Studies, projects, iniziatives – Radicalization and e jihadism


TSAS is a network composed by governmental agencies, think tanks and universities, based in Canada but comprising also non-Canadian entities, committed to the study of different forms of radicalism and to the elaboration of strategies to counter and prevent violent extremism.

Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-economic versus Existential Pull Factors (2016)

Concerning jihadism, we recommend the research conducted by TSAS and published under the title “Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-economic versus Existential Pull Factors”, aimed at reconstructing some foreign fighters’ lives and motivations that led them to embrace jihadism. The study is based on interviews and exchanges held on social media with a sample of roughly 40 Canadian foreign fighters, enrolled in jihadist organizations that are active in Syria and Iraq. An interesting result of the research concerns the social background of interviewees: within the sample, no foreign fighter comes from deprived or poor areas; on the contrary, many have reached graduate-level education and belong to the middle class and, in some cases, middle-upper class. Moreover, the sample includes both young people with personal problems and people with stable and unproblematic lifestyles. The research is still underway; however, it is possible to learn about preliminary results by reading the Working Paper titled “Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-economic versus Existential Pull Factors” (July 2016).

From the methodological point of view, an interesting aspect of the research lies in the technique used to gathered data: faced with the impossibility to conduct face-to-face interviews with Canadian foreign fighters who live in war areas in Syria, researchers have collected empirical data based on long dialogues and exchanges with the selected fighters via social media. This is the only technique able to get the closest to these people’s direct experience and words as possible. However, the type of language, the shortness and the fragmentary nature of the messages exchanged on social media platforms make it very difficult to reconstruct their entire trajectory and motivations. Besides, such exchanges occur when the person is already “radicalized” and is thus more prone to provide an exclusively religious justification of their actions and of their adhesion to the jihadist cause. Therefore, the researchers’ conclusion comes as no surprise, as they claim that the choice of extremism might conceal or be driven by an authentic spiritual and existential quest for meaning. Other studies, on the contrary (Roy, 2016) claim that jihadists’ religiosity is the effect, rather than the cause, of embracing jihadism. In any case, this Working Paper efficaciously questions some heatedly debated issues in the relevant literature and represents a useful basis for comparison.

→ See the working paper


Institut Montaigne is a French think-tank which carries out research in the different domains of French public policies. It closely monitors phenomena linked to the issues of diversity, inclusion and immigration and to the Islamic presence in France and jihadist terrorism.

Un islam français est possible (2016)

The study “A French Islam is possible” (September 2016), based on a survey of French Muslim population, explores their relationship with religion, their religious beliefs and their religiosity. The research sheds light on the “silent majority” of French Muslims, who do not feel at all represented by or do not recognize themselves with those who advocate for a “rigorist”, ultra-Orthodox Islam in an authoritarian way. The study’s conclusions consists of a set of policy-recommendations concerning how the French State should manage its relations with Islam (how to organize an efficacious and real representation of French Muslims, how to engage with it, what issues should be dealt with urgently, how to manage funding for places of worship).

The research and report and the survey questionnaire are freely accessible: → Click here

Terreur dans l’Hexagone. Genèse du djihad français (2015)

The Institute financed the research conducted by Islam and Islamism specialist Gilles Kepel, with the collaboration of Antoine Jardin. The research results were collected in the book “Terreur dans l’Hexagone. Genèse du djihad français” – “Terror within the Hexagon. The genesis of French jihad”, published by Gallimard in 2015. In this work, this scholar describes the different evolutions of jihadism over time and claims that the origins of the success of jihadism in French-speaking societies should be traced in the increasingly profound identitarian cleavages that are more and more shaping Western countries, and France in particular. He deems it crucial to focus on the drivers of the diffusion of Salafism and to analyze how this ultra-rigorist and ultra-Orthodox movement aims at imposing its hegemony over the Muslim world.

Kepel’s position has been amply debated and harshly criticized, precisely because of the continuity he suggests between Salafism and jihadism, which many consider improper and damaging, arguing that it seems to justify a culturalist attitude towards Islam. However, for its historical reconstruction of jihadist networks and activities and for the description of the growing dividedness within French society, this work represents a significant contribution on the topic of contemporary jihadism by one of the most eminent scholars in this field.

→ Link to the webpage of the project

Banlieues de la République (2011-2012)

In 2011, the Institut Montaigne realized a research on the Parisian banlieues, based on the case-studies of Clichy-sous-Bois e Montfermeil, where the famous 2005 violent uprisings and clashes originated, spreading in all major French cities. The research concerned the following domains: housing, education and equal opportunities, access to labour market, security, political participation, religion. Of particular interest and usefulness are the findings which regard the spread and the meaning taken on by the Islamic religion in these deprived and marginalized areas. At the same time, the study clearly demonstrates that banlieues’ problems are primarily of a social nature and are caused by the lack or the scarce efficacy of public policies, and should not be interpreted according to a religious or an ethnic “lens”.

The research was conducted by a team coordinated by the Islam and Islamism expert Gilles Kepel. The results of the investigation were collected and commented in the books  “Banlieues de la République. Société, politique et religion à Clichy-sous-Bois et Montfermeil” and “Quatre-vingt-treize”, both published by Gallimard in 2012

See the webpage of the project

See the webpage of the project on Institut Montaigne’s websit


RAN is a netwrok of experts and practitioners in the domainof radicalisation and violent extremism (law enforcement officers, social workers, teachers, civil society representatives), created and managed by the European Commission. It is articulated in thematic Working Groups devoted to the understanding of radicalisation processes and to the development of counter-radicalisation strategies (e.g. within communities, families, prisons, schools…).

The Network has produced a series of freely accessibile Papers: → See the list of papers



The ICCT is a Netherlands-based think-tank providing analyses and policy-recommendations on preventing and countering radicalisation and various forms of violent extremism.

Italy’s Jihadists in the Syrian Civil War (2016)

The research paper, published in 2016, compares the stories of four jihadists of Italian origin (two women and two men, two natives and two with migrant background).

Read the research paper