Sociology Mind
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 290-297
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Violent Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism: Perspectives
of Wellbeing and Social Cohesion of Citizens of Muslim Heritage
Priyo Ghosh1, Nasir Warfa1, Angela McGilloway1, Imran Ali2, Edgar Jones3,
Kamaldeep Bhui1
1Centre for Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and
Dentistry, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London, UK
2Greater Manchester West, Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
3King’s Centre for Military Health Studies at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, UK
Received June 29th, 2013; revised August 3rd, 2013; accepted August 19th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Priyo Ghosh et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
After the 7/7 bombings radicalisation became a homegrown issue in the UK with Muslims born and
brought up here being responsible for the attacks. This has had a subsequent impact on wellbeing and so-
cial cohesion in the UK. It feels that the Government’s strategy of tackling radicalisation is ineffective
and may be paradoxically serving to increase recruitment to radical groups. There is limited primary re-
search from a sociological or a psychological perspective on the issue of radicalisation amongst the Mus-
lim community in the UK. Two focus groups with six men and ten women, aged between 22 and 56, were
established to determine the meaning of radicalisation to Muslims, gather experiences of the impact of the
concept of radicalisation on the wellbeing of the Muslim community, understand more about the socio-
logical and psychological processes that lead to radicalisation and gather in-group perspectives on how to
tackle radicalisation as a means to promote social cohesion. Islamophobic media coverage and discrimi-
nation affected the wellbeing of the Muslim community resulting in a more orthodox religious identity.
Drivers of radicalisation were perceived to include inequalities, and misrepresentation of Islamic teach-
ings. Solutions to tackle radicalisation and promote social cohesion included authentic Islamic education,
greater integration and reducing inequalities with greater acceptance by the Muslim community alongside
more responsible journalism. Although further work is needed in Muslim communities, there also needs
to be work done on non-Muslim communities to further understand the impact of extremism on social
cohesion and wellbeing.
Keywords: Radicalisation; Extremism; Wellbeing; Social Cohesion; Prevention; United Kingdom
Terrorist attacks cause widespread loss of life, physical inju-
ries, psychological trauma and economic damage. There are
additional societal costs in terms of social division, vilification
of and discrimination against those perceived to be associated
with or sympathetic to terrorist actions (Bhui et al., 2012). In
terms of direct loss of life, the 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of
almost 3000 people and in 2005 the terrorist attacks in London
(UK) claimed the lives of 52 people. In the last ten years, thou-
sands of people were killed by suicide bombings in Iraq (Hicks
et al., 2011) and in Pakistan (Mir, 2011). These events were
followed by numerous counter-terrorism actions to prevent ter-
rorist plots. These efforts increasingly acquired an international
as well as pan-European dimension. The surprising fact that
emerged is that the attacks in the EU were often by people who
had been born and educated in the countries that they attacked.
In a manner that remains unclear, these home-grown terrorists
had formed links with radical Muslim groups creating a new
threat of terrorism from people who felt it difficult to identify
or notice as posing a threat to society. Radicalisation was pro-
posed as the social and psychological process that transformed
citizens into terrorists. Yet, despite widespread use of the term
there is no widely accepted consensus on a definition nor is
there research to show how radicalisation works and how it
might be prevented.
The UK Government’s Anti-Terrorism Prevent Strategy (2011)
defined radicalisation as the process by which a person comes
to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terror-
ism. Extremism was defined as vocal or active opposition to
fundamental British values, including democracy, rule of law,
individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different
faiths and beliefs. Also included in the definition of extremism
was calling for the death of members of British armed forces.
The process of radicalisation is thought to occur during criti-
cal periods of maturation in cognitive and emotional processes
in adolescence when young people face numerous transitions.
