I have not had time to think through everything but I jotted a list of what I believe are the factors that lead to the phenomenon:
- A sense of alienation/isolation from the society where they live, brought about by (possibly) discrimination.
- A search for a sense of identity or security, leads them to their religious roots in Islam.
- The austere, extreme form of Wahabi Islam is extensively promoted by the Saudi's and through sheer expenditure of funds appears to have taken over the mainstream.
- The teaching of a distorted version of Islam, leads to further suspicion of all things unIslamic/Western. Does this promote further isolation - people mixing mainly with other muslims and not other communities, worsens the cycle.
- Religious teaching based on respect for authority, emphasizing obedience and conformity discourage independent thought and make communities more vulnerable to manipulation.
- Frustration with their lives, due to limited of job opportunities or the need to rebel against a host of perceived injustices.
- Policy on Israel serves as a lightening rod - the injustices against the Palestinians are closely identified with and seen as proof of a general anti-muslim sentiment in the West.
I think there have been parallels before, in the US. The attraction of blacks to Islam from the 1930's was driven by similar forces; as was the attraction to communism, during the same period.
The difference in that instance was that the people so attracted were not subject to manipulation that turned them violently against wider society.
Just a few thoughts, still trying to get my head around this, comments welcome.