Sadi Shanaah

Under pressure: Muslims’ engagement in counter-extremism

In recent years, many Western countries have designed counter-extremism policies that emphasize the need to mobilize and support Muslim communities’ action against Islamist extremism. Both the media and the majority society also put pressure on Muslims to “do something” about Islamist extremism. At the same time, Muslims in the West are increasingly viewed with suspicion and even hostility, which is reflected in high levels of anti-Muslim discrimination. On the backdrop of these crosscutting pressures, this dissertation examines the extent of Muslims’ willingness to engage in counter-extremism and factors that facilitate or hinder this engagement. It does so by employing a mixed methods approach with focus on the United Kingdom. Based on analyses of rich and new empirical data, it concludes that the majority of British Muslims do not show signs of alienation with respect to counter-terrorism policies and are willing to take action against Islamist extremism. Building on social movement research, factors that facilitate or hinder Muslims’ engagement in counter-extremism are theorized. Among the facilitating factors are trust in the source of action appeal, inner moral obligation to protect strongly held values, and perception of group efficacy. Hindering factors include the feeling of unfair responsibilization. Anti-Muslim discrimination is found to be positively correlated with counter-extremism engagement. The dissertation contributes primarily to the literatures on counter-terrorism and social movements. It offers recommendations to policy makers regarding mobilization of Muslim communities against Islamist extremism and contributes to improving the quality of the public discourse on Muslims and terrorism.

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