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Understanding Vulnerability and Resilience in Individuals to the Influence of Al Qa'ida Violent Extremism: A Rapid Evidence Assessment to Inform Policy and Pactice in Preventing Violent Extremism

NCJ Number
Tony Munton; Alison Martin; Theo Lorenc; Isaac Marrero-Guillamon; Farah Jamal; Angela Lehmann; Chris Cooper; Matthew Sexton
Date Published
November 2001
90 pages
This report presents the findings of a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) on preventing violent extremism.
This report examines factors (social, psychological and physical) that make a person more vulnerable or more resistant to participation in Al Qa'ida (AQ)-influenced violent extremism. Findings show that individuals involved in AQ-influenced violent extremism are demographically unremarkable and do not stand out as being different from other members of their community. Radicalization to violent extremism remains overwhelmingly a social process while the Internet reinforces violent extremist ideological messages and enables individuals to find and communicate with like-minded individuals and groups. In the West, individuals tend to be male, young to middle-aged, married and possibly with children; they may be working at a skill set lower than expected from their educational attainment. Women are increasingly becoming involved in terrorist violence in areas such as Chechnya and Palestine. Select religious beliefs were found to underpin engagement in AQ influenced violent extremism and martyrdom. A deeply religious upbringing or education was not found to be a necessary precondition for involvement in AQ-influenced violent extremism with a large number of individuals having a secular upbringing. However, both religious and extremist beliefs intensified as individuals became more involved in AQ influenced violent extremism. A particular personal event or crisis was also found to lead potentially to an individual re-evaluating previously held beliefs and being open to new ideas (cognitive-opening). Individuals involved in violent extremism are no more likely to suffer from mental illness or personality disorders than the general population. In the West, perceived injustice and violence against Muslims around the world may drive the participant, while both material (monetary) and non-material (status, power, glory, and honor) rewards were also found to provide motivation for involvement in AQ-influenced violent extremism. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes