University of Cambridge > > Computer Laboratory Security Seminar > What could we actually do about radicalisation, both online and offline?

What could we actually do about radicalisation, both online and offline?

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Laurent Simon.


The Islamic State was declared three years ago this month, and is still managing to be an effective enemy in Iraq and Syria in the face of a combined coalition of over 70 countries, including the largest armies in the world. They are also staging ever more attacks globally, recently in Indonesia, Iran and the UK, either directly or through inspiring independent actors. Their military success has been surprising to some, but they boast some of the most committed fighters in the world, which is far more decisive in battle as has been commented on throughout history, and indeed in the Qur’an (“if there are 20 among you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish 200.” 8:65). Much has been written and said on the ISIS phenomenon, but few have researched the motivations of the fighters through their own words. If they were listened to more, rather than dismissed as “crazy” or “evil”, we would have more understanding of how to proceed. As it is, our media and politicians are falling into every trap being set through reinforcing the “them and us” narrative ISIS - and so many other extremist groups – thrive on, through targeting Muslim populations either negatively (through assigning blame and responsibility) or positively (by assigning funding to Muslim-only populations). This talk first presents the research on motivations to join ISIS and other extremist groups, motivations which are largely to do with identity and belonging, before suggesting what that means for preventing joining and also for giving openings to leave and become integrated into their home countries.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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