In bad faith: the link between religious conversion and violent extremism
Gibson, Brian J.
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Recent studies found a disproportionate number of converts to Islam taking part in radical activities as opposed to those born into the faith. While research linking conversion to radicalization is available, a gap exists in research examining what in the conversion process is causing this phenomenon. This thesis asks, what is the relationship between religious conversion and violent extremism? This study explores 38 individuals who converted to Islam and subsequently committed a radical act. The thesis investigates four hypotheses concerning sociological and psychological factors driving religious conversion. These driving factors are a lack of secure attachments, interpersonal connections, significant personal problems, and individuals with perceived grievances being targeted by recruiters. The most significant driving factor in radicalization was individuals who had significant personal problems in their lives leading up to conversion, especially if a previous connection to a radical milieu existed. Recruiters seeking targets of opportunity among aggrieved individuals to convert was not a significant driving factor. Religious conversion by itself should not raise red flags, but conversion with other underlying factors indicates a greater risk for radicalization. The underlying factors are the drivers of radicalization, and the conversion gives individuals a reason to manifest their radical tendencies.
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