Radicalization as a Vector: Exploring Non-Violent and Benevolent Processes of Radicalization.

Ken Reidy


Successful radicalization posits three outcomes: extremism, terrorism or both. As these are undesirable, radicalization is understood as wholly malevolent and governments work to prevent and/or stop it. Nonetheless, a handful of scholars have recognized that the same radicalization process which results in either outcome may, theoretically at least, also have beneficial outcomes such as environmental awareness or human rights. This article explores one such outcome. Based on interviews with British Muslim aid workers (n=6) operating in Jihadist conflict zones post Arab spring and using constructivist grounded theory, it illustrates how the research participants radicalized to humanitarianism which resulted in them assisting the most plighted of Muslims by deploying to the most wanton of areas: ones commonly referred to as Jihadist conflict zones. Evidently, these destinations are shared with Jihadists and given the array of other observable similarities (socio-demographics and [pre-]mobilization behaviours), these morally opposed groups become conflated by the security services. This is further compounded by the fact that Jihadists manipulate and/or impersonate aid workers so as to funnel people and funds. To distinguish both, this article documents the benevolent pathway of the research participants and juxtaposes it to scholarly knowledge on Jihadist pathways. Socialization was revealed to be the key distinguishing feature rather than descriptive risk factors (such as ideology or moral outrage) because the process of radicalization was not found to be the start of the radicalized pathway. It concludes that benevolently radicalized Islamic groups constitute an effective means of pathway divergence for particular typologies by offering an attractive and prosocial alternative to Jihadism. This strengths-based preventative approach (“what’s right”) takes the form of a community-centric market competitor to Jihadism rather than a problem-based approach (“what’s wrong”) which only targets those at risk, but inadvertently tars the whole community in the process. 


Radicalization, Prevention, Vector, Benevolence

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