British Muslim youth: radicalisation, terrorism and the construction of the “other”

Academic interest in Muslim youth, Islam, radicalisation and Islamic-inspired terrorism exploded in the aftermath of 9/11, aimed at discovering the connection between Islam and terrorism, radicalisation and terrorism and how to detect and understand those who might become involved in them. Radicalisation as a process has increasingly become associated with Muslim youth, particularly male Muslim youth, as the precursor to Islamic-inspired violence against Western states. In an effort to understand these youths, the radicalisation of, or potential radicalisation of, Muslim youth is linked in the literature to alienation due to living in separate or parallel communities, identity crisis and intergenerational conflict. Because of this, terrorism, radicalism and extremism have become entangled with notions of identity, integration, segregation and multiculturalism, and this entanglement has made being a “Muslim youth” a precarious designation in the United Kingdom. This article examines some of the concepts that are central to the process of radicalisation as it is described in the literature. Using empirical data from a study with Muslim youth, the article examines the realities of the emergence of new transcultural identities and generational change amongst Muslim youth in the United Kingdom as a feature of their lived experience, rather than as evidence of a process of radicalisation.

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