Common to the lone wolf scenario is a lack of social integration, including meaningful work and self-reliance. A new initiative from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is attempting to address this (more below).
U.S. (New York)
On Oct. 23, 2014, a self-radicalized Muslim convert, Zale H. Thompson, attacked a group of New York police officers with a hatchet, leaving one critically injured. Officials are calling it a terrorist attack. Thompson converted to Islam two years ago.
John Miller, NYPD’s deputy counterterrorism chief, told reporters that Thompson was self-directed in his actions with no affiliations to any particular group.
Thompson was unemployed, and police say his parents described him as a depressed recluse spending his time online. His recent Internet activity shows that he searched for beheadings, al Qaeda, ISIS and al Shabaab, indicating that Thompson had been planning an attack for some time.
Preceding this shooting, Martin Couture-Rouleau – a French-Canadian who converted to Islam in 2013 – deliberately struck two Canadian soldiers with his car on Oct. 20, 2014 killing one. It is believed that Couture-Rouleau’s attack was an act of terrorism tied to Canada’s involvement in the conflict in the Middle East. Both Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau had documented psychological problems and were heavy drug users. And, there is some speculation that an association is being forced to push through new anti-terrorism legislation in the country.
While there is debate whether the two killers actually had ties to or were in fact motivated by terrorist leanings, there are documented cases of attempted terrorist attacks in Canada or Canadians traveling to the Middle East to join militant groups. Fen Osler Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, points to some recurring characteristics common to Canadian Islamists.
Compared to their counterparts in other Western countries, they are more likely to be socially marginalized, often unemployed, and act alone. Many are converts. Overall, Mr. Hampson notes however that, "In Canada, Muslims are much better integrated in society and they are much more upwardly mobile for the most part," and, "They've adopted the identity of being Canadian and being tolerant."
ISIS & the U.K.
Geddes conservatively estimates three attacks, with the possibility of more. ISIS terrorist cells have reportedly been discovered, carrying out surveillance on for barracks across the country. Four British men have been charged with allegedly carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” of a police station and army barracks in west London.
Mr. Geddes warns that the second threat is a high likelihood of a “loan wolf” terror attack. Unlike the large concerted attacks carried out by Al Qaeda, the threat from ISIS “is a much more low-level, under the radar, visceral type of terrorism, often involving just one or two lone wolves operating alone.”
A lone wolf may be one of two types of Islamic extremist, those who wanted to join ISS in Syria but were unable to, like Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, whose passport had been confiscated by authorities, and those who had been to the Middle East but returned to make with plans to attack in Britain. Mr. Geddes stresses that such an attack is especially dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of a person acting alone.
Self-Reliance Life Skills: An Antidote?
Obtaining self-reliance life skills is a pressing need among many vulnerable communities who are susceptible to radicalization, such as Muslims in the UK. For instance, the killing on the afternoon of 22 May 2013 of a British Army soldier, Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, has reopened the debate about those who carry out acts of violence in the name of Islamist fundamentalism. Experts give their opinions on how society and the authorities should react to this incident and what could be done to combat radicalization in the UK. The debate continues as the Birmingham City Council is investigating 25 schools about claims of takeovers by Islamist extremists.
The project will make available to interfaith training teams* a curriculum of self-reliance that could be taught to members of vulnerable communities by interfaith teams beginning in the UK and then taken globally.
The curriculum would promote self-reliance as a way of life and help people make a conscious, active effort to provide for their own needs and those of their families. The program would follow the six themes for a balanced life:
- family home production and stewardship
- family finances
- spiritual strength
* Interfaith training teams will be composed of volunteers from local business as well as faith communities - having both is a unique and an essential component of the program in that involving people with real business know-how together with people of diverse faiths and beliefs helps give real alternatives to radical narratives that grow under conditions of isolation and desperation.