Re-Examining the Radicalization of Religious Converts

  • Author / Creator
    Jones, David A.
  • This thesis asks two interrelated questions: why are religious converts significantly overrepresented among acts of terrorism in North America and Europe, and can this tell us anything about the nature of radicalization in general? To answer these questions, three key arguments are advanced. First, it is argued that in failing to recognize the centrality of ideology to terrorism, and downplaying the cognitive aspects of radicalization, many pre-existing explanations of radicalization are incomplete. Second, this thesis argues that because of this discomfort with the ideological dimensions of terrorism, previous studies of convert radicalization have focused too much on structural variables (i.e. socioeconomic status, previous criminality, etc.). Finally, based on case study induction, this thesis proposes a new variable that may explain pieces of the radicalization process, specifically for converts: disappointment. In introducing this new variable, the thesis also suggests that researchers ought to pay more attention to the religious, social, and emotional factors that occur post-conversion when attempting to explain convert radicalization.

    Notably, this thesis’ argument is based off two novel sources of data: first, the Radicalized Canadian Converts dataset, and second, a collection of social media posts from a Canadian foreign fighter. Ultimately, the thesis argues that paying more attention to the stated intentions and justifications of violent extremists, and understanding how these beliefs intersect with their experiences is central to understanding how radicalization to violence occurs, and what can be done to stop it.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.