Young adults experiment with new identities, group relation-
ships and political viewpoints. Questioning authority and con-
sidering political alternatives are the norm for young people
who are often ideologically driven and form commitments to a
new cause or mission as part of this experimentation with a new
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 291
It is often asserted that radicalisation has its roots in an Is-
lamic ideology that proposes Western liberalism to be intrinsi-
cally evil and promotes a state of paradise to be achieveable by
destroying such Western values (Stern, 2003). In contrast, Tess-
ler (1997) argued that radical Muslim movements represent
modern reactions to unemployment, poverty and marginalisa-
tion. It is understandable that a stronger Islamic identity and
keeping close associations with like-minded Muslims may help
combat discrimination and offer support in the face of adversity.
This view is challenged by the findings that many of those
radicalised in Europe have come from educated, middle-class
backgrounds (Bakker, 2006).
Despite the emphasis on Muslim youth as being vulnerable
to radicalisation, there is little open discussion with communi-
ties from which these radicalised youth are purported to emerge.
In contrast, the rhetoric that Muslim ideology drives terrorism
is well known and overstated by terrorist organisations as this
offers a ready source of support by placing practising Muslims
in a conflict of identities and loyalties. This overstatement of
the role of religion may also become a natural reaction of poli-
ticians and policy makers responding to terrorist attacks in their
countries. The use of Islamic fundamentalism as an explanation
for terrorism provides the victim countries with an understand-
able basis on which to react, but risks alienating groups of citi-
zens who could be part of a counter-terrorism strategy.
What responses have evolved in the UK without engagement
of Muslim communities? New laws have increased the legal
duration of detention without charge if terrorism is suspected;
these laws have widened stop and search powers. The UK Gov-
ernment also introduced the Prevent Strategy aimed at devel-
oping co-operation with the Muslim community. However, ear-
lier versions of the Prevent strategy were criticised as singling
out Muslim communities, ignoring other forms of extremism,
and serving as a vehicle for increased surveillance of British
Muslims as suspects rather than involving them as citizen serv-
ing to increase recruitment to radical groups whilst undermin-
ing the health and well-being of the Muslim (Kundani, 2009).
Others felt that the Prevent Strategy was allowing funding for
Muslim groups that espoused illiberal and intolerant views thus
damaging social cohesion (Maher & Frampton, 2010).
There is currently a lack of empirical research conducted on
radicalisation within the British Muslim community (Silke,
2008). As a result, we set up a series of studies to investigate
this concept from a qualitative and quantitative perspective.
This paper reports on the pilot work that informed a larger sur-
vey of radicalisation in Muslim young people with the follow-
ing research questions:
What does the term radicalisation mean to Muslims?
How has the discourse around radicalisation affected Mus-
What do Muslims feel are the sociological and psychological
processes behind radicalisation?
What strategies do they think will effectively tackle radicali-
sation as a means to promote social cohesion?
A focus group study was adopted to explore opinions from a
wide range of people of Muslim heritage. This design allows
for views that are socially produced as in a community rather
than only those that are discreetly formed at the level of the
individual (Lunt & Livingstone, 1996: p. 90). Two focus groups
were run with participants of Muslim heritage or participants
who had converted to Islam, but participants were not necessarily
orthodox or practicing their faith. All ethnicities and those be-
longing to any Muslim sect were eligible. Participants had to be
able to speak English.
As part of the recruitment and the development of a commu-
nity panel, contact was made with the Federation of Islamic
Students (FOSIS). They enthusiastically supported the study.
Participants were also invited from a local Muslim Community
Panel. Many of these people were in touch with Queen Mary
University or local health agencies, and some were interested in
research themselves, so they saw the study as part of their wider
efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of local populations
in East London. Researchers also adopted a snowballing method
to include people with a background in psychological and men-
tal health fields to help formulate psychological and sociologi-
cal based understandings as well as religious and cultural in-
sights into radicalisation. So participants were offering an “in-
sider’s” view about living in a Muslim community in Britain as
well as a view informed by their experiences in professional life
and research and teaching.
A topic guide was developed in consultation with local re-
searchers who were of Muslim heritage, and this was used in
both focus groups. The groups were audio-recorded and the
transcripts subjected to qualitative analysis. The recordings were
listened to a number of times to familiarise the researchers with
the data. Initial notes were taken to identify broad themes. The
transcripts were then analysed again grouping categories to-
gether to develop links between different participants and across
the focus groups. This process followed the Thematic Content
Analysis described by Green and Thurugood (2009). The analy-
ses were undertaken by two researchers who worked inde-
pendently during the first round of analyses, before meeting to
reach consensus. A brief demographic questionnaire was also
completed. All participants provided consent to take part in the
study after being made aware of the topics to be discussed. No
financial incentives were offered to participants. Ethical ap-
proval was received from the research ethics committee at
Queen Mary University of London.
The focus groups consisted of 15 subjects (9 females and 6
males). The first focus group had 10 participants with a broad
age range between 22 and 56, whilst the second focus group
had 5 participants with a narrower age range between 27 and 35.
Both focus groups lasted one hour and were audio-recorded. In
the first focus group there was an over representation of Turk-
ish female students together with an underrepresentation of Brit-
ish females. Overall there was a range of ethnicities: South
Asian (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi), African and Middle
Eastern origins and British nationals. To maintain anonymity
there is no correlation between the order of participants in the
table and the number assigned in the results section (see Table
Meanings of Radicalisation
The groups spent some time discussing what radicalisation
and their distinct interpretations as well as how the media por-
trayed radicalisation. The main definitions and issues are sum-
marised below in Table 2.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 1.
Focus group demographics.
Focus Group
Age Range 22 - 56
Gender Ethnicity Nationality Occupation
Female Bangladeshi British Psychologist
Male Pakistani British Psychiatrist
Male Iraqi British Psychiatrist
Female Turkish Turkish Student
Female Turkish Turkish Student
Female Turkish Turkish Student
Female Turkish Turkish Student
Male Black African British IT Professional
Male Black African British Mental Health Professional
Female Iranian Iranian Student
Focus Group 2
Age Range 27 - 35
Gender Ethnicity Nationality Occupation
Male Pakistani British Psychiatrist
Male Pakistani British Psychiatrist
Female Pakistani Pakistani Researcher
Female Bangladeshi British Social Worker
Female Indian British Lecturer
Table 2.
Meanings of radicalisation.
Meanings of
Radicalisation Participant Comments
Specifically Used for
Radicalisation is a term purely used for Muslim communities. (male2, group1)
Never heard them associated with any other religions. (male1, group1)
There are extremist Muslim groups, we are not denying that but the words are used exclusively with Islam. (male1, group3)
The problem with the word extremism is used for specifically for Muslims and not for the British National Party who are very
extreme and do commit violent crimes. (male2, group1)
Associations with
Violence and Terrorism
Now these words are associated with Islam, Muslims, terrorism, pain and feeling unsafe. The words have powerful
connotations. (female1, group1)
And so my immediate association is that they are things, word association with terrorist, with anger. (female2, group2)
Anything That is Seen to
Be Culturally Foreign
Radicalisation is seen as anything that does not fit in with any Western values or concepts. Anything that is not part of this country.
(male1, group1)
Anything that does not conform with Western ideas are seen as extreme and in an negative way. (male3, group1)
Praying five times or covering your head and not talking/touching to guys which are personal beliefs makes you be seen as a strict
or extreme Muslim. (female2, group1)
There is something about people who are more religious than I am a little wary of. I see the beard, I see the dress, is see the veil,
people who say God Willing too much. I just get a little bit nervous. (female1, group1)
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 293
Wellbeing of the Muslim Community
There was heightened criticism of the media by participants
saying those with extreme viewpoints were given dispropor-
tionate representation at the expense of the wellbeing of the
wider community.
