The Drive project was launched in January 2021 to help the project’s researchers understand the relationship between views that might be understood as ‘radical’ and the structural factors that may be connected to them, including space, place, identity, and structural exclusion. At the time when the project was first conceived, there were concerns, especially, about two forms of radicalism: the various forms of ideology that can be described as ‘Islamism’, and the forms of ideology that can be described as ‘far right’. Both terms, ‘Islamism’ and ‘far right’, are difficult, as very few people or organisations describe themselves in this way. Even so, the terms are widely used in general discussions, and point towards particular types of ideologies, even if they do not define them satisfactorily.
The project initially focused on the groups among whom such ideas might arise: Muslims in the case of ‘Islamism’, and particular types of non-Muslims for the ‘far right’. Our initial idea was that the individuals within these groups who would be best able to contribute to the project were those who were in some way or another close to organisations or milieus that were avowedly Islamist or far right. Because we were interested in structural factors and not actual extremists, we set out to interview people in the ‘grey zone’ near such organisations and milieus, not actual extremists.
What we found was that organisations and milieus that are avowedly Islamist or far right are even fewer than we expected. Although there are plenty of government agencies interested in people who are moving towards Islamism or the far right, such people are often hard to identify and difficult to access. The decision was therefore made to broaden the types of people we were interviewing. We are now looking to interview a broader range of Muslim minority and ethnic majority participants to explore the ways in which marginalisation, exclusion, and discrimination impact how people see themselves and others in the context of wider issues of polarisation and social conflict, which in some cases can lead to the radicalisation of the few. Any of the non-Muslims who vote for or support political parties that emphasise opposition to immigration and multiculturalism might be able to help us understand the structural factors that contribute to the forms of alienation and radicalisation that can lead towards what some call the far right. We have decided to use these expanded categories to help us achieve the project’s objectives.