The Terrorist Next Door

Scott Greer Contributor
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I graduated from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez.

I can’t recall knowing him personally, but we both walked down the same aisle in Chattanooga on the same day in December 2012.

Before Abdulazeez massacred four Marines Thursday, he was employed at a business located in my hometown of Franklin, a suburb of Nashville.

Chattanooga and Franklin are the last place you’d expect to find jihadis. (RELATED: 7 ISLAMIC TERRORIST ATTACKS IN USA IN 7 YEARS For Obama)

They’re are a far cry from the poverty-stricken banlieues of Paris or the war-torn cities of Syria that are thought to be the typical incubators for radical Islam. Both Tennessee towns are more known for their scenic downtowns, booming economies, evangelical megachurches and Southern hospitality than as breeding grounds for any form of extremism.

Yet, here is America’s latest terrorist calling both places home. (RELATED: Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez Had An Islamic Blog. Here It Is.)

What can cause a man like this to embrace such a radical ideology — one that’s completely at odds with his surroundings?

The Obama administration and a few other experts continue to believe that poverty and a lack of opportunities is what drives so many young men into the arms of ISIS and other terror groups. However, Abdulazeez came from a middle-class family, had a college degree, and had a good job. By all accounts, this young man never knew poverty and was not deprived of any opportunities in his life.

Neither did the Tsarnaev brothers, who also came from a financially-secure family and had numerous chances to succeed in American society. But both men forewent the opportunities they were given and chose to bring terror to the city of Boston instead.

None of these men also had any mental health issues and all were described by friends, teachers and coaches as perfectly normal individuals. They were not nutcases like James Holmes and Dylann Roof.

Contrary to what our leaders might tell us, Abdulazaeez and the Tsaranaevs are not atypical cases of Islamic extremism. In fact, it appears that the most fervent jihadis hail from well-to-do families.

Many young Muslims from middle- and upper-class backgrounds — such as the notorious Jihadi John — have embraced jihad and migrated to the Islamic State. Most American-based militants since 9/11 came from the middle-class.

These are Muslims who have been heavily exposed to western culture and western ideas and have the best means to earn financial success.

Yet, they’re choosing jihad instead of the comfortable bourgeois life.

You can’t explain their drift towards radicalism due to poor economic conditions. Nor can you blame it on these individuals lack of exposure to liberal democracy’s “better ideas.” (RELATED: How Can ISIS Ever Withstand Obama’s ‘Better Ideas’?)

Obviously, our thinking on what motivates thousands of Muslims to become jihadis is wrong. When a significant portion of their base have all the opportunities in the world and are more than familiar with our ideas, we need to stop thinking that these militants join ISIS because they were never offered midnight basketball or have never heard of how great it is when #LoveWins.

We also need to stop thinking that we know more than professional theologians and can declare with assurance that this ideology is “not Islamic.” As theologians and other experts have stated, groups like al-Qaida and ISIS do draw their ideology from the tenets of Muslim fundamentalism.

To keep harping that we are combating un-Islamic extremists would be akin to past presidents declaring we’re opposed to the un-communism of the Soviet Union.

Interestingly enough, there are eerie similarities between the two ideologies.

Communism was able to attract young Europeans (and some young Americans) from all walks of life and a myriad backgrounds with its promise of utopia and the elimination of inequality. Radical Islam is able to attract young Muslims from all economic backgrounds and nearly every ethnic group with its promise of the eternal caliphate free of sin and internal conflict.

Both of these ideas were opposed to liberal democracy, and sought the overthrow of established governments they perceived as opponents to the creation of their respective dream societies. Both of their adherents were well-aware of the appeal of liberal values and consciously rejected in favor of a seemingly more dynamic ideology.

Communism was finally discredited with the fall of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union. We have yet to have that crowning moment with Islamic extremism – and it continues to grow at a more disturbing rate. Worse, and unlike communist groups of the past that focused more on non-violent political organizing, Islamists are called upon to commit mass violence to strike terror into the hearts of infidels.

And we witnessed this horrific atrocity again this week in Chattanooga.

While our leaders may continue to resist identifying these terror attacks as Islamic-inspired, normal young men like Abdulazeez will continue to be radicalized into violent action. We have to face the dark reality that America will only witness more terrible acts like Thursday’s massacre in the future.

Especially when these potential terrorists know that they can attack military facilities and find servicemen who are trusted to protect our country in far away lands but aren’t allowed protect themselves in the homeland. (RELATED: The Glaringly Absurd Gun Law In The Middle Of The Chattanooga Shooting Case)

There is one simple way to cut down on future bloodshed though: Give the men and women who are the primary targets for these attacks the ability to defend themselves. Allow them to carry arms into recruiting centers and other military facilities that wannabe Abdulazeezes desire to turn into their hunting grounds.

With a government that’s unwilling to call out the driving force behind the terror, the least they can do is to give soldiers the means to fight back.

For if someone like the Chattanooga gunman can strike in the middle of the heartland, there may be no safe place from the terrorist next door.

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