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By James Turner, PhD

Hate, genocide, totalitarianism…three chilling notions all expressed by one sign— the Nazi salute. The dangerous salute was parading down Europe’s de facto capital this weekend; and is the explicit opposite of what a community needs to root out terrorism.

In the aftermath of the Brussels terror attacks, the Place de la Bourse has been made in to a makeshift memorial for the 35 dead, and 300 injured victims. Yesterday, a vigil for these victims was attacked by a group of anti-immigrant protesters who stomped the flowers honoring the victims, berated the mourners, and repeatedly performed the Nazi salute.

The most impactful preventative measure society can take against terrorism begins with the most vulnerable communities.

We have to counter the propaganda. We need an open dialogue with the communities that are targets of recruitment by any terrorist organizations…the more isolated they are the more vulnerable they are.

Turner contends that the most vital asset in terrorist organizations tool belts, is their policy of training their members in isolation. The only way they can be successful in radicalizing their members is to be the only voice in their ears crowding out dissenting voices of peace and tolerance.

Many contend that one reason Europe is more vulnerable and a more effective breeding ground for radicalism is the inherent nature of cultural detachment. Many European communities are segmented with immigrant populations separated in cultural ghettos, creating a dangerously pronounced divide.  If someone doesn’t feel like part of a community, a society— they are more likely to turn against it.

A few years ago when tensions between Putin and American leadership were flaring up, IMerit (Alliant’s International and Multicultural Education, Research, Intervention, and Training Initiative) reached out to our Russian students just to make sure that they didn’t feel awkward being in the U.S. while there was this big dust up between us and Putin…why can’t we do that with all communities? It’s our best chance to counter this epidemic of radical propaganda.

It is a well-known fact that ISIS has murdered more Muslims than Westerners of any or no faith and it is a widely-accepted belief that instead of blame, vulnerable communities need help. The discussion of immigrant policy need to occur in an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance which recognizes there are many legitimate issues on both sides which regular careful thought and analysis.  In place of hate rhetoric, there need to be rebuttals to extremist propaganda. Instead of fear, there should be an acceptance that— in the end— we are all more alike than we are different.

America is a huge experiment in tolerance, this is a uniqueness that we need to foster around the world. We all need to work together to reach out to the targets of radicalization, because it’s hard to vilify people when you realize that they are like you. Most people just want a better life for their children. If we can foster an open dialogue and accepting culture, we can give them that life.


James T. Turner, PhD is a Professor at Alliant International University’s California School for Forensic Studies and has managed thousands of threat cases over the course of his thirty year career.  He has experience in counter-terrorism investigations, operational psychology, and political violence issues.

Dr. Turner is a U.S. Army veteran and has served as a consultant to a variety of organizations such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, Nuclear Threat Program, Department of Homeland Security, The Secret Service, Comptroller of the Currency, Microsoft, Seagate Technologies, Morgan Stanley, and Microsoft.

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