Australian commentator Tanveer Ahmed thinks it does. He writes in The Australian (with thanks to Nicolei):
Numerous perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, remember, were raised and educated in the West. A French study looked at the life of one of them, Moussaoui.
He came to France as a young child and had a relatively normal upbringing in the outer suburbs of Paris where there are large numbers of Muslim immigrants. He was an average student in school and showed no signs of pathological behaviour.
His first moves towards extremist Islam coincided with being discriminated against in the workplace and in leisure situations.
There was one clear incident where a bouncer denied him entry to a Parisian nightclub, telling him openly it was because he was an Arab. Moussaoui’s brother tells the French sociologists that his interest in Islam began soon afterwards. The rest is history.
The study went on to hypothesise that extremist Islam was only an option when being French no longer seemed a possibility.
The man who kidnapped The Wall Street Journal writer, Daniel Pearl, was born in Britain, studied at an English public school and then at the London School of Economics – not known for its “madrasah” qualities. His parents were Pakistani migrants. Ahmed Omar Sheikh said he wasn’t British or Pakistani, just Muslim. He said he could never be accepted by the “racist” British.
It is something I see in my younger, second-generation Arab or Asian psychiatric patients in Sydney. It is difficult for them to feel deep ties to the country of their parents. They see the pictures on the walls, may speak some of the language but ultimately have never lived there. And when they have visited, for the majority, it is the first time they have felt Australian.
But living in Australia, the recurring motifs of Australian life – sun, beer and sport – do not connect with the migrant experience. Nor do the myths and legends of outback Australia have resonance. Their non-white appearance is often commented upon at work or school. These are not usually racist or discriminatory remarks but highlight a sense of the foreign nevertheless. Perhaps notions of mateship and egalitarianism do resonate but they are not enough to drive home a feeling of being Australian.
What often fills the void is religion. This is where their search for identity finds a voice. And it is not necessarily Islam. Christianity or Buddhism can have just such a transformative effect.
But for groups that may suffer from feelings of exclusion or discrimination, Islam provides the deepest connection. Islam has become the religion of choice for the dispossessed, the poor or the oppressed.
From African-Americans to Afghan refugees, Islam cushions a feeling of disconnection. A religion now defined by its ability to turn feelings of frustration and defeat to outright defiance, it can win the hearts of those longing to belong.
I visited a weekly gathering of Muslims, led by a charismatic Egyptian cleric, that a young Arab patient began attending in Sydney. The patient was of Lebanese background and had been depressed. His malaise was deeply rooted in a feeling of disconnection.
But he seemed to be improving since attending these meetings. The group was dominated by those under the age of 30. Everyone I met had a university degree and spoke in an Australian accent.
Despite having plenty of great things to say about Australia as a country and a sense of gratitude at the opportunities they were given, many of the youths felt they could never be accepted as an Australian, that they would remain on the cultural fringes. They felt their ties could not extend beyond the economic.
But I saw no evidence of a turn towards extremism. This would require a stimulus from the outside world. For Moussaoui, it came when he was rejected from somewhere as apolitical as a nightclub. For others, it may be a missed promotion, an unjust encounter with the police or perhaps expulsion from school for inappropriate dress.
This ignores, of course, the role of traditional Islamic jihad ideology in fomenting this extremism. As Nicolei points out, “to blame Islamic militancy on their host/adopted nations is shift the blame from themselves and the religion that fosters jihad. Other migrants such as non-Muslim Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Black Africans face the same struggles as the Muslims, yet they do not turn to militancy to solve their problems.”