Research Report


Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2008
Pages: 25
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 2-2)

    Why do some apparently well-integrated youth in Europe become attracted to Islamist militancy? Why and when do people cross from violent talk to violent action? What prevents others, exposed to the same political, ideological, and socioeconomic influences, from crossing? When and how might people de-radicalize and draw back from violent action? What policy initiatives would be called for to limit the spread of radical ideas, counter the factors that spur violent radicalization, and strengthen those, which pull in the other direction? In sum: When, why, and how do people living in a democracy become radicalized to the point of being...

  2. (pp. 3-14)

    The subfield of socio-psychological and psychological approaches to terrorism studies is, like the overall field of terrorism research, characterized by a variety of competing approaches with different explanations of what causes terrorism and violent radicalization. For the sake of overview this paper groups them into sociological approaches, individual level approaches, and group process approaches.

    Sociological theories focus on overall structural factors impacting large groups, group process approaches focus on mechanisms at play in smaller groups, and psychoanalytically inspired and cognitive theories focus on factors at the level of the individual personality. Sociological and psychoanalytical approaches focus on relatively stable factors...

  3. (pp. 15-16)

    How do we explain the phenomenon of Islamist militancy and violent radicalization in Europe?

    The group process approach is not empirically derived. Yet, on a number of accounts, it represents a promising approach. First, one of the few empirical studies of radicalization conducted in Europe, a case study of individuals coming into contact with the radical UK movement Al-Muhajeroun, seem to confirm it’s key tenets [Wiktorowicz, no publication year:33]. Moreover, since the group process model emphasize the process rather than inherent characteristics or socioeconomic background factors, the model can accommodate the empirical fact that the individuals, which have been involved...

  4. (pp. 17-17)

    When, why, and how do people living in a democracy become radicalized to the point of being willing to use or directly support the use of terrorist violence against civilians, and when, why, and how might they de-radicalize and draw back from such action? The empirical basis for understanding the background factors and trigger events pushing or pulling people towards Islamist militancy is very limited. Moreover, there is no consensus within the research community as to which theories and approaches offer the most promising avenues for further exploration.

    This working paper has discussed various possible approaches within the subfield of...