The path into terrorism in the name of Islam is often described as a process of radicalisation. But to be radical is not necessarily to be violent. Violent radicals are clearly enemies of liberal democracies, but non-violent radicals might sometimes be powerful allies.
This report is a summary of two years of research examining the difference between violent and non-violent radicals in Europe and Canada. It represents a step towards a more nuanced understanding of behaviour across radicalised individuals, the appeal of the al-Qaeda narrative, and the role of governments and communities in responding.
The British think tank Demos has published a report on radical Islam, the bottom line of which is that it can be defeated by making it boring or ridiculous. The report, entitled “The Edge of Violence: A Radical Approach to Extremism”, examined the differences between violent radicals and non-violent radicals, finding that violent radicals had a poor understanding of Islam, compared with non-violent radical followers, and had more in common with football hooligans.
The study also found the “cool factor” was the biggest draw to al-Qaeda and that terrorism could be defeated by demystifying and deglamorizing jihad. Satire could be used to undermine any “cool” image and governments should channel radical Muslims’ rebellious tendencies into activities like overseas volunteering.
Demos interviewed 200 people – experts, young Muslims and 58 violent radicals in the UK, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and France.