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The Portuguese foreign fighters phenomenon: a preliminary assessment


Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter TerrorismJournal abstract
This paper analyses the phenomenon of a group of Portuguese citizens and Portuguese-descendants who went to fight alongside the Islamic State (IS) organisation and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. The article provides a new contribution to radicalisation by using a new dataset and an understudied case study: Portugal. It hosts a small Muslim community, which has not found itself under the spotlight of being a major concern, as regards the terrorist threat. Is it possible to find common underlying motivations driving young men and women to volunteer for jihad? Do young Muslims face different constraints that explain their involvement in militant activity, particularly being more vulnerable to factors such as socioeconomic marginalisation? Does socialisation in peer-to-peer ideological networks, and small-group recruitment within pre-existing radical milieus play a decisive role? By identifying biographical factors that stand out in two radicalisation theories – social network analysis, and the relative deprivation hypothesis –, it is possible to elicit what factors hold when applied specifically to the Portuguese case. The data provide support to socioeconomic explanations and group-level factors as the main mechanisms that lead converts to involvement in extremism and terrorism.

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