Interrogating the concept of (violent) extremism
A genealogical study of terrorism and counter-terrorism discourses
in Encountering extremism
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This chapter traces the discursive origins of the term violent extremism and discusses the socio-political consequences of its specific discursive formation in Western countries. It argues that the mere utterance of ‘violent extremism’, in fact, reveals a discursive shift in contemporary terrorism and counterterrorism. Initially, the specific terminology was employed by the US government to interpret the threats mainly posed by foreign Islamic extremism, al Qaida in particular; however, with the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or ISIL) and the risk of lone-wolf attacks plotted by so-called ‘foreign fighters’ in many European countries, violent extremism was eventually conceptualised and understood by many as a severe threat to both national and international security. Accordingly, a series of policy practices were prompted and implemented by government authorities, such as the US-led war against violent extremism and Britain’s Prevent programme. Indeed, research shows that the discursive formation of ‘violent extremism’ led to severe political consequences, particularly racism, discrimination and the exclusion of Muslim minorities.

Encountering extremism

Theoretical issues and local challenges

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