The suspect in the attempted bombing, Farouk Abdul Mutallab, is in his early twenties. Was there anything his family or community could have done to stop his actions? Did his family or friends do enough to help and shield him from extremists views?
“A young man who has frustration could end up expressing [it] in different ways, one of which is to become a militant,” said Walid Phares, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.
To take such a step, said Phares, the suspect must have read or heard or interacted with radical ideology, and “from there on he thinks the world needs him and that’s how he joins the holy war or whatever cause that it is.”
The responsibility of the family is enormous, said Phares, adding that in this case “the father tried but the family must come together – not just the small family but the larger family – and act as if this was a psychological crisis.”
Phares dispelled concerns expressed that Nigerians or Africans may be harassed or targeted because of the actions of the suspect. “Nigerians in particular and Africans in general should be proud, because they were submitted to terror way before the Americans or the international community.”
He does not think there will be a backlash. “On the contrary, there will be a call for Africans to come together as one community and fight the extremists.”
”Terrorists have been acting against the African people; from Sudan to Kenya to Chad and many other places in North Africa and even in Nigeria.”
What needs to be done now, he said, is to have Nigerian voices of reason speaking to the communities and standing by the international community.
The American government is aware, he added, that Africans in general and Nigerians in particular are needed as partners in the fight against terrorists.
It is understandable that the United States and the governments in Europe would take extra measures to protect the people, Phares said. “Our system did not work, so there will be a focus on our system but that will take time. Meanwhile, because we are improving the technology in our system, there will be tightening in surveillance and monitoring.”
In the long term, he said, it is about education. He said he hopes the Nigerian government will undertake a public campaign on this issue of extremists.