Countering Terrorist Recruitment in the United States

The ISIS and other terror groups have enhanced operations making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to monitor and thwart their activities. Today, it is easy for the groups to recruit and operate terror organizations in countries that were initially regarded as terrorist free. It is imperative to understand that terrorist groups do not require sending their people to a country to execute attacks. Instead, they can quickly take advantage of individuals who are aggrieved by a government to stage attacks. Altier, Thoroughgood, and Horgan (2014) allege that ISIS and other terror organizations use religion, economic, political and social justifications to lure people to join their crusade. Hence, the war against terror requires a concerted effort between different disciplines to ensure that law enforcement agencies cover all the loopholes that the groups might exploit. Some disciplines that are helpful in understanding terror organizations and motivation to terrorism include philosophy and religion, psychology, and sociology.

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Disciplines’ Assumptions


The modern psychological research focuses on understanding the mindset or personality of terrorists. According to Altier et al. (2014), the discipline of psychology assumes that weak moral reasoning contributes to terrorism. Currently, researchers are in the processes of identifying markers that predispose a person to terrorism. The realization of this project will go a long way towards determining individuals that are at high risk of becoming terrorists. One of the underlying problems in the ongoing study is the use of the term “terrorist mindset”. It leads to people developing a perception that terrorists are abnormal, which is not correct.

The discipline of psychology is vital to this study because it will help to understand the factors that inspire people to join terror groups. Psychological data shows that the pursuit of significance may contribute to a person developing extreme behaviors. The nature of terrorism keeps on evolving, making it hard for the law enforcement agencies to anticipate the next form of terrorism. Psychological studies might help to identify essential indicators of radicalization processes, thus assisting individuals who are vulnerable to being recruited into terror organizations.


Sociology uses conflict theory to interpret terrorism and other violent behaviors. The discipline assumes that “conflict between competing interests is the basic animating force of social change and society in general” (Pauwels & Schils, 2014, p. 14). The theory holds that civil law does not benefit all parties that are affected by conflict. Sociology views terrorism as a response to “unfairness” that is instilled in the minds of individuals because of illiteracy, misguidance, and idealistic goals.

The discipline of sociology analyzes the factors that prompt people to resort to terror activities. It is helpful to this study as it assists in identifying the measures that states and individuals use to deal with terror threats. It can go a long way towards defining strategies that are effective in averting terrorism, therefore using them to prevent the possibility of ISIS and other terror groups from recruiting members in the United States.

Philosophy and Religion

The discipline of philosophy and religion holds that faith has a significant influence on human emotions and behaviors. Ferguson and Binks (2015) argue that religion has seductive powers that compel people to behave in different ways. It is a driving force for good and evil. The discipline of philosophy and religion seeks to determine if terror activities are theological. It aims at understanding if faith serves as a cover for economic, social, and political factors that trigger violence. From the functionalist point of view, religion plays a critical role in the growth and survival of society. It controls and averts quick social changes that might be detrimental to society.

The discipline of philosophy and religion is helpful in understanding terrorism because it elucidates the meaning systems that are essential to people. It enables one to know how faith brings people together and encourage them to observe specific norms that compel them to engage in violence in the name of defending their faith. Anti-terrorism movements can use the discipline of philosophy and religion to dissuade people from using social and religious differences to alienate others.

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An interdisciplinary approach is essential in preventing ISIS and other terror groups from recruiting members in the United States. A combination of sociology, philosophy and religion, and psychology disciplines can enable the Homeland Security to identify the factors that prompt people to join terrorism. Moreover, it can help to determine responses that are useful in combating terrorism and recruitment to terror organizations. The psychology discipline can enable law enforcement agencies to learn about terrorists’ pursuit of significance, thus recognizing the social challenges and identity that are critical to radicalization. The discipline of sociology can be helpful in profiling people, therefore identifying individuals that are prone to recruitment to terrorism. The philosophy and religion discipline can assist in uniting people regardless of their religious beliefs.


Altier, M., Thoroughgood, C., & Horgan, J. (2014). Turning away from terrorism: Lessons from psychology, sociology, and criminology. Journal of Peace Research, 51(5), 647-661.

Ferguson, N., & Binks, E. (2015). Understanding radicalization and engagement in terrorism through religious conversion motifs. Journal of Strategic Security, 8(2), 16-26.

Pauwels, L., & Schils, N. (2014). Differential online exposure to extremist content and political violence: Testing the relative strength of social learning and competing perspectives. Terrorism and Political Violence, 28(1), 1-29.

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