Beyond Stereotypes: Identity and radicalisation in the UK

Michael Thompson and Adam Palenicek


A sense of grievance about conflict overseas – and the UK's involvement in this – is seen as one of the main catalysts of radicalisation and extremist violence in the UK. Radicalisers employ discussion of international conflict to frame a stereotype of Muslim identity. They ask Muslims to see themselves as Muslim only, rejecting any national loyalties or cultural 'interference' and impose a stark moral duty to defend Muslims worldwide, who they portray as being under concerted attack from the West (both physically and ideologically).

Research carried out by Opinion Leader for three London Boroughs shows how the stereotypes employed by radicalisers can be counter-balanced by an appeal to the evolving cultural identity of young men at risk of radicalisation. Our research found that 'at-risk' individuals made positive identification with London (and West London in particular) as a diverse and tolerant city. This local, cultural identification was an important counterweight to the extremist stereotype of a homogenous Muslim identity and a barrier to acceptance of the radicalisers message.

The extremist threat