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Violence Research Centre



Dr Justice Tankebe, University of Cambridge

Terrorist campaigns involve three “strategic actors – the group, the government and the audience” (Cronin, 2009). A feature of the dynamic relationship among these actors is a struggle by terrorist groups and the State to claim legitimacy among local communities. Legitimacy matters because it shapes the quality of support an institution can expect from its audiences. If the actions of an institution are perceived as illegitimate, the rules of that institution will not be normatively binding. There is speculation that counter-terrorism strategies sometimes act as a ‘recruiting sergeant’, pushing people into – rather than preventing them from – terrorism. 

The project seeks data on people’s understanding of ‘terrorism’, how they experience – personally or vicariously – police counter-terrorism activities, their normative expectations of counter-terrorism policing and their perceptions of their legitimacy. It is part of a larger project – Modelling the recruitment PROcesses leading to organized crime and TerrOrism Networks (PROTON) – co-ordinated by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan, Italy). Funding comes from the European Union through its H2020 Work Programme 2014-2015, Secure Societies, Fight Against Crime and Terrorism, FCT-16-2015, Ethical/Societal Dimension Topic 4 - Investigating the role of social, psychological and economic aspects of the processes that lead to organised crime - including cyber-related offenses - and terrorist networks and their impact on social cohesion.

The fieldwork comprised in-depth interviews with a non-random sample of Muslims in London and telephone surveys of a national probability sample of UK Muslims. Analysis of the qualitative data is ongoing, and it is expected to yield journal articles and book chapters.