Can discrimination contribute to feelings of radicalization?

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Muslim immigrants who feel marginalized and discriminated against in countries that expect them to integrate into their culture and society are more likely to experience psychological threats to their own significance that could be related to increased support of radicalism, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 125th Annual Convention.

“We found that immigrants who identify with neither their heritage culture nor the culture they are living in feel marginalized and insignificant,” said presenter Sarah Lyons-Padilla, PhD, of Stanford University. “Experiences of discrimination make the situation worse.”

Lyons-Padilla presented two studies, one focused on 198 Muslims (78 men) living all over the United States. They were asked about their cultural identities and attitudes toward extremism via online surveys. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 35 and the majority lived in Maryland, Virginia and California. In this sample, 92 were first-generation immigrants; the rest were second-generation American-born, with the majority (105 participants) identifying Pakistan as their heritage country.

They were asked how connected they felt to their heritage culture as well as to American values, and how they felt about their level of integration in their new country. They were also asked if their religion or cultural background had ever led to their experiencing hostility or unfair treatment and how connected and significant they felt.

Finally, they were presented with a description of a hypothetical fundamentalist group made up of young Muslims in the United States. This hypothetical group made clear its stance against American maltreatment of Muslims and promised belonging, commitment and loyalty to potential members. Violence was never explicitly mentioned but the group clearly justified extreme actions to support its cause. The participants were asked how much they thought most people they know would like the hypothetical group, how willing these friends would be to engage in activities on behalf of the group and to what extent their friends would sympathize with the group should it engage in extreme behaviors, such as participating in illegal or violent demonstrations or damaging people’s property.

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Materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Can discrimination contribute to feelings of radicalization?

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