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Haji 2003

Social exclusion & radicalisation

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Of those identified, 38 second-generation Moroccan-origin men, who had “expressed a willingness to engage in or facilitate violence associated with jihadist causes”, agreed to have their brains scanned. The results showed a striking effect when they were socially excluded by Spaniards while playing a virtual simulation called Cyberball, a ball toss game with three other players who abruptly stopped throwing them the ball.

Later scans showed that the neurological impact of being excluded meant that when issues were raised that the individual had not previously considered inviolable – such as introducing Islamic teaching in schools or unrestricted construction of mosques – they became far more important and were deemed similar to “sacred” and worth fighting for.





The research challenges the prevailing belief among western policymakers that other variables, such as poverty, religious conservatism and even psychosis, are dominant drivers of jihadism. “This finally dispels such wrongheaded ideas,” said the study’s co-lead author, Nafees Hamid of UCL. “The first ever neuroimaging study on a radicalised population shows extreme pro-group behaviour seems to intensify after social exclusion.”

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