It is estimated that over 5,000 western Europeans have travelled to Iraq and Syria since fighting broke out in 2011. These foreign fighters have travelled to the Middle East to join the jihadist group Islamic State (often abbreviated as IS, ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh), a Salafist jihadist group that follows an ultraconservative branch of Sunni Islam. But what has driven these individuals to migrate to ISIS territory and serve the self-proclaimed Caliphate? Why have so many foreign fighters joined the ranks of Jihad? The underlying assumption is that the majority of European mujahideen have undergone a process of radicalisation and now believe that an offensive holy war is required to defend and expand Islam.
As the Islamic State surrenders territory as a result of international military intervention, there has been much debate in academic and policy circles about how ISIS fighters, particularly foreign fighters, will respond. Western security agencies worry that these combatants will return to their home countries or venture into neighbouring countries to launch attacks; there is concern about whether some of these fighters and their spouses can be reintegrated into society; and there is also concern about what to do with all of the children born in ISIS territory, who may soon be stateless kids because of a lack of proper documentation on marriages and births. Having the ability to identify, detain and prosecute radicalised returnees would be of great help to law enforcement agencies.
Credible information indicates that the next stage of violent jihad might be fought on European soil. But how should Western governments deal with arrested foreign fighters or returnees upon their return? What is the difference between a radicalised individual and a common criminal? Are authorities attuned to what the process of radicalisation looks like? The goal of this piece is to examine violent radicalisation as a much discussed but little understood process and provide a visual representation of four models that depict the process of radicalisation towards violent extremism that manifests itself in terrorism.
Muro, Diego. 2016. "What does Radicalisation Look Like? Four Visualisations of Socialisation into Violent Extremism." Notes Internacionals CIDOB 163 (December). http://www.cidob.org/en/publications/publication_series/notes_internacionals/n1_163/what_does_radicalisation_look_like_four_visualisations_of_socialisation_into_violent_extremism