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Psychological Factors Associated with Support for Suicide Bombing in the Muslim Diaspora



A robust literature on ingroup versus outgroup conflict suggests that perceived discrimination may be an important factor in intergroup aggression. Yet, to date, no studies have tested the hypothesis that the perception of being the victim of anti-Muslim discrimination might be associated with support for anti-Western political violence. We undertook an analysis of two Pew Global Attitudes Surveys: (1) a 2006 data set surveying 1,627 adult Muslim residents of Great Britain, France, Germany, and Spain and (2) a 2007 data surveying 1,050 adult Muslim residents of the United States. Our analyses support the conclusions that younger age and perceived discrimination are both associated with support of suicide bombing in these Muslim diaspora populations. Study 1 found that a bad experience of discrimination increased the odds of justifying suicide bombing among European Muslims by a factor of 3.4. Study 2 found that experienced discrimination was associated with justification of suicide bombing among American Muslims. If further investigations confirm that perceived discrimination is a risk factor for support for political violence, initiatives to reduce discrimination would theoretically reduce the risk of terrorism. We discuss the challenge of breaking the vicious cycle of intergroup prejudice and radicalization.