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62 There is a difference between the initial message with which an activist or recruiter may approach a recruit and the arguments a 'foot-soldier' will ultimately espouse. The initial message is more personally relevant and will generally target the recruit’s sense of powerlessness, cultural alienation, injustice, or humiliation. Recruiters will approach with questions such as: are you not tired of being called a “Paki”; or are you not upset about not being able to get a job worthy of your skills? Islam—in this case a radicalized version—is promoted as the solution.23 Recruits are attracted by the idea of resistance. The message contains a power element as the extremist form of Islam is presented as the only means to influence power structures and thereby improve their opportunities in life. Ultimately, recruits are led to view this extremist version of Islam as the only legitimate way of ordering society according to God. Again, the message is appealing in its simplicity: follow the path of God and you and your community will ultimately regain dominance. Material success does not matter for a true soldier of God. For someone feeling powerless over one’s life, such empowerment is difficult to resist. Muslim extremism also proves particularly appealing to younger generations of Muslims due to their sense of 'statelessness.'24 Belonging to the global community of Muslims, the umma, is not a matter of being British or Pakistani. Further, by offering recruits a very personalized faith, recruiters present an identity to those for whom traditional ethnic or national affiliations are insufficient. The message of universalism fills the void created by cultural alienation. It also weakens bonds to a state with a government already seen as indifferent to Muslims’ concerns. Groups like Hizb-utTahrir, Al-Muhajiroon, and Al-Ghuraba contribute to this identity transformation. For example, a Hizb-utTahrir promotional video stated, “Muslims in this country need to answer some very serious questions. Where does their allegiance lie?” The speaker on the video left no doubt where his allegiance lay, saying “I think Muslims in this country need to take a long, hard look at themselves and decide what is their identity. Are they British or are they Muslim? I am a Muslim. Where I live is irrelevant.”25 As individuals start feeling more and more “Muslim” and see themselves as belonging to the umma rather than to British society, different events, policies, and life circumstances are tied together under the banner of a “war against Islam.” The state is conflated with the West, and both have conspired against Muslims to exclude them politically, economically, and socially, and, in the case of foreign policy, to conquer them


Witkorowicz. Olivier Roy (research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research) interviewed by Thalia Tzanetti (EWI Researcher). 25 Found at “Hizb ut Tahrir” BBC Newsnight, August 27, 2003. Transcript available at

militarily. Moreover, recruits are offered a rationale for their suffering, as well as someone to blame, as disparate issues are framed as evidence of a “widespread war against Islam” and a “simple parable of oppressors and victims” is established in the mind of the recruit.26 Over time, the plight of Muslims in the world—especially when inflamed by pictures of slaughtered Muslim children and burned houses in other countries—become a stronger source of motivation than their own relative deprivation. It is still a message of injustice, but it takes a different form.

What are the tipping points that can push or pull someone toward committing violence? In each of the case studies, religion is distorted into a rationale for the commission of violent acts, but is rarely if ever the objective cause of violence. Rather, religion is used as a sanction for violence and to incite recruits to commit violence. Their faith outstrips fealty to government and claims to break the state’s monopoly on violence: to these extremists, God’s law clearly trumps man’s law and they view themselves as soldiers of God. It is in the spiritual self-interest of soldiers of God to commit violent acts when “necessary.”27 This section examines how religion is used to sanction violence, and considers how the development of spiritual self-interest alters the normal calculus associated with risks and rewards regarding violence. The act of violence itself, however, is triggered by tangible, real world events, as examples taken from the previous chapters demonstrate. Religion is the only social institution perceived to be legitimate in terms of challenging the state’s monopoly in sanctioning violence.28 Consequently, the development of a culture of resistance to the state and a “war mentality” within the “deviant” society— including, especially, resistance to the criminal justice system, law enforcement and the courts—also charges potential extremists to violence and provides legitimization for the religion’s role in this incitement. Building upon the belief that civilization should not be manifested in its current form, extremist movements present violent opposition to the state, specific communities and members of the population, and sometimes to society at large as part of a just and “defensive war.” In the example of Israel, if the state— once seen as a holy vessel for hastening Redemption by the national religious camp—turns its back on the mission of settling the biblical land of Israel, then violence is not only justified, it is seen as essential. “Rabin was killed because he was stopping the Messiah, therefore violence was necessary,” said Daniel Robinson, a researcher of Israeli social history interpreting Amir’s actions and those who supported



House of Commons. Report of the Official Account of the Bombings. 27 Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam Rising, 200. 28 Juergensmeyer, The New Cold War, 33-4.