Whenever the press report on it, issues to do with Islam, they
always have one kind of normal Muslim, and then they have to
get a slightly extreme one. (female1, group2)
Al Muhajiroun and Hizbut-Tahrir, two groups widely con-
sidered by the Muslim community as holding extreme views,
were highlighted as being given a greater platform than their
actual influence in the Muslim Community. This created a ne-
gative stereotype that all Muslims were extreme.
People like Al Muhajiroun and others with extreme views
always create friction for their own political benefit and use the
media platform unfortunately which is offered to them. So they
are over represented in the media compared to the majority of
Muslims. (male3, group1)
It was felt that Muslims had faced greater alienation and dis-
crimination since 9/11, creating a sense of fear and anxiety.
Some stated that since 9/11 they had directly experienced ra-
cism for the first time and they were now exposed to racism on
a more frequent basis.
I remember I was working in a large international furniture
store, I was doing my undergrad degree, and a customer com-
plained about me because I was brown skinned and working
behind the counter, and I shouldnt be there because we are all
terrorists. She actually put in a formal complaint about me, and
there was another black girl who was working there, and she
put a complaint against her as well. And that was my first ex-
perience of racism, and yeah for me I started to experience
more and more racism after 9/11. (female2, group2)
Another participant described a sense of anxiety due to on-
going discrimination demonstrated by a reported increase in
hate crimes against Muslims. It was felt this climate of alien-
ation and discrimination resulted in Muslims turning inwards to
their own community to feel a greater sense of belonging and
closeness to their Islamic identity. Some were now leading a
more traditional and religious life.
Its like the whole racism thing as well, you know how you
adhere more to your own communities or ideas. (female1,
Some participants stated that although they did not consider
themselves to be strong Muslims, they found themselves iden-
tifying more as Muslims to combat feelings of isolation from
the wider community around them.
It has made us feel we have to question ourselves but in a
negative way. Not in a positive way, not kind of a spiritual
growth it is a fear that we are different and dont fit in with our
neighbours. We are questioning ourselves and also worried
about what our neighbours, what the people around are think-
ing about us. (female1, group1)
A similar theme was expressed by a male participant who
had been forced to become more knowledgeable about Islam as
he had to challenge viewpoints about radicalisation as well as
respond to attacks on his faith.
I think that after September 11th, there was a shift in the
wider Muslim community, that everyone was forced to take that
position where you became more defensive. I found myself hav-
ing towhereas before I didnt care about Islam, I wouldnt feel
the need to talk about it particularly at all, whereas people
wanted my opinion about terrorism and about where I thought
it came from, and suddenly I found I had to be knowledgeable
about it and I had to have an opinion about it. (male2, group2)
The same participant also noticed the wider Muslim commu-
nity (giving his parents as an example) harboured a sense of
fear regarding the wider process surrounding radicalisation and
as a result becoming more observant of their faith.
And I feel that communities have felt they are kind of threat-
ened by it, and what Ive seen happen is that even people who
might be described as moderate Muslims, everyone has to take
a position and their views kind of shift subtly. So my parents for
example, they started to…they became more religious as a re-
sult of it, they thought this is something important we have
to…maybe as a defence against that kind of terrorism, they
wanted to say we are proper Muslims, were doing these things
the right way, and people started to go to the mosque more.
(male2, group2)
Pathways and Psychological Processes of
1) Misinterpretations of Islamic Teachings
It was suggested that radicalised groups took advantage of
the ambiguity in the translations of Islamic texts and thereby
purposefully misinterpreted Islamic teachings.
If you start reading the different kind of translations that ex-
ist, theres a lot of disagreement with translations. Not that
ambiguous, but there is ambiguity. So again it depends, how it
is being interpreted, in certain context. (female3, group2)
Groups such as Al Muhajiroun misinterpret certain verses
that dont agree with their own views. (male2, group1)
It was thought that a general lack of knowledge of the key
fundamental principles of Islam amongst the Muslim commu-
nity played a part in misunderstanding of the true spirit of Islam.
