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You can be a jihadist without being a terrorist

You can be a Jihadist without wanting to kill people. One of the conclusions of a new PhD thesis

There are many ways to be connected to jihad, and only a few of them mean getting involved in violence or terrorism.

This could have been a short conclusion to the work of Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen, who has researched the subject for her PhD thesis, which she defended last week.

Jihadism is considered synonymous with radical Islam. The word Jihad is originally Arabic, translating as struggle. In the west, the word connotates an Islamic holy war against Western civilisation. But the new thesis points out that the devil is in the detail, and the concepts need to be unpacked. Radical islamists are not necessarily connected to terrorism or even al-Qaeda.

Part of something bigger

Ann-Sophie observed three terrorist trials for her study.

The individuals on trial and some of the people around them perceived themselves as part of something bigger – a kind of exclusive group that not everyone has access to.

They share norms, views, dress codes and language, explains Ann-Sophie.

»They perceive themselves as parts of a ‘shared we’,« she writes.

Read the article Terrorism research was an emotionally draining experience here.

Not all killers or terrorists

For some individuals, Jihadism makes them feel like they are ‘the chosen ones’, and that they can be active participants in their cause.

For others, it was enough to simply be a part of something and to have a network that provides financial, intellectual, social or material resources.

»There are only few of them that want to go out and kill people,« said Ann-Sophie at her PhD defence.

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