Radical before they were religious

Fareed Zakaria

By Fareed Zakaria
Thursday, March 31, 2016

The attacks in Brussels, on the heels of those in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have stoked an already white-hot debate about Islamic terrorism in the United States. Many in the West, including the two Republican presidential front-runners, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), urge a campaign that targets Muslim communities more directly, searching for those who might be prone to religious extremism and thus terrorism.

But the recent bombings in Europe are being perpetrated by a new generation of terrorists who are upending our previous understanding of what motivates such people and how to find and stop them. To put it simply, today’s terrorists are not religious extremists who became radicals but rather radicals who became religious extremists. The difference is crucial.

Look at the two brothers who planned and executed the Brussels bombings, Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui. Born into a…

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