This allowed pseudo-scholars to misinterpret religious texts
leading to the indoctrination of younger people.
Brainwashing tends to happen at an earlier age. You go to
someone and ask for an interpretation of Islamic verse or story
and its that misinterpretation that fuels that person. I think one
of the issues of the Muslim community is that they are not edu-
cated about Islam. (male1, group1)
Another point highlighted was the language barrier. It was
felt some Muslims were unable to fully understand Islamic
sources and therefore have only a superficial grasp of Islamic
concepts because they lacked knowledge of Arabic and thus
took at face value the misinterpretations of others.
Socio-Economic Inequalities
There was disagreement amongst participants about whether
inequalities played a part in radicalisation. Some felt depriva-
tion, disadvantaged backgrounds, and poor education created
psychological vulnerabilities in young people allowing them to
be radicalised.
The main reason why people turn to any kind of crime or
violence is due to deprivation, lack of education and poverty,
and poor parenting. I personally think that these people have
nowhere to go and all of a sudden they find a bunch of people
they feel a part of, like being a part of a family; and they will
make sacrifices as they have nothing to live for anyway. Its
poor self-confidence, poor self-worth, low self-esteem. (female2,
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
I think that subtle wider community mind shift is something
which has played out in those vulnerable people, whether that
is through deprivation or poverty, or people who are more
psychologically vulnerable and more inclined to hold extreme
views, and its pushed them into that. (female3, group2)
Parallels were also drawn between the 7/7 bombers and those
taking parts in the London riots. It was felt that the London
riots were also a result of deprivation, economic hardship and a
lack of access to education.
When the London riots happened, oh its because of these
children, you know, theyve got no hope, theyre deprived, and
tuition fees are going up and therefore they did this because
theyre desperate. That to me, is a similar argument for the 7/7
bombers, it kind of feels like, well no actually hang on a minute,
yeah there are these issues going on when there is economic
hardship. (female1, group2)
This was countered by others who highlighted the fact many
misled young people who held extreme views were well edu-
cated and from relatively well-off backgrounds and had not
experienced any major personal traumas or adversity.
When you look at most of those people who committed these
acts or atrocities, they were educated to degree level qualifica-
tions. Its not just a particular kind of naïve people from the
village. (male4, group1)
And I think we have to ask what made those people? Many
are highly educated, good background, and I know, I mean I
completely agree that there are maintaining factors, there is
deprivation, what happens in their families, but you would be
surprised many of them who have been accused of these acts,
they were otherwise described as very reasonable, very normal.
(male1, group2)
Tackling Radicalisation as a Means to Promote Social
1) Challenging Ideology through Islamic Values
Improved Islamic education highlighting Islamic principles
based on authentic sources was thought an effective way to
combat radicalisation. One participant highlighted that the Quran
states that killing innocent civilians is prohibited (Haram) thus
implying that using any acts of violence were against Islam.
Every Muslim also knows that suicide killing an innocent ci-
vilian is haram, it is clearly written in the Quran. (male2,
Another participant stated the Sunnah (practices, sayings and
tacit approvals of the Prophet Muhammed) expected Muslims
to adopt the middle path and not to stray away from this path
which may lead to extreme beliefs.
His path, the Prophet said in the Sunnah is the middle path
which teaches tolerance and from the middle path, the sub
paths emerge which are evils thus straying away from the mid-
dle path is like extremism. (male3, group1)
It was felt the promoting the true meaning of Jihad in its
wider context could be used to challenge extreme violent ide-
ologies because in Islamic teachings Jihad can only be carried
out under certain conditions and did not allow for the killing of
unarmed innocent civilians.
Say if you look at rules of Jihad, Islam has got a complete
doctrine of Jihad which is basically about principles of war.
And there are certain conditions which are laid down very ex-
plicitly. So say, for example, it has to be authorised by a le-
gitimate ruler of the state. You cannot kill someone who has
surrende red, you cannot kill someone who is unarmed, you can-
not kill a woman, you cannot kill children, you cannot destroy
crops, you cannot destroy trees, you cannot destroy buildings.
