Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Why Moderate Muslims Come to Support Extremist Groups

  • Barbara Walter
| Nov. 29, 2017


Why do some extremist groups, such as the one that attacked Egypt’s al-Rawda mosque, thrive in today’s civil wars in ways that moderate groups have not? In 2016, Salafi-jihadist groups accounted for most of the major militant groups in Syria, half of all such groups in Somalia and a third of Iraq’s militant groups.

Most people assume that Salafi-jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State emerged because the “average” Muslim has become more radical over time. But in new research, I show this is not necessarily the case. In times of civil war, moderate Muslims have very good reasons to support extremist groups, even if they don’t believe the radical ideologies behind them.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walter, Barbara.“Why Moderate Muslims Come to Support Extremist Groups.” The Washington Post, November 29, 2017.

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