Working paper Open Access


Ayhan Kaya; Jais Adam-Troian


Extreme right-wing terrorism has currently become a wide-spread phenomenon across the world while the global focus has been on deadly terrorist activities with radical Salafist-Islamist aspirations since September 11, 2001. One of the latest attacks in Halle, an eastern city, organized by a young white German citizen against a Synagogue on the Yom Kippur Day, led to the death of two people on 9 October 2019. Another deadly attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, organized by a white supremacist person against Muslims attending the Friday prayer in a mosque murdering 51 Muslims on 15 March 2019 seem to have strong parallels with the murder of 79 Norwegian youngsters by another white supremacist, Behring Breivik in Norway on 22 July 2011. This Working Paper scrutinizes the social-anthropological and psychological sources of white supremacism on a global scale. This paper derives from the ongoing EU-funded research for the “Prime Youth” project conducted under the supervision of the Principle Investigator, Prof. Dr. Ayhan Kaya, and funded by the European Research Council with the Agreement Number 785934.


Jean Monnet Chair of European Politics of Interculturalism

Director, European Institute

Istanbul Bilgi University



A vast amount of social science research has been dedicated to the study of Islamist terrorism, to uncover its psychological and structural drivers. The recent revival of extreme-right wing terrorism now points at the need to investigate this re-emerging phenomenon. Yet, most research still focuses on understanding and predicting political behaviours related to right wing populism, which is problematic. Drawing on insights from social anthropology and social psychology, this paper proposes to highlight some of the characteristics of extreme-right wing terrorism. To do so, we first explore similarities between these two terrorist groups. We start by reviewing evidence showing a visible co-radicalization pattern between Islamist and extreme-right factions in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. After describing the social-psychological commonalities that underlie co-radicalization between those two factions, we discuss of their social-anthropological peculiarities. We conclude that symmetrical psychological mechanisms pertaining to threat regulation underpin right wing and Islamist terrorism. Still, each type of terrorism can only be properly understood through studying specific factors linked with commitment of their actors to different socio-