(male1, group2)
2) Fairer and More Inclusive Society
To combat radicalisation, it was argued that there needed to
be a focus on greater integration between different communities
with a broader education strategy aimed at the younger genera-
Coming from Bristol to London, you know its very segre-
gated, and there is not enough being done to integrate commu-
nities together. Even in terms of mosques, theres a separate
mosque for every community, so you know, I think people need
to integrate. And people need to learn about each other, there
isnt enough psychosocial education out there. (female2, group2)
Participants felt the onus for integration was often placed
upon Muslims alone and that all communities needed to be
actively involved in the process of integration. It was indicated
that Muslims often felt they were unwelcome and thus could
not integrate.
But integration needs to be from all sides. (female1, group2)
I think its not just a one way process of, oh Muslims dont
integrate, I think you need to feel like you are wanted to inte-
grate. (female1, group2)
Inequalities were not thought to be limited to the Muslim
community and that general social inequalities between rich
and poor led to deep divisions based along class lines. Conse-
quently subjects said that a fairer and inclusive society, one that
promoted a greater redistribution of wealth, would go some
way to tackling to help tackling radicalisation.
It is not just the Muslim community thats a victim of depri-
vation etc. there are these wider social issues which have noth-
ing to do with Muslims or Islam, but are much more to do with
how the state is structured, the nature of the fact that people go
to…the way London I guess is set up, with these really big di-
vides between rich and poor. That people feel the need to find
some community so they all go together in one area, that is a
way I guess of providing that validation. (male2, group2)
Acceptance and Representation
There also needed to be greater acceptance by the Muslim
community of the existence of a problem involving radicalised
individuals and organisations and this may result in greater
chance of actively tackling radicalisation.
So I think the people should stop denying that there is no
problem because there is a problem. Again you can talk…until
unless you acknowledge that, you cant do something about it.
(male1, group1)
Unfortunately there are a lot of people in the Muslim com-
munity who bury their heads in the sand and say these people
dont exist. They do exist. (male3, group1)
The Muslim community also had to make they were properly
represented by limiting the influence of voices considered ex-
treme and who misrepresent Islam.
One of the things they have to do is to get rid of self-pro-
claimed Muslim community leaders. There are people inside
Muslim communities in Britain who are just very much vocal
about their views, and they just happen to get more attention,
and there is a vast majority. (male1, group2)
The participants strongly believed that the media had to be
more responsible in reporting Muslim issues and be more ac-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 295
curate in their representation of Muslims.
So I guess theres maybe educational work in terms of the
media and how they portray that, and where they go to look for
Muslim voices. (female3, group2)
And I guess separating Islam, so for example, if on behalf of
media and people who talk about it, rather than labelling that
as a version of Islam, I think it would be helpful to label that as
what it is, which is Al Qaeda, which is Taliban, which is
Wahhabis. (male1, group2)
Meanings of Radicalisation
The focus groups felt radicalisation radicalisation was a term
that was associated with Muslims with connotations of terror-
ism and violence. This relationship between Islam and violence
was seen by Langhor (2004) who believed use of the term
radical Islamist was a euphemism for violent Islamist. It was
felt that the wider community viewed anything that was culturally
foreign to this country as being radical. This view that Islam is
at odds to the Western way of life was described by Kirkby
(2007) who argued wider society saw radical Muslims as being
a danger to their cultural and political values. Research done by
Gallup (2009) solidified this belief showing that over a quarter
of British people believed that Islamic religious practices threa-
tened their way of life.
