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Cultural Approach of Radical Islamism in the Context of European Pluralism: Radical versus Moderate Muslims

Final Report Summary - CARP (Cultural Approach of Radical Islamism in the Context of European Pluralism: Radical versus Moderate Muslims)

This Advanced Marie Curie project CARP attempts to analyse the local level politics of Muslims in Europe. By framing this in a larger context of Islamist radicalisation studies, this project fills a much-needed gap in the larger, comprehensive analysis of Islamist radicalisation in Europe. The analysis of local level Islamist radicalisation became of paramount importance to the European Union (EU). The project sought to outline the importance of local level politics in the larger framework of public policy. As anticipated by fieldwork, the findings stressed the need to understand this issue. The European Commission (EC) and Member States launched an advocacy policies targeted at the good practices of prevention of radicalisation on local levels throughout the EU.

The main objective of the project is to determine the collective political identity of radical and non-radical Muslims through an ethnographical study of their cultural practices in the United Kingdom, France and Spain. Using an Interactionist approach, this Marie Curie research has focused on the rupture between radicals and non-radicals in order to analyse the political identity and the plurality within Muslims in Europe. Analysis of the cultural and ideological divisions within Muslim communities in Europe reveals the sociological identity of radicals and non-radicals. The research findings of this project provided a structure for the Islamist, radical collective identity whereby a paradigm of political and social exclusion emerged. This phenomenon raised the question of political plurality and ethnicities within Muslims in six different regions in the studied countries. The research fieldwork involved 80 semi-structured interviews and 10 in-depth ones throughout the six regions.

The qualitative survey of this study was strengthened by quantitative data gathered on demography, health, unemployment, migration, illiteracy, elections, and urbanisation concerning Muslims in the EU on a national and local level. Using the ideological publications of Jihadi and Takfiri leadership in Europe and Arab countries, a constructivist analysis was conducted in order to link local and national politics. Posted on the Internet, these understudied open sources materials have shed light on the political identity of radicals. Targeting political modernity as a political culture and collective history, the Jihadism constitutes a violent Millenaristic Utopia.

The research findings revealed that Islamist radicalisation is not the product of a resurgence of local tradition, but rather it is the expression of the disintegration of historical and traditional cultural identity. In addition, the research demonstrates that the cultural and social rejection of the political modernity's values (democracy, the nation-state, and cultural and political plurality) is the main political dimension of the Takfiri and Jihadi political agendas. In contrast, moderates Muslims view Islam as a cultural and collective memory and they base their rejection of the radicalisation on this collective identity.

In conclusion, the non-radicals Muslims, Liberals, Seculars, Sufis and traditional Muslim clerics are still considered political and cultural outsiders in the Muslim political-religious organisations such as the OIF (Islamic organisations of France), Muslim Communidad (Muslim's community) in Spain, and the British Muslim Community in the United Kingdom. The gap between these political-religious communities and the non-radicals should be the primary policy challenge of the EU counter-radicalisation agenda.

The rise of the Muslim brotherhood during the 2000's as leadership of Muslim's political religious organisations in Europe and the switch of politics to the Salafi Wahhabi leadership during the 2010's has underlined the new local political empowerment among Muslims in the studied countries. In this field, the local political expertise of the research revealed a new fundamentalist identity: neo-Salafism, a local, Wahhabi, Saudi fundamentalism that has opened a new field study relating to the local Wahhabisation of Muslims in Europe and North Africa.

Socio-economic impact of the project

The socio-economic impact on the EU has been raised in several domains. Firstly, the project fellow has been involved as an adviser within the steering committee of EC's Radicalisation Awareness Network (the network's mandate will end in 2016). The identification of best practices on local, counter radicalisation by civil society, local communities and religious leaders in EU are the main objectives of this policy. In addition, this political program funds several EU awareness working groups such as the health, web, NGO's, and victims of terrorism networks. Within the EC's policy-making network, the fellow's oral presentations component provided a valuable witness on several fieldworks carried out by the CARP Marie Curie project on local radicalisation. This 11 September 2011 launch also highlighted several working groups that have been sustained by the fellow's research expertise in order to organise international conferences, fields visits and interviews with local NGOs, local public institutions and clerics in France, the United Kingdom and Spain. The project provided a valuable expertise on the ethical dimension of the Islamist radicalisation study. Ethical issues have been raised and introduced within the network in the case of collecting testimonies of the victims of terrorism as vulnerable individuals.

In addition, the project has an innovative impact on the EC's politics with regard to radicalisation and counter radicalisation in Africa. Some project knowledge has been transferred to the study on Jihadism and Neo-Salafi ideologies in case of local communities in the Sahel. A successful application of the project with l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Social Sciences (Paris) will launch on January 2013 the 'European Social Sciences Network on Local Cohesion in the Sahel'. This academic network on the counter radicalisation through collective memory and cultural cohesion involves the EC policy makers in Africa as principal partners of the network with African local civic society in order to share knowledge and expertise.

Secondly, the impact of this advanced Marie Curie project within the radicalisation study in United States of America has been underlined through a collabourative projects and high-level conferences attended by the research fellow. The first collabourative project with Arizona State University on moderate Muslims in France has shown the importance of secular Muslims and launched several fieldworks studies with important United States collabourative academic projects (MINERVA) on local Muslim communities in Indonesia and Germany. The second impact of this research in the United States of America is linked to the conference organised by the fellowship project around 'Marc Sageman's talk series (Warwick University and Oxford University) on the turning point of violent radicalisation. This event launched several paper presentations in Washington and Tampa underlying the importance of local cultural approach to radicalisation for United States policy makers and experts in order to avoid a culturalist bias toward Islam and Islamist radicalisation in North Africa and Sahel.

Thirdly, this advanced Marie Curie project demonstrated an impact on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and particularly in Maghreb, by organising and funding an international workshop on local Salafism in Europe and the Maghreb under the collabouration of the Warwick University and the French National Research Consortium CNRS in Rabat, Morocco (Le Centre Jacques Berque, Rabat) on 28 June 2012. The international event gathered both European and Maghreb academics, policy makers and practitioners. The impact of this EC scientific event was underlined by Al-Jazeera North Africa editor in a fall article published in Arabic, French and English.

The participation of the fellow to the main international conferences on identity, religion and the Arab revolts launched a collabourative project between the Research Vice Chancellor of Algiers's University and Sciences Po Paris, funded by both countries (Ministry of Research and High Education) in the scientific research monitoring of five post-graduated students and a collabourative research, surveys and publications between both universities. The bilateral supervision of Algerian and French Masters and PhD students will contribute to enhance the scientific politics that have collapsed due to a decade of civil war.

Project website: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/people/belaala/

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