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Religious Radicalisation, Terrorism and Extremism

What is Religious Radicalisation?

According to the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales publication, Systematic Review in Preventing Violent Extremism, Radicalisation is best viewed as a process of change, a personal and political transformation from one condition to another. Recent scholars argue that becoming radicalised is, for most people, a gradual process and one that requires a progression through distinct stages and happens neither quickly nor easily (Horgan, 2005; Sibler and Bhatt, 2007). So a person does not become radical overnight, although the influence of an incident which may act as a ‘catalyst event’ (such as experiencing an act of discrimination, a perceived attack on Islam such as the 2003 war on Iraq, or a ‘moral crisis’ with the death of a loved one) may accelerate the process. For instance, Al-Lami (2009: 2) notes that the majority of female suicide bombers in Iraq are thought to have had family members killed by either multi-national or state forces in the country, triggering their own recourse to terrorism, in what can be seen as an act of vengeance.

Youth Justice Board (2012) Preventing Religious Radicalisation and Violent Extremism -


How does Religious Radicalisation evolve in an individual?

There are currently several studies and models that identify radicalisation as a process comprising several phases. For example, the New York Police Department’s model of radicalisation distinguishes four stages in the process, as follows:

  • stage 1: Pre-Radicalisation
  • stage 2: Self-Identification
  • stage 3: Indoctrination
  • stage 4: Jihadisation

According to the NYPD each of these phases is unique and has its own signature. All individuals who start this process do not necessarily go through all phases but the individuals who go through all the stages are very likely to be involved in the planning or implementation of a terrorist act.

For more information please refer to:

Based on available background information Taarnby gave an example of an 8-stage recruitment process of the Hamburg cell as follow:

  • individual alienation and marginalisation
  • spiritual quest
  • process of Radicalisation
  • meeting and associating with likeminded people
  • gradual seclusion and cell information
  • acceptance of violence as legitimate political means
  • connection with a gatekeeper in the know
  • going operational

For more information please refer to:

Gill's Pathway Model is another model off radicalisation. According to this model individuals go through four stages in their path to suicide bombing:

  • broad socialisation processes and exposure to propaganda
  • experience of catalysts
  • pre-existing familial or friendship ties
  • in-group radicalisation

For more information please refer to:

P. Gill, “Suicide Bomber Pathways among Islamic,” November 2008

Although these models recognise different stages, they all agree that the Radicalisation takes time to evolve within an individual. The stages are not sequential and a person may not go through all the stages to reach a certain critical stage.


How Could Society deal with Religious Radicalisation and Extremism

Being Muslim Being British (BMBB)’s method of exposing participants to a multiplicity of value priorities was measured by using pre and post testing. This used group activities which were structured to enable participants to explore the implications of the whole of the value spectrum. The group discussion data showed, as hypothesised, significant gains in the group discussions as participants were enabled to deploy a greater range of values, and to think in more complex ways, as measured by Integrative Complexity (IC). According to the Integrative Complexity literature, and in line with RIVE research and prevention initiatives, such changes predict pro-social rather than violent means to resolve conflict. This is evidenced in the results of the empirical studies of participant’s who after participative engagement including exploring and reflecting on their IC/Values, have shown a significant shift towards pro-social conflict styles of Collaboration and Compromise. The overall picture, despite the lack of significance in some of the written dilemma data, supports the theoretical model and efficacy of this IC/values complexity based intervention, designed particularly for primary prevention. New projects currently underway examine the long-term effects of the intervention as well as the effectiveness of the model in cross-cultural, cross-extremisms adaptations.

For more information please refer to:

Liht, Jose and Savage, Sara. "Preventing Violent Extremism through Value Complexity: Being Muslim Being British." Journal of Strategic Security 6, no. 4 (2013): 44-66.