Closing the circle: the world through radical eyes
The broader theoretical approach so far has been one based on rational choice; the overall argument with relation to the choice of the Islamist radical occupation has relied on the concepts of occupational choice categories – standing, recognition and reward – which vary in terms of definition and implications as compared to other occupations, with the variance of radical interpretative frameworks. This chapter examines this latter concept more in detail: what these frameworks are, how they emerge and change along the radicalisation process and how they relate to similar concepts and processes existent in the literature, in particular framing theory in social movements. In other words, the approach now shifts to the level of language and ideas. When justifying their acts or attempting to convince others, individuals or organisations usually make reference to particular ideas, principles and, again, norms. When authors speak about particular grievances, these are usually extracted from individual or group statements which more often than not follow clear ideological lines. Empirically, it has been showed in the previous chapters that grievances as such hardly apply to individual profiles, and that, more importantly, motivational development occurs along completely different lines. What is then the role of this sense of grievance permeating through jihadi texts, how does it emerge and interact with other processes within Islamist radicalisation? Without a doubt, and in spite of the difficulty of establishing it on the ground, this sense of grievance is present in the jihadi discourse and to a greater extent than in the mainstream one. In the comparative survey conducted by Wiktorowicz (2005: 103, 105) it appears that the intensity of concern regarding issues such as discrimination differed between respondents attracted to the Al Muhajiroun movement and the control group. A good starting point to resolve this apparent contradiction is to note that those for whom grievances had more relevance were also those who were exposed to the movement ideology and/or embedded in the respective social environment. This does not mean to say that Al Muhajiroun members were in some way brainwashed, but simply to observe that functioning within a particular discourse might have an impact on whether and the way in which such grievances are perceived, or even create such grievances as a matter of primary concern. Some authors have indeed made reference to the perception of
grievances like discrimination, alienation, economic, social marginalisation and deprivation, rather than their existence as such (Buijs et al. 2006; Coolsaet 2005a, 2005b; Jordán and Trujillo 2006). It follows that the place to look for answers is the level of individual and group perception, and, by extension, the particular views, mind maps and ‘ways of thinking’ through which reality might be perceived. Pargeter (2008: 145) pointed out for instance the relationship between perception and certain kinds of discourse: ‘a minority within these communities [in the West] has cultivated a mindset and sense of grievance that has its foundations in the anti-Western discourse that permeates the Islamic world, including Pakistan’ (emphasis added). Similarly, Roy (2009: 18) addressed the relevance of the Al Qaeda narrative for the ‘imaginary perception of the conflicts’. This would mean for the analysis of the radicalisation process a change of approach from what the person is and experiences to how they interpret those experiences and what the impact of discourse and/or ideology on interpretation and perception might be. The focus is not the Al Qaeda ideology or narrative as such, but rather the frameworks existent in this type of discourse and others in the individuals’ social environment, including the mainstream. In other words, the questions to address are what are the types of frames that nourish this perception by affecting the way things are interpreted, how are these frames formed and adopted and how do they influence behaviour?