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VOL. X, Issue 1

Why is Contemporary Religious Terrorism predominantly linked to Islam? Four possible psychosocial factors

This article explores four psychosocial religious factors that may help researchers conceptualize and explain why religious terrorism is predominantly Islamic. Empirical work supports a link between individual differences in fundamentalism and out-group hostility. Combined with significantly higher self-reported fundamentalism among Muslims compared to adherents of other major religious groups, Muslims may be more susceptible to religious appeals to violence. This may be especially true when these appeals are minimally counterintuitive. Religious involvement has been suggested to cause coalitional commitment, which may relate to more hostile behavior to outsiders; however, religious involvement does not appear significantly higher in Muslims than among other religious believers. Religious commitment may relate to a stronger desire to protect one’s religious group through enhancing perceptions of threat. This has importance in the Islamic world due to the possibility of higher average religious commitment compared to other religious groups and the current political environment that often challenges the self-concept of Islamic believers. Finally, homogenization of Islamic beliefs is considered as an intergroup difference that may enhance social-psychological processes of intergroup conflict. Together, a broader emphasis on psychosocial religious factors may help explain the current rise of Islamic terrorism within the current political context of Islamic-West relations.

About ICCT

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…