The role of religious narratives in use in the radicalisation of British muslims

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Bradford

Principal Researcher

Zaf Shah

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2016

Research Context

The aim of the project during phase one of the study is to understand Islamist narratives and their relevance to the radicalisation of British Muslims. The content of the sermons, delivered using mainly online platforms will be studied by analysing the linguistic style of the sermons that are either online, on video-sharing sites such as YouTube, or that are available on the websites of religious institutions. It is envisaged that the first part of the study will have one main theme, which will be a critical linguistic analysis of religious sermons and their radicalisation effect.

The primary goal of this research is to help understand the factors and motivations that underpin the norms and behaviour of a violent Islamist. In particular it focuses on comprehending the root of religious narratives and the mechanisms through which truth is constructed and deconstructed in their belief system. For the purpose of this study it is important to understand the power of language and how it works or fails to work and, why? How do people use language to generate influence and control?

The objective of the research is to analyse a total of ten sermons and speeches told by state and non-state actors. It serves to briefly discuss the findings of the sermons and speeches already analysed. It was obvious that the speakers were simplistic in their approach and clear in their speech. The study will give a polemic insight into a neglected area of research, Islamist narratives, which are told by ‘scholars’ as messages and stories through sermons, which as the research will argue may have a radicalisation effect on the participant.

The research will prove beneficial to academics, front line counter terrorism practitioners and the community helping develop a counter narrative.

Research Methodology

Three sermons have been analysed thus far, one, which was picked up from YouTube and delivered by Sheikh al Arifi, Saudi-based scholar, and the other two from the website of a religious institution which was delivered during Friday prayer.

As previously discussed, it is proposed that at this stage, ten sermons will form part of the analysis. Whilst many of the sermons are delivered at various venues, a key feature to note is how well they are conveyed using the ‘correct’ religiously charged narratives coupled with a narrative that is both ideological and hegemonic. Thus, it demonstrates to the unsuspecting viewer and or listener that the controversies and indeed stories may not necessarily be the truth, but are presented as the truth, given both the author and discourse applied (Thornborrow 2014).

As such, the research findings are intended to benefit academics and policy-makers alike by enhancing their appreciation of the critical linguistic role of narratives in the process of radicalisation, and thus facilitating the development and promotion of adequate mitigation measures.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

August 2020
Return to Research Map