Wellbeing of the Muslim Community
The focus group subjects suggested that media coverage was
Islamophobic magnifying the influence of radical organisations
such as Al Muhajiroun. The UK Islamic Human Rights Com-
mission (2009) have argued that the media legitimised the voice
of those who held extreme beliefs by focusing on fringe groups
that the majority of Muslims found unacceptable. The core aim
of Al Mujahroun, a group that has been repeatedly banned and
so it operated under different disguises, was to overthrow the
British Government for the formation of an Islamic Caliphate
and implementation of an extreme interpretation of Shariah law
(Briggs & Birdwell, 2009). However, focus group participants
distanced themselves from these aims and felt they were not in
keeping with the wishes of the wider and majority Muslim
Participants themselves felt a growing sense of alienation
since September 11th citing both personal and the Muslim
communities’ experiences of discrimination and hostility caus-
ing feelings of fear and anxiety. Clearly experiences of dis-
crimination may make Muslims more vulnerable to developing
mental illness as well as undermine their feelings of wellbeing
(Karlsen & Nazroo, 2002; Williams et al., 2003). There was a
noticeable increase in expression of a religious identity in the
Muslim community with greater attendance at mosques and
Islamic forms of dress. These changes were thought to be a
response to a need to belong and a sense of anxiety due to
growing alienation and more discrimination. This increase in a
Muslim, as opposed to British, identity was seen in work done
by the Pew Institute (2006) who stated that more than three
quarters of British Muslims saw an increasing sense of a reli-
gious identity amongst their community. Some in the focus
group felt females who had adopted an increased Muslim iden-
tity found their freedoms curtailed. This in contrast to a study
done by Glynn (2002) in East London where Bengali females
believed by drawing on their religious identity they were able to
gain greater personal freedoms. Whilst Bhui et al. (2008) also
in East London found that Bengali Muslim girls who expressed
a more traditional identity in terms of their clothing were less
likely to suffer from emotional distress. Soriano et al. (2004)
found a stronger sense of ethnic identity amongst minorities in
the US was protective against violence.
Sociological and Psychological Processes of
There was a feeling that deprivation resulted in hopelessness
and a lack of belonging in young people resulting in low levels
of self-esteem and poor confidence and that this in turn made
them vulnerable to radicalisation. These thoughts fall in line
with Gurr (1970) who cited that relative deprivation created a
psychological discomfort causing rebellion. In support of this
inequality theory Bloomberg (2004) found a direct association
between economic decline of a nation and the occurrence of
terrorist activity. There is also clear evidence that Muslims
suffer from significant levels of socio-economic deprivation in
the UK. One third of Muslims of working age have no qualifi-
cations, the highest proportion for any faith group while unem-
ployment amongst British Muslims is three times the national
average (Choudhary et al., 2005). However, the inequality hy-
pothesis for radicalisation was challenged by participants in our
focus group study; they highlighted that recruits into radical
Muslim organisations were often well educated and from rela-
tively well-off backgrounds. Krugger and Malečková (2009)
found Hizbullah recruits had higher than average educational
attainment whilst in the West Bank and Gaza wealthier mem-
bers of the community were likelier to advocate violent action.
In the UK those convicted of terrorist related offences are simi-
lar in their socio-economic profile to the wider public.
There was agreement in the focus group that extremists mis-
interpreted teachings from Islamic teachings taking advantage
of the lack of religious literacy in the Muslim community. A
similar viewpoint was expressed by Choudhary (2007) who
argued that young British Muslims were less able to resist ex-
treme Islamic doctrine because they lacked the religious educa-
tion and that foreign-born Imams found it difficult to counter
the message of extremists as they themselves did not know
English and could not relate to the experiences of Muslims who
were born and brought up in the UK.
Tackling Radicalisation as a Means to Promote Social
The groups felt that reducing inequalities and promoting in-
tegration would allow Muslims and the wider community to
live in a fairer and more inclusive society enhancing wellbeing
and cohesion. Educational strategies aimed at the younger gen-
eration to inform them of other cultures were thought to be a
strategy to promote mutual respect and integration. Furthermore,
integration can improve educational opportunities, yet currently,
in high Muslim population areas such as Bradford and Black-
burn, young people are attending schools which are over 90%
Muslim (Burgess & Wilson, 2004). Segregation along ethnic
lines was also seen as the root cause of violent disturbances in
former mill towns involving Muslims and white working class
youths (Cantle, 2001).
