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Radical Atmosphere: Explaining Jihadist Radicalization in the UK

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2008

Brendan O'Duffy
Affiliation:
Queen Mary, University of London

Extract

In the months following the July 7, 2005, attack that killed 52 people and injured hundreds more, the British government was at pains to deny allegations that Britain was targeted by homegrown, al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists because of its Middle East foreign policy. Yet the government was privately aware by May 2004 that a “particularly strong cause of disillusionment amongst Muslims … is a perceived ‘double standard’ in the foreign policy of western governments (and often those of Muslim governments), in particular Britain and the U.S” (FCO/HO 2005). Specific causes cited were bias towards Israel vis-à-vis Palestinians; non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya; and “active oppression” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider “war on terror.” Other alleged causes included social and economic deprivation, Islamophobia (particularly following 9/11), and intergenerational clashes between first, second, and third generation Muslims. But little attempt was made either before or after July 7, 2005, to examine the interaction between these domestic and foreign sources of radicalization. This paper attempts to do so by examining the rhetoric and actions of a range of young British Muslims including: examples of 48 persons convicted of, charged for, or killed by violent jihad—evidence of young Muslim opinion on extremism and causes of violent jihadi terror in Britain. The evidence from this preliminary study, though not large enough to draw reliable statistical inferences, does suggest that not only is British foreign policy a significant source of alienation among young British Muslims, but that attitudes towards British foreign policy interact with and often reinforce domestic social, cultural, and economic sources of discontent. As explained in the literature review below, examining the links between perceptions of foreign policy towards the wider Muslim Ummah and sources of domestic discontent offers a more satisfying account of British Muslim radicalization than those offered by the dominant structural (social network theories) and “aggrieved actor” interpretations.I would like to thank Jonathan Githens-Mazer for organizing the PSA panel at the 2007 APSA Annual Meeting where I presented this paper. I would also like to thank Shah Miah for allowing me to cite evidence from his BA research project (Queen Mary, University of London); Emily Mclean Inglis and Anthony de Silva for research assistance; and Zamila Bunglawala for advice and data on British Muslims and the labor market.

Type
SYMPOSIUM
Copyright
© 2008 The American Political Science Association

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References

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