If we are to tackle radicalisation, we must consider not only religious and cultural factors but the pressures of masculinityby Victor Jeleniewski Seidler / May 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
How do young men prove that they are man enough? What do they have to do in the eyes of their mates to prove their masculinities? Across class, ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds there is still a significant transition that boys have to navigate in becoming young men and somehow proving their male identities. Though there have been significant shifts, masculinities are seldom directly addressed in, say, schooling. It is still generally assumed that boys will be boys and that you can do relatively little to change them.
But often this means that boys are left to carry their own fears and anxieties, unable to reach out to others for support. They learn that emotions are deemed feminine, and so a sign of weakness. It is a terrible cultural reality that a significant proportion of young men prefer to kill themselves than face the embarrassment of reaching out to others.
Other young men seize on religious convictions, however distorted a version of Islam those convictions represent, and some get themselves into a position where they believe that it is only by killing others that they can prove themselves.
The front page of the London Evening Standard on Tuesday 23 May 2017 carried a headline ‘Slaughter of Ariana Innocents’ as it announced that “many children among 22 killed and 59 hurt in suicide bombing at pop concert.” The attacker, they said, was “known to security services.” Police had been called to reports of an explosion at the 21,000-capacity arena at 10.33, moments after Ariana Grande had finished her concert.
What sort of man would do this?
What was immediately striking in Manchester was how young the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was at only 22. What was striking about Khalid Masood, who was responsible for the attack on Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament in March, was that he was 52—much older than we might expect. He was much older than, for instance, the young men involved in the London bombings, who I traced in my book Urban Fears and Global Terrors: Citizenship, Multiculture and Belongings after 7/7. He did not fit the expected profile—although he did fit the idea that it is mainly men who carry out these horrendous acts of terror.