PhD Research Student, Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews

Roger Warren is a PhD candidate at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence. His interests are include political violence in the Arab world, Arab mujahhideen and Islamist terrorists, Islamist ideology, radicalisation, Islamic fundamentalism, suicide terrorism, Arab culture, and modern standard Arabic.

His thesis seeks to explain the circumstances and possible processes that influence Arab mujahhideen (a.k.a. Sunni foreign fighters) to become involved in Islamist terrorist related activities. It locates the research within a theoretical framework that is grounded on the radicalisation models proposed by Sageman (2004) and Silke (2008). It leverages 1980s Afghanistan, Iraq (post 2003), and Syria (post 2011) as case studies, and a dataset of over 3000 Arab mujahhideen.

Initial findings establish that out of 365 Afghan Arabs, of the 39% (144) who were known to have survived the Afghan jihad, a staggering 66% (96) subsequently became involved in Islamist terrorist related activities. This appeared to be largely as a result of the shared experience of violent jihad in a foreign country, and the acceptance of a more virulent ideology (that promotes suicide attacks that target civilians, non-combatants, and/or fellow Muslims). These appear important factors when determining the outcome of involvement in classical jihad.

The thesis suggests (1) that the concept of jihad is not synonymous with terrorism despite increasing overlaps; (2) that not all individuals who perform jihad are necessarily radicalised from the outset; and (3) the Islamic concept of martyrdom should not be viewed as synonymous with suicide bombings.

Much of the research is original, relying on the Arabic content of jihadi websites.

Experience

  • –present
    PhD candidate, Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews

Honours

Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service