Radicalisation – what is it? 18 November 2014

Soldier in patrolRadicalisation is a term that is almost ubiquitous in discussion and coverage of violent extremism and terrorism. It is often used with little consideration of the meaning of the term – what is radicalisation? What does it refer to? Is it a process? Can experiences of radicalisation be generalised? How can it be stopped or prevented?

These important questions are often difficult to answer because the term itself is contested, often referring to very different things depending on whether one is speaking to an academic, a member of law enforcement, a politician or a journalist.

To add depth to the debate, we spoke to two leading experts on radicalisation, Dr Mark Sedgwick and Dr Matthew Francis.

Dr. Sedgwick is currently an associate professor of Arab history, culture and society in the Department of the Study of Religion, and program manager for Arab and Islamic Studies, at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He has published widely, including a number of works on al-Qaeda, radicalisation and extremism.

Dr Matthew Francis is Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University on the Global Uncertainties: Ideology, Decision-making and Uncertainty project. This includes a number of projects related to terrorism and radicalisation, with a research interest in al-Qaeda, the Red Army Faction, and far-right movements. He also co-ordinates the website RadicalisationResearch.org which presents academic research on radicalisation for a wider non-academic audience.

Their interviews with us are revealing, and essential reading for anyone who is interested what leads people to violence.

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