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SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell

Jihadi subculture and street culture: radicalization, resistance and narrative

Alternative title: Jihadistisk subkultur og gatekultur: fortellinger om radikalisering og motstand

Awarded: NOK 8.6 mill.

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2016 - 2021


Subject Fields:

An increasing group of marginalized young Muslims and converts have been attracted towards radical and violent interpretation of Islam. "Radicalization and resistance" studies the social and cultural factors of radicalization, and resistance against jihadism among Muslim youth. The project has discovered the wide-ranging resistance against jihadism, and has implications for policy developments and public discourse about Islam and terrorism. Sandberg has headed a research team who has in total interviewed 90 Muslim youth. The most important result is the monograph «Unge muslimske stemmer» (2018). The voices of the moderate Norwegian Muslims majority in this book covers conflicts between those with more moderate religious beliefs and those with extreme attitudes. An important finding is that violent jihadism is opposed daily in Muslim environments. The opposition is expressed through Islamic concepts (such as jihad, Sharia, shahid, Caliphate, kuffar, al-Qiy?mah) and through silencing, ridiculing and emotional resistance. Arguably, this is the most important resistance/deradicalization work taking place in contemporary society. Other than this, the project group has published about prevention of extremism, opposition against radicalization, Salafism, and 'everyday resistance' in several Norwegian and international publications. The project has also lead to several articles about jihadi radicalization based on open source data and especially online jihadi propaganda. The project team has attended research conferences nationally and internationally, to present findings from the project. The team has visited several high schools to talk about the project. In addition, there has also been work with the SAMKUL funded dissemination project "MuslimVoices" resulted in 10 videos released on social media. These have reached a wider audience and contributed to a public discussion about Islam. The project team has arranged and participated in conferences and workshops throughout the project period. The project has also hosted the following guest researchers; L. Presser (USA), S. Bucerius (Canada), S. Colvin (UK) and A. Oksanen (Finland). They had lectures and participated in a series of meetings with the project team in order to exchange experiences and ideas. The project leader has been invited to the USA, Scotland and Colombia to present the methodological parts of the project. Internationally there has been a particular interest in «team research» and «team writing», which are considered as methodological and project designs that are highly innovative. It has also been written an article focusing particularly on this methodological innovation. The other main part of the project "Jihadi subculture and street culture", is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Oslo. This project examines the relationship between street culture and militant jihadi movements. Postdoc. Tutenges has spent one year in the field interviewing and spending time with Muslim street youths. Findings show that street youths are overwhelmingly opposed to jihadism because they perceived jihadists as evil people who harm innocents; bad Muslims who defame Islam; and cowards who break the 'code of the street'. This opposition resulted in avoidance behaviors, criticism and, sometimes, violence against suspected jihadist. A deeper understanding of this opposition may inform future efforts to reduce extremist violence and improve the lives of street youths. In June 2019 the project hosted a workshop. The topic was the link between crime and terrorism. The project leader has presented the relationship between street culture and jihadi subcultures at Oxford University (UK), Universität Bielefeld (Germany) and was invited by the president of the American Society of Criminology to present the project at a presidential panel in Atlanta. From the summer of 2019, Ellefsen was hired as a postdoc. Ellefsen has worked with data already collected on the project, his own previous data, and most importantly collected new data about racism and resistance against racism together with a scientific assistant and the project leader. This has led to a series of publications regarding discrimination of Muslims, racism and public oppression of radical groups. Through the new data collection the project has expanded its focus from the initial on religion, radicalization and resistance to also including racism, mobilization against racism and the links between the two. Especially the focus on the 'everyday' and new forms of mobilization (Black Lives Matter) represent new and important contributions on the research field. Combined the project has led to two books, eight book chapters, 20 scientific articles and there are still manuscripts that are in progress. 19 researchers from six different countries has been involved as co-authors. There has also been eight master students associated to the project.

The project has produced 40 texts, including books, book chapters, journal papers and master theses. We hope our public dissemination of results has had significance for the general perception of Muslims and Islam in Norway. We believe our publications (two books, 20 per-reviewed articles, eight book chapters and three drafts soon to be finished, as well as master theses) will contribute to as different research areas as terrorism and radicalization, Islam and Muslim studies, narrative analysis/theory, social movements studies, discrimination and racism, and qualitative methods. Two of the research assistants are now doing PhD's linked to topics from the project. The postdocs continue to work on related topics. The PI Sandberg has extended his expertise to include religion and Islam, which will benefit his further research and contribute to inter-disciplinary work in Norwegian academia, especially between the social sciences and humanities.

Jihadist radicalization is on the rise. Foreign fighters travel to Syria, and recent years we have seen several terrorist attacks in Europe. An increasing group of marginalized young Muslims - and converts - are attracted towards radical and violent interpretation of Islam. Many do not have a religious background, but come from a social context of street culture, illegal drug use and crime. This project aims at understanding the cultural and social dimensions of radicalization, focusing on narratives and counter-narratives. We also study Internet radicalization and resistance towards violent jihadism among young Muslims. "Jihadi subculture and street culture: radicalization, resistance and narrative" is divided into three subprojects: The first examines jihadist organisations' use of Internet and social media, and processes of internet radicalization. Data consist of 6-months of 'netnography' following the online activity of jihadist groups. The second subproject studies the subtle connections between street culture and jihadi subcultures. Data are a year's ethnographic fieldwork with ca. 20 youths engaged in crime and street culture. The aim of the third subproject is to identify and engage with counter-narratives to radicalization and extremism among moderate Muslims. Data for this part of the project consist of 50 qualitative interviews with young Muslims. The main R&D challenges is getting access to youths engaged in crime, and gaining the trust of young Muslims in qualitative interviews. However, PI and research environment has a lot of experience from studying sensitive issues and with similar ethnographic studies of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Insights into the processes of radicalization on Internet and in street culture will further efforts to prevent them. Discovering counter-narratives within Muslim communities will help when designing counter-terrorism policies, and balance public debate on radicalization.

Publications from Cristin

Funding scheme:

SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell