Research finds social exclusion creates jihadists

An international study of young Muslim men has revealed that radicalisation follows a sense of isolation from society.

University College London (UCL) researchers were part of an international team that used neuro-imaging techniques to map how the brains of radicalised individuals respond to being socially marginalised.

The research opposes the common western understanding that other variables, such as poverty, religious conservatism and even psychosis, are dominant drivers of jihadism, instead claiming to confirm hat exclusion is a leading factor in creating violent jihadists.

Identifying 535 young Muslim men in Barcelona, the Spanish city where ISIS supporters killed 13 and wounded about 100 people in 2017, the study scanned the brains of 38 second-generation Moroccan-origin men from that cohort, who had ‘expressed a willingness to engage in or facilitate violence associated with jihadist causes’.

Later scans showed that the neurological impact of being excluded meant that when issues were raised that the individual had not previously considered inviolable they became far more important and were deemed to be worth fighting for. This included issues such as introducing Islamic teaching in schools or unrestricted construction of mosques.

Nafees Hamid, the study’s co-lead author, said: “This finally dispels such wrongheaded ideas. The first ever neuro-imaging study on a radicalised population shows extreme pro-group behaviour seems to intensify after social exclusion. This latest research has shown how values start to become sacred and indicates that social exclusion makes non-sacred values behave like sacred values, which in turn makes people recalcitrant and prone to violence.”


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