The Pathway to Defection from Extremist Groups – Confronting the Disengagement Process of a Jihadi Foreign Fighter and a Right-Wing Extremist

Miryam Eser Davolio; Carole Villiger

The aim of our article is to analyse the disengagement process of a Swiss returnee from Syria and the emergence of dissonances during his involvement with the Islamic State (IS) and to compare this evolution to the pathway of a right-wing extremist willing to leave the violent extremist group Blood & Honour. Although the contexts of these extremist groups are very different, a number of elements – as the ideology based on hate, the groups’ internal pressure and the affinity for violence – are quite similar. The disengagement process of both extremists is analysed by means of reconstructive methods and the theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957), as well as by the current state of research on disengagement processes. This serves as a theoretical framework. The findings show that comparing their pathway to defection reveals a number of parallels: the experiences within the extremist groups, especially violent acts against group members, increased their dissonances and provided a trigger to an opening process and ultimately the attempt to opt out of the group.

Keywords: jihadist radicalisation, right-wing extremism, cognitive dissonance, disengagement

Vol: 2/2019 - Article 2.4


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