Islamist Extremism

ISD conducts research and delivers policy support to tackle the unique challenge of Islamist extremism

Islamist movements across the globe, including those within Muslim communities in the West, have taken a noble religion – Islam – and appropriated it to form the basis of an ideology that seeks to divide Muslims from other Muslims and non-Muslims.

Islamism has led thousands of young Muslims to either join extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS or to commit terrorist attacks on their behalf. Meanwhile, the far-right and others exploit Islamism to demonise Muslims living in the West, seeking to deny them human and civil rights.

ISD’s subject matter experts understand Islamist extremism on a personal level, either having studied the ideology as former members of extremist groups or as members of Western Muslim communities in North America and Europe.

Through a deep understanding of the nuances behind Islamist extremism, and how it differs from the peaceful practice and heritage of Islam, ISD is able to effectively guide civic policy and outreach with civil society partners from Muslim communities. This includes online and offline projects seeded through ISD’s Online Civil Courage Initiative (with Facebook); Innovation Fund projects (with Google.org); as well as global training workshops through ISD’s YouthCAN network and the Young Cities programme.

ISD’s research and online trend mapping underpins all programmes to ensure positive impact within affected communities,

Latest Islamist Extremism research publications

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ISD’s Islamist Extremism research team

Rashad Ali
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Rashad Ali

Resident Senior Fellow

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Rashad Ali
Rashad Ali

Resident Senior Fellow

Rashad Ali is a counter terrorism practitioner. He works on deradicalisation initiatives alongside Prisons, Probation Services, Police and community groups. He is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). He was formerly a national leadership member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the revolutionary Islamist organisation. He has been actively involved in undermining its extreme ideology and perversion of Muslim faith since his departure. He is classically trained in Islamic theology and jurisprudence and Modern studies in Islam. He studied at al-Azhar University, Cairo, and the Markfield Institute. As a researcher he has given testimony and contributed submissions to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Radicalisation, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Intelligence and has briefed the London Mayor's office on Counter Terrorism. He is the author of: ' Islam, Shariah and the Far Right' published by Demoqratiya journal; 'A Guide to Refuting Jihadism' published by HJS and EFD; a chapter analyizing Hizb ut Tahrir ideology and strategy, and more recently 'Blasphemy and Free Speech - Hebdo and reactions to the incidents in Paris', for the ISD. He has been consulted by think tanks and governments in Germany, Denmark, the EU and the US. He works across Europe. He is an external lecturer for Derby University’s Master Class courses on Radicalisation and Counter Terrorism. He has written for The Observer, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, Dissent Magazine, Birlingske in Denmark, Conservative Home, and given commentary for Newsnight, BBC News. He was a researcher and Assistant Producer for BBC's flagship Panorama documentary show.
Zahed Amanullah
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Zahed Amanullah

Resident Senior Fellow, Networks & Outreach

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Zahed Amanullah
Zahed Amanullah

Resident Senior Fellow, Networks & Outreach

Zahed Amanullah is a Resident Senior Fellow at ISD and leads on ISD’s civil society engagement, communications, and partnerships, coordinating the public and private sectors with activists, frontline workers, and relevant civil society networks to counter disinformation, hate speech, extremist propaganda and recruitment. Zahed has worked recently on research and capacity building for NGOs in Kenya, Europe, and the Middle East. He recently co-authored The Impact of Counternarratives, a cross-platform study on counternarrative messaging impact and Between Two Extremes, a study of extremist messaging during the 2017 Kenya elections. Along with Google.org, he has helped oversee a £1m innovation fund for UK civil society organisations. He has given testimony to the UK and European parliaments and has been featured at the BBC, NPR, Channel 4, Sky News, the Guardian, CNN International, The National, The Daily Star, Le Monde Diplomatique, and Newsweek, among others.
Moustafa Ayad
Moustafa Ayad

Deputy Director, Technology, Communications, and Education

Milo Comerford
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Milo Comerford

Senior Manager, Policy & Research

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Milo Comerford
Milo Comerford

