Measuring Political Radicalization: Diaspora Support for Terrorism among Ottawa's Lebanese Muslim Community

Project Details


This is project developed survey measures of beliefs, feelings, and intentions that sympathize with or support anti-government activism and radicalism.  These measures, with an emphasis on financial contributions, will be tested in the context of assessing support for Hezbollah among Canadian residents of Lebanese Muslim descent in Ottawa, Canada.  The products of the research will be two successive scientific attitude surveys and a web-based panel of Ottawa Muslims available for fast-turnaround assessment of the impact of political events.  These tools will be designed to emphasize practical implications for understanding Lebanese Muslim diaspora support for Hezbollah.  The long-term goal is to develop tools that can track change over time in mass support for anti-government radicalism and support to terrorist organizations - tools with potential for use with diaspora and domestic groups in any country.

The research will contribute to an empirical understanding of political radicalization of diasporas.  Scholars have an abundance of hypotheses.  Guilt leaving compatriots behind, alienation in their host setting, frustrated socio-economic aspirations, and theological or nationalist ideologies may each contribute to radicalization. Empirical data are necessary to help estimate the relative contributions of these and other factors, and reliable empirical data requires the development of appropriate measures of the characteristics that can predict the degree to which Muslims sympathize with the goals and methods of terrorist organizations in the homeland. This project will examine these phenomenon for the Lebanese diaspora in Ottawa.


Primary Findings:

A 2008 poll of 430 Ottawa Muslims found predominantly positive views of Canada and the Canadian government but predominantly negative views of the U.S. war on terrorism, including the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. Few feel positively toward Al-Qaida (2 percent) or Hezbollah (10 percent). A substantial minority have participated in some form of legal political activism (22 percent have joined in a protest march, rally, or demonstration), with a small tendency for more activism to be associated with more favorable views of the Canadian government. Surprisingly, attitudes of Ottawa Muslims toward militant Muslim groups (Al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, government of Iran) were unrelated to attitudes toward Western powers (governments of Canada, United States, Israel; United Nations). This pattern, if confirmed in other Muslim polls, would mean that the war of ideas against radical Islam is not merely a function of decreasing negative sentiment about Western governments: Muslims who come to like the West more may not like Muslim militants any less.


This study relied on a representative poll of Ottawa Muslims, along with focus groups engaging male and female Muslims of varied ages and backgrounds that were conducted in Ottawa and other Canadian cities.


Project Period: