A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Mobilization For and Against Terrorism in the Muslim World


Mobilization For and Against Terrorism in the Muslim World

Project Details

Abstract: 

A terrorist group cannot long survive without the support of those who sympathize with the cause that the terrorists claim to represent.  This support requires and is expressed in beliefs and sentiments that justify terrorist violence over non-violent politics and terrorists over moderates as political leaders.  The general goal of this project was to use public opinion surveys of Muslim countries to track fluctuations in support for Islamist terrorism, and to understand the origins of these fluctuations in a way that can be used to undermine support for terrorism.  Thus repeated surveys were conducted for several Muslim-majority countries.

Primary Findings: 

1. At least twelve mechanisms of radicalization move individuals, small groups, and mass publics toward increased support for intergroup conflict and violence. There is no one profile trajectory of radicalization, and blocking any one mechanism is not likely to reduce radicalization significantly.

2. Hizb ut-Tahrir poses a challenge for security services: it wants what Osama bin Laden wants but believes that the time is not right for violence. Is Hizb ut-Tahrir a conveyor belt or a competitor for al-Qaeda? Efforts to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, especially in Western nations, could release Hizb ut-Tahrir cells in Central Asia from their inhibition from violence.

3. Suicide terrorists are more than 'smart bombs': martyrdom mobilizes terrorist sympathizers as well as disheartens targets.

4. Among self-selected Jerusalem-Day protestors in European cities, interest in martyrdom was not related to interest in using weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

5. Since 9/11, growing majorities of Muslims in the United States, United Kingdom, and Muslim-majority countries believe that the war on terrorism is a war on Islam.

6. Only about 5% of U.S. and U.K. Muslims believe that martyrdom attacks are justified in defense of Islam.

Methodology: 

Analyses were conducted using primary and secondary data collected from polls and surveys, interviews, newspaper reports, books and journal articles about terrorism.

Timeframe

Project Period: 
May 2005 to May 2009