This presentation provides an overview of a few processes behind the radicalisation of a minority of Muslims in Britain. The theoretical frameworks and models have been successfully applied in a number of cases - a few of which are highlighted.
What are some of the causes of violent
radicalisation among a minority of
Understanding reasons behind an individual’s
gravitation towards violent radicalisation and
extremism is an issue that continues to be debated
More often than not, perspectives of this phenomenon
insofar as it relates to Muslim communities, are
misunderstood from external/outsider perspectives.
Continuing marginalisation of experienced, grassroots
practitioners will only exacerbate existing challenges
society is facing as a whole.
Without the participation of these credible voices, it is
difficult to see how the threat of violent radicalisation
can be tackled effectively.
Radicalised individuals often position themselves among
socially conservative communities, like Salaﬁs*
Diagram: McCants, W, Brachman, J & Felter, J; ‘Militant Ideology Atlas: Executive Report’ Combating Terrorism Center, U.S.
Military Academy, November 2006, p.10
*Refer to Z Fareen Parvez’s article in the Guardian: Religious conservatism doesn’t make a terrorist. But crime and exclusion
Case studies: Zacarius Moussaoui (aka 20th 9/11 bomber)
Richard Reid (aka the Shoe Bomber)
When examining these individuals’ lives it becomes clear that they gravitated
inwards towards the ‘Jihadi’ violent extremist communities due to their
dissatisfaction with the perceived passivity of wider and less radical ones.
In the case of Moussaoui, as he embraced his faith and continued to face social
inequalities, his gravitation across the communities was gradual, until he found
the ‘Jihadi’ one which matched his ideological and political world view.
Richard Reid entered the ‘Salafi’ community after completing his prison sentence
in Feltham; however, his frustration with its apolitical and ‘anti-jihad’ approach led
him to seek the violently radical ‘Jihadi’ alternative.
Reid’s gravitation towards violent radicalisation during the mid – late 90s
was quicker than Moussaoui’s. In 2017, it has long been established that
social media has accelerated this process exponentially.
The PREVENT strategy set out as a community-focused
initiative, seeking credible partners to tackle violent
radicalisation at grassroots.
This has gradually morphed into a community-targeted
strategy, resembling the previous top-down coercive
approach where minority groups were treated as
suspects and intelligence is the only information sought
after by authorities.
This change has contributed to a pendulum type
polarisation in various communities as illustrated below:
• Failure to adequately
address Muslim concerns
• Lack of knowledge based
• Reliance more upon
intellect than Islamic edicts
• More concerned with
public perception and
position with higher
• Self appointed and often
non representative of
Passivism / Inaction
• Addressing Muslim
context of Islamic law
(Sharia) and common
• Action relative to
what is required
• Contact with bona
fide, experienced &
Active engagement &
interaction with wider
Measured / balanced
• Imbuing emotional responses from
• Propelling them to react/respond
• Urgency of reaction / response
• Instilling uncontrollable hatred/
resentment towards own society &
those who do not subscribe to their
• Misinterpretation / distortion of
religious texts to justify extreme
Misplaced Activism /
Liberal extreme – [Muslims & non-Muslims]
Moderates & social
Political extreme –
[Muslims & non-Muslims]
Negative / polarising societal contribution/input
Tariq Ramadan etc.)
Positive/constructive societal contribution/input
‘hard to reach’
Falling below the radar
Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective
Anthony (Abdul Haqq) Baker, PhD, Dept. of Politics, University of Exeter: 2009
Disappearing below the radar:
Losing community members to extremism
The 2017 terrorist attacks further illustrate – with devastating
effect - what can happen when no inter-community or wider
social arrangements exist to engage with and/or challenge
individuals once they have left more traditional communal
environments like mosques. Their paths toward extremism
remain unchecked as figures 4 (above) and 5 illustrate:
The ‘hard’ end of
Muslim communities at
the ‘softest’ end of
Positioning of Muslim communities & grassroots initiatives
Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective
Anthony (Abdul Haqq) Baker, PhD, Dept. of Politics, University of Exeter: 2005-9
Recognising stages of development and vulnerability in Muslim youth
1. The ability to engage with and determine the extent of young Muslims’
understanding of their religion is essential as part of a process to address
potential pitfalls or vulnerability.
2. Very few grassroots community groups are able to recognise stages of
development among Muslim youth and provide tailored and measured
programmes to cater for them.
3. For example, during the founding or cognitive phase of development an
individual may mistakenly be exposed to politicised teachings in an attempt to
address his/her concerns about national/international events affecting Muslims,
i.e. Palestine, Syria or Iraq etc.
4. Politicised teachings of this nature are potentially explosive at this formative
stage of development, especially when they fail to provide a correct
contextualisation of religious understanding relating to such events.
5. By adapting existing theoretical frameworks from other disciplines, i.e.
management theory, to fit into more conducive social scientific models, the
above mentioned stages can be illustrated more clearly.
A new and/or young Muslim’s contextualisa7on and understanding of Islam moves
forward and backward
Figure 6: The life cycle of a convert’s/young Muslim’s post-religious cognitive process
The above model (figure 6) is basic in its depiction
of a convert’s conversion process; however, it is
also useful as a framework to immediately identify
stages of 2nd/3rd generation Muslims’ development
after their cognitive openings in the Muslim
communities highlighted earlier in figure 1.
The next framework is an adaptation of the
‘Continuum of Understanding Model’ (figure 7) and
incorporates figure 6, providing a more
comprehensive overview of an individual’s religious
development and influence:
Definition of development
• Data comes about through research, creation, gathering,
• Information has context. Data is turned into information by
organizing it so that we can easily draw conclusions. Data is
also turned into information by "presenting" it, such as
making it visual or auditory.
• Knowledge has the complexity of experience, which come
about by seeing it from different perspectives. This is why
training and education is difficult - one cannot count on one
person's knowledge transferring to another. Knowledge is
built from scratch by the learner through experience.
Information is static, but knowledge is dynamic as it lives
• Wisdom is the ultimate level of understanding. As with
knowledge, wisdom operates within us. We can share our
experiences that create the building blocks for wisdom,
however, it needs to be communicated with even more
understanding of the personal contexts of our audience than
with knowledge sharing.
• Data and information deal with the past. They are based
on the gathering of facts and adding context. Knowledge
deals with the present. It becomes a part of us and
enables to perform. However, when we gain wisdom, we
start dealing with the future as we are now able to vision
and design for what will be, rather than for what is or was.
A return to community partnerships facilitating grassroots
engagement is among the more effective ways of tackling
the continuing threat of violent radicalisation and
extremism facing us today.
Top-down, coercive approaches, the now toxic PREVENT
strategy and marginalisation of credible grassroots
entities are counterproductive and contradictory
(particularly in view of the Conservative Party’s recent
alliance with the DUP). Recognition of the above
observations and evidence is the first step towards
providing a consolidated response to the recent terrorist
attacks in 2017.