90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, April 26, 2013

How Fast Can Someone Be ‘Radicalized’?

FBI released this image early Friday, April 19, 2013, showing "Suspect 1" in the white cap and "Suspect 2" in the black cap, walking through the crowd in Boston on Monday, April 15, 2013, before the explosions at the Boston Marathon. (FBI/AP)

The FBI released this image early Friday, April 19, 2013, showing “Suspect 1″ in the white cap and “Suspect 2″ in the black cap, walking through the crowd in Boston on Monday, April 15, 2013, before the explosions at the Boston Marathon. (FBI/AP)

Of the many questions that have yet to be answered in the marathon bombing investigation, the toughest question may be: Why?

News reports indicate Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, exerted a lot of influence on his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Investigators say Tamerlan did frequent jihadi websites, but Dzhokhar’s friends say he was not a Muslim radical.

“… very intelligent, educated people from good families can be recruited and indoctrinated into something totally against their values system.”
– Steve Hassan

Steven Hassan is a mental health counselor and author of “Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs.”

In the 1970s, Hassan was drawn into Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, and now helps people break away from cults.

His personal experience, he said, could shed some light on what might have happened in the case of the Tsarnaev brothers.

“For me, I was recruited when I was 19 years old, and it took two weeks for me to drop out of my college, quit my job, donate my bank account and believe the messiah was on the Earth. It took me, I’d say, another year before I was willing to die or kill on command. But I can tell you in 36 years as a therapist, very intelligent, educated people from good families can be recruited and indoctrinated into something totally against their values system.”

And “loners” aren’t the only ones susceptible to recruitment, Hassan said.

“I was an extra-honors student and popular and was not interested in joining a group,” he said. “My girlfriend dumped me and three attractive women flirted, and then it was history.”

Hassan says there are ways to help prevent recruitment to cults or extremist groups.

“Masoud Banisadr, a former Iranian MEK [Mojahedin-e-Khalq] cult member came up with this idea – he said after a civil trial, there should be a sharia trial. An Islamic cleric should come in and basically try the person and say, ‘You’re going to hell, because the Koran explicitly states you should not harm women, children, elderly,'” Hassan said. “And I’d like to see ex-jihadists come and give lectures on campuses, at mosques and such. I’d like to see more people taught about how social influence works.”

Video: Steve Hassan interviews Masoud Banisadr, former member of MEK

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

November 20 3 Comments

The Man Behind ‘Mockingjay’

Francis Lawrence describes the rewards and challenges of bringing "The Hunger Games" books to the screen.

November 20 Comment

Iraq War Vet Wins National Book Award For Fiction

The judges described the short stories in Phil Klay's collection "Redeployment" as brutal, piercing and sometimes darkly funny.

November 19 9 Comments

New Film Revisits The Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Case

The Penn State assistant football coach will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, but that's not the end of the story.

November 19 214 Comments

Without Slavery, Would The U.S. Be The Leading Economic Power?

Edward Baptist argues in his new book that slavery was integral to establishing the America as a world economic power.