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  • 1.
    Nilsson, Marco
    Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Global Studies.
    Foreign Fighters and the Radicalization of Local Jihad: Interview Evidence from Swedish Jihadists2015In: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, ISSN 1057-610X, E-ISSN 1521-0731, Vol. 38, no 5, p. 343-358Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Modern jihadism has experienced two distinct crises. The present study analyzes recent developments in jihadism, which can be seen in connection with efforts to solve the latest recruitment crisis of global jihad, and is based on comparative interviews with eight Swedish jihadists defined as foreign fighters. The study identifies three new trends evident in the interviews comparing jihadists active in Syria with those who fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia: socialization to global jihad, normalization of jihad, and an increasing use of the doctrine of takfir (i.e., ex-communication). This can be described as indicating the radicalization of local jihad, as the territorially based jihad, championed by Abdullah Azzam, and the global jihad of Osama bin Laden meet in the territorial realities of Syria and Iraq.

  • 2.
    Nilsson, Marco
    Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Global Studies. Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Learning Practices inside and outside School (LPS), Communication, Culture & Diversity @ JU (CCD@JU).
    Interviewing Jihadists: On the Importance of Drinking Tea and Other Methodological Considerations2018In: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, ISSN 1057-610X, E-ISSN 1521-0731, Vol. 41, no 6, p. 419-432Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The field of terrorism research has arguably long been characterized by a separation of the scholars from their subject of inquiry. Interviews can be used to bridge this chasm, but making contact with potential interviewees, conducting interviews, and analyzing the data pose unique challenges when conducting research into jihadists, especially active ones. This article focuses on the author's experience of interviewing both former and active jihadi foreign fighters. It is specifically intended to contribute to a better methodological understanding of conducting first-hand empirical research into jihadi foreign fighters and builds on field work conducted in Sweden, Iraq, and Lebanon.

  • 3.
    Nilsson, Marco
    Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Global Studies. Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Learning Practices inside and outside School (LPS), Plats, Identitet, Lärande (PIL).
    Jihadiship: From radical behavior to radical beliefs2018In: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, ISSN 1057-610X, E-ISSN 1521-0731Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Jihadism is a complex social phenomenon that changes people, but not always uniformly. This article argues that cognitive and behavioral radicalization can be seen as a discursive journey or jihadiship involving (e)merging ideas, problems, and solutions that change with encounters with new circumstances—both material and immaterial. The differences observed between various generations of jihadists are one manifestation of this complexity. Especially in a jihadi group, the processes of radicalization are bound to continue and take new forms, compared with those experienced in the West. Another example of the complexity of jihadiship is that not only can radical ideas lead to radical behavior, but also radical behavior can increasingly give rise to radical ideas in jihadi groups.

  • 4.
    Nilsson, Marco
    Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Global Studies. Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Learning Practices inside and outside School (LPS), Communication, Culture & Diversity @ JU (CCD@JU).
    Mental strategies for fighting the IS: A field study of the Peshmerga soldiers in Northern Iraq2016In: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, ISSN 1057-610X, E-ISSN 1521-0731, Vol. 39, no 11, p. 1007-1018Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This study analyzes the war against the Islamic State (IS), specifically on the front in northern Iraq, and the mental strategies that the Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers use to maintain their combat motivation. For this field study, dozens of soldiers of various ranks were interviewed and observed on three fronts outside of Mosul, Erbil, and Kirkuk in February 2014. While some mental strategies are nearly universal, others depend on the characteristics of the fighting force and the threat that they face. The article identifies five distinct mental strategies for dealing with the stress of fighting the IS: simultaneous dehumanization and humanization of the enemy, seeing a larger cause, use of humor, religious identity, and martyrdom. The findings suggest that factors beyond primary group cohesion, on which much previous research has focused, can play an important role in increasing soldiers’ fighting power.

  • 5.
    Nilsson, Marco
    Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Learning Practices inside and outside School (LPS), Sustainability Education Research (SER).
    Motivations for Jihad and Cognitive Dissonance: A Qualitative Analysis of Former Swedish Jihadists2019In: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, ISSN 1057-610X, E-ISSN 1521-0731Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This study is based on interviews with three former Swedish jihadists, and it uses cognitive dissonance theory to analyze how their motivations for jihad changed—from the early stages of radicalization to fighting as part of a jihadist group and finally leaving jihad. It argues that cognitive dissonance is a causal mechanism, alternative to empathy and collective relative deprivation, that can explain how individuals with collective identities can be motivated to opt for jihad. For none of the interviewees did fundamentalist Islam provide a gateway into jihadism, nor did they seem to use Islam as a mere justification for violent behavior. Cognitive dissonance can also shed light on how motivations change and why some jihadists have not been susceptible to further radicalization by accepting even more radical ideas.

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