Radicalization into Salafi Jihadism: some patterns and profiles in Europe 2015–2017

Analysis by Hanga Horváth-Sántha


Understanding the dynamics, trigger factors and root causes of violent extremism leading to acts of terrorism has been subjected to vast research for the past decade. In this regard, the notion of radicalisation has been especially debated and contested by various researchers, leaving one sole ground to base all other theories upon: there is not one single pathway to terrorism, but there are many and the root causes vary heavily. Whilst radicalisation may occur among various ethnic and religious groups, this article will specifically focus on radicalisation processes leading to violence-promoting Islamist extremism (Salafi Jihadism) in the European context and will be delimited to the examination of persons who have committed crimes of terrorism in Europe during the past two years. The reason for this rather slim scope is to examine whether the different types of acts of terrorism and the radicalisation processes behind (as far as they are known) differ from earlier experience with this type of violent extremism in European states with regard to the significantly shrunken time of the radicalisation process, the modus operandi, the selection of targets and the potentially different motives. The fact that some of the perpetrators entered Europe as asylum seekers and supposedly became radicalised on their way or upon arrival to the host society makes the issue even more delicate, however, so far they constitute a group neither to be underestimated, nor overestimated. The article attempts to increase the understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalisation in the light of the recent Jihadist-inspired attacks. The analysis of the terrorist activities and the pathways of radicalisation contain important information also with regard to the question of how to prevent individuals from joining terrorist organisations. Here it has to be stated already in the beginning that not only do the underlying causes vary from individual to individual and that correlation in itself does not necessarily equal causation, but the field of research itself is a constantly growing and developing one and every piece of information may be important to be able to strengthen and enhance a fact-based preventative work. Considering that the article is based on open source information, the persons who have been convicted for having plotted crimes of terror will not fall under the analysis presented in the article.

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Photo: Twitter (Haidar Sumeri)

The analysis was originally published on: Defence Review 2017/2.