Radicalism Leading to Violent Extremism in Canada: A Multi-Level Analysis of Muslim Community and University Based Student Leaders’ Perceptions and Experiences

Kawser Ahmed


Recently, more than 150 Canadians have joined the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East, causing alarm among both Canadian policy makers and the general citizenry. One of the most salient questions related to this development pertains to the factors that drove these young people to extremism. Most experts posit that extremism is caused by multiple factors embedded in our social, economic, geopolitical, and cultural processes. However, evidence to support such claims is still poor as limited primary research has been done in Canada to understand, explain, and identify radicalism’s causes, its main drivers, and its global-local linkages. Due to their emphasis on policy and federal law enforcement, studies of radicalism in Canada have proven inadequate in outlining a comprehensive understanding of the psycho-social conditions that might be associated with the radicalization process. 

Considering the above gaps, this research draws upon three studies in order to map the perceptions of the leadership of Islamic community-based organizations and university-based student organizations with regards to issues related to social conflict, terrorism, and counter-terrorism in Canada. The objective of this study is to both document the existence of radicalism and to determine the role of critical social issues that may potentially contribute to this phenomenon. In addition, this paper will hopefully elaborate on the results of a multi-level (macro, meso, and micro) analysis of the social factors which act as key drivers of radicalism through the use of qualitative methods and the aid of social conflict and social-psychological theoretical lenses. Finally, the study concludes by exploring the Canadian national counter-terrorism (CT) strategy’s effectiveness in countering radicalization. 


Radicalization; Counter-terrorism; Anarchism; Social Conflict; Level-wise Analysis of Conflict; Identity group

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