There was agreement that challenging extremist organisa-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
tions that perpetuate violent ideologies using legitimate Islamic
scriptures and warning against extremism, preaching tolerance
and forbidding the killing of innocent civilians was an effective
way of combating radicalisation. The view that Islamic educa-
tion can reduce radicalisation can be seen from the idea that
increased religiosity results in individuals rejecting violence
due to fear of moral and ethical wrongdoing created by follow-
ing their religion properly (Taarnby, 2005).
All interventions may attract criticism from one or other sec-
tors of society. The Prevent strategy itself has been criticised
for its mono-cultural focus on the Muslim community leading
its members to feel that they have been singled out as a threat
(Kundani, 2009). There has also been criticism from white
working class communities that large amounts of public re-
sources are being used on projects and organisations purely for
use by Muslims(An-Nisa Society, 2009) with some funds sup-
porting radical Muslim groups that oppose British political and
social systems and so undermining social cohesion (Maher &
Frampton, 2010).
A weakness of the study was that in the first focus group
there was recruitment of overseas female students who had not
resided in the United Kingdom for a lengthy period of time.
This was rectified in the second focus group by specific snow-
ball sampling aiming to recruit females who had been living in
the country for more than five years. Another issue was there
was a clear age gap in the first focus group between male and
female participants that may have resulted in some female par-
ticipants finding it more difficult to speak up amongst elders.
Older participants and men did speak more often. The vast
majority of participants were residing in the London area with
little representation from Muslims living elsewhere in the coun-
try. There was an absence of converts to the Islamic faith, and
this group is important given that one-fifth of convictions for
terrorism relate to converts (Roy, 2008). It may have been dif-
ficult to garner the true opinions of individuals in a focus group
as participants are unlikely to disclose viewpoints that are ex-
treme or in support of violence for fear of possible prosecution
and expressing opinions that are different from the majority of
participants. There was varied representation of different eth-
nicities and religions amongst the researchers, with both non-
Muslims and Muslims having input but any bias borne out of an
individuals’ background and beliefs has to be considered.
Islamophobic media coverage, alienation and discrimination
affected the wellbeing of the Muslim community, resulting in
more orthodox religious identity and practice. This intensifica-
tion may make such youth vulnerable to radicalising influences.
Drivers of radicalisation were perceived to include inequalities
and misrepresentation of Islamic teachings. Solutions to tackle
radicalisation in order to promote social cohesion included
authentic Islamic education, increased integration, reducing ine-
qualities and greater acceptance by the Muslim community
alongside more responsible journalism. Although further work
can be undertaken and is needed in Muslim communities, there
also needs to be work done on non-Muslim communities, to
assess the impact of extremism on social cohesion and wellbe-
Priyo Ghosh assembled and ran the second focus group,
analysed the data for both focus groups as part of his MSc The-
sis and completed the first draft. Nasir Warfa helped design the
study and secure ethics approvals, chaired the Community panel
to help aid recruitment, ran the first focus group and supervised
Priyo Ghosh’s MSc thesis. Angela McGilloway helped with the
second focus group and analysis of the data. Imran Ali worked
to engage with community panel to assemble the focus groups,
and commented on drafts of the thesis, offering specific Islamic
insights on the data. Edgar Jones designed the study and help
secure ethics approvals as part of a large mixed methods study
of radicalisation. Kamaldeep Bhui was lead investigator, de-
signed the study and secured ethics approvals as part of a large
mixed methods study of radicalisation, worked to engage with
the community panel to assemble the focus groups, ran the first
focus group and edited the final draft. These drafts were then
reviewed by all authors who commented on a final version.
There were no sources of funding or conflicts of interest.
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