Radicalisation of terrorists is a two-step process

On Tuesday, a video released by ISIS showed 8 men purported to be the Sri Lankan attackers pledging allegiance to the terror group. All of the men have their hands placed together and are masked, except one. That man, identified as Zahran Hashim, is leading them reads the caption by ISIS Image credit: CNN and Amaq news agency.

The sister of a suicide bomber is bewildered that her highly educated brother was responsible for a horrific attack in Sri Lanka. In hindsight however, she says his deepening religious beliefs and social withdrawal signalled his descent into extremism. Quote.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Samsul Hidaya said Mohamed had been educated to the highest level but became increasingly withdrawn and intense as he descended into extremism.

“My brother became deeply, deeply religious while he was in Australia,” she said.

“He was normal when he went to study in Britain, and normal when he came back. But after he did his postgraduate in Australia, he came back to Sri Lanka a different man.

He had a long beard and had lost his sense of humour. He became serious and withdrawn and would not even smile at anyone he didn’t know, let alone laugh.”

Daily Mail end quote.

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed spent time in the UK and Australia. In 2014 he was under the watchful eye of the Australian Joint Counter Terrorism Team due to his association with a known Melbourne extremist. His sister believes his conversion to extremism happened in Australia, but this is not certain.

Unfortunately, even today very little is known about the conversion to extremism process. Six years ago the UK analysed ten years worth of conversion and radicalization data. Quote.

Our preliminary research shows that the radicalisation of Muslim converts is most frequently a two-step process. The first step involves conversion to a new faith. The second stage usually involves converts radicalising as a result of social interaction.

It is less common for converts to self-radicalise in isolation, which contradicts the popular idea that terror suspects are radicalised solely from computers in their bedrooms. The process which often involves the convert developing a more extreme interpretation of their faith to legitimise or justify violence generally takes months or years.? End of quote.

The Conversation

They also found a disproportionate number of homegrown converts took the second step into extremism. Quote.

?converts represent between 2-3% of Britain?s 2.8 million Muslims. It is perhaps surprising, then, that our research shows converts have been involved in 31% of jihadist terrorism convictions in the UK from 2001 to 2010.? End of quote.

Two factors which emerged from the British study are that homegrown converts are more likely to become radicalised and that radicalisation involves social interaction– which points to a religious mentor.


Hidaya thinks her brother’s conversion was evidenced by an intense religious life and withdrawal from his previous social life. quote.

Psychological research on radicalisation indicates that a ?transmission belt? from religious belief to terrorism does not exist. Therefore, converting to Islam is not an indication that a person will radicalise.? End of quote.

It’s reassuring to know that conversion to Islam is not an indication of a propensity for terrorism but if we want to get serious about thwarting the process of conversion to extremism it is clear that much more research needs to be done.