Senior Manager, Policy & Research

Milo Comerford is Senior Manager, Policy, leading ISD’s work developing innovative research approaches and policy responses to Islamist extremism. Milo regularly briefs senior decision makers around the world on the challenge posed by extremist ideologies, and advises governments and international agencies on building effective strategies for countering extremism. His writing and research features frequently in international media, including the Guardian, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times, Spectator, and New Statesman, and he has made recent broadcast appearances on BBC News, Sky News and Al Jazeera. Milo was previously Senior Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, where he led major research projects on jihadi propaganda, religious counter narratives to extremism and the transnational far right. He holds a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Oxford, and has previously worked on a global education programme, building open-mindedness and resilience to extremism in young people across 30 countries.
Jakob Guhl
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Jakob Guhl

Coordinator, Policy & Research

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Jakob Guhl
Jakob Guhl

Coordinator, Policy & Research

Jakob Guhl is a Coordinator at the ISD, where he mainly works with the digital research team. Jakob has co-authored research reports on the alternative online-ecosystem of the far-right, reciprocal radicalisation between far-right extremists and Islamists, coordinated trolling campaigns, hate speech and disinformation campaigns targeting elections. He is a frequent commentator on German radio and broadcast, including Deutschlandfunk, Tagesthemen and Radio Eins. Jakob has been invited to present his research about online hate to the German Ministry of the Justice and provided evidence to the German Minister of the Interior and the German Family Minister on how to strengthen prevention against right-wing extremism and antisemitism. His research has been cited in the New Republic, Die Welt, Die Zeit and The Guardian, among others. Additionally, he has published articles in the “Journal for Deradicalisation”, “Demokratie gegen Menschenfeindlichkeit”, Taz and co-authored an essay for an edited volume of the Munich Residence Theatre about the origins of contemporary political anger. Jakob holds an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society from King’s College London. His dissertation focused on the radicalisation processes of converts to Islam who became violent extremists.”
Anisa Harrasy
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Anisa Harrasy

Manager, Technology, Communications & Education

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Anisa Harrasy
Anisa Harrasy

Manager, Technology, Communications & Education

Anisa Harrasy is a Manager at ISD, where she works across ISD’s youth empowerment projects, including the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) and Young Cities. Through these projects, Anisa delivers capacity-building workshops, oversees youth-led campaigns and initiatives and facilitates dialogue between youth and policymakers. Anisa also helps lead ISD’s strategic development in Sub Saharan Africa and specializes in promoting peace in East Africa specifically. Anisa has conducted significant research on the influence and effect of non-state actors in global affairs and politics. Anisa holds an MA in International Security from the University of Sussex and a BA in International relations with Arabic. She is bilingual Swahili and English, with basic Arabic proficiency.
Farah Pandith
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Farah Pandith

Senior Advisor

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Farah Pandith
Farah Pandith

Senior Advisor

Farah Pandith is a world-leading expert and pioneer on countering violent extremism (CVE). She served as a political appointee in the George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations at the National Security Council, US Agency for International Development and US Department of State. Most recently she was the first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities (2009-2014). Her book is How We Win: How Cutting-Edge Entrepreneurs, Political Visionaries, Enlightened Business Leaders, and Social Media Mavens Can Defeat the Extremist Threat. She is a frequent media commentator and public speaker. She is senior fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She served on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council from 2015-2017.
Amarnath Amarasingam
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Amarnath Amarasingam

Senior Research Fellow

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Amarnath Amarasingam
Amarnath Amarasingam

Senior Research Fellow

Amarnath Amarasingam, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow at ISD. He is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Social Movement Activism and the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada (2015). He is the editor of Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aftermath of War (2016), The Stewart/Colbert Effect: Essays on the Real Impacts of Fake News (2011) and Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal (2010). He is also the author of several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, has presented papers at over 100 national and international conferences, and has written for Politico, The Atlantic, Vice News, Foreign Affairs, Al-Jazeera English, and War on the Rocks. Amarasingam is an experienced field researcher, having conducted hundreds of interviews for his PhD dissertation on social movement activism, organisational dynamics, and youth identity in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. He also conducted over 50 interviews with former fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) throughout the former war zones of Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. At the Turkey-Syria border, Amarasingam spoke with dozens of injured fighters, refugees, as well as former and current activists of the Syrian revolution. He has also conducted field research in Somalia, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and amongst different ethnic and religious groups in North America and Europe. As co-director of a study of Western foreign fighters in Syria, he has conducted dozens of interviews with jihadists in Syria and Iraq, supporters of jihadist movements online, as well as family members and friends of individuals who have joined the fight abroad.