon butty.

    I do agree with your “We need practical solutions with substantial, far-reaching impact, and we need them fast.” line because given where things are going the solution at some point will involve a lamppost and a noose … it could come down to survival of the strongest and the liberal left west is simply to desperate to be ‘nice’ to survive.

  • ethanedwards2002

    Practical solutions like not allowing anyone who rocks up in the back of a HGV into our country with no background checks at all you mean? Sounds like a good idea.
    But I would argue that given liberalism has put us all in danger , a touch of Xenophobia might be in order.

  • obbo12

    I’m not sure that it will make a big difference until the governments are less corrupt. Genuine economic growth can only exist were business is protected by the rule of law. China for all its expansion is still stuck in the middle income trap because of the arbitrary nature of its government let alone a near failed state like Pakistan.

  • rbw152

    Not a bad idea really in my opinion.

    Certainly better than throwing guilt money in the form of ‘aid’ at countries like that.

    The devil makes work for idle hands after all.

  • Accipiter67

    Micro finance is indeed a laudable idea; I’ve supported Kiva for several years; however, the still unacknowledged elephant in the room is runaway population growth in Africa, the Middle East and Asia: also the main sources of political unrest,poverty and instability and conflict.
    Growing numbers of young people -especially cohorts of young men-have little to look forward to,either economically,socially or sexually-given the often rigid conservatism which prevails in so many 3rd world societies.
    The west cannot continue to act as a safety valve by absorbing ever rising numbers of immigrants;of course this runs counter to the prevailing politically correct liberal assurances that mass migration is an absolute good, a tribute to western notions of tolerance and moral superiority-now increasingly challenged by restive electorates in Europe and the US- and endless growth,underpinned by the notion that more people means more prosperity.
    It also suits the purposes of 3rd world governments,which can continue to export their demographic burdens safe in the knowledge that the west’s rulers have neither the will nor the policies stop them.

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