Ties to non-violent Islamism are strongly associated with an eventual embrace of jihadism, according to a new study that explores the trajectories of British jihadists.
In "For Caliph and Country: Exploring How British jihadis Join a Global Movement," researcher Rachel Bryson seeks to find out how a radical global ideology has captivated so many people living in the United Kingdom.
More than three-quarters of 113 randomly selected British jihadists studied were linked with non-violent Islamist organizations and networks prior to their radicalization toward jihad. For this study, jihadists include people who have engaged in terrorist operations, active supporters, and facilitators of jihadi activity.
While there is no universal path to jihad, the report shows that "the vast majority of our sample moved towards jihadism after their exposure to non-violent Islamist ideologies."
Many of the people profiled were radicalized through "personal connections," or after attending Islamic institutions, including several mosques featuring Islamist preachers.
"At least 17 per cent of our sample attended talks by Islamist preachers at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London," including Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical imam suspended in 2002 who continued to offer radical sermons outside the mosque's gates. Abu Hamza "was also a leader of 'Supporters of Sharia,' an Islamist group."
Several prominent terrorists committed attacks after listening to Abu Hamza preach, including one of the suicide bombers in the July 7, 2005 London subway attacks that killed 52 people.
"Individuals in our sample also had connections to Islamist bookshops or markets that sold Islamist materials," the study concludes.
Click here to read the full report.
In 2016, a study by the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics suggested that membership or ties to non-violent Islamist organizations can be associated with an individual's trajectory towards violence and terrorism.
More than half of the prominent jihadi terrorists in that study were previously connected to Islamist groups that claim to be non-violent, including "bodies that are not necessarily political activist organizations but form a functioning arm of existing Islamist groups, such as youth wings, student associations, and other societies." One in four of the 100 Salafi-Jihadi figures examined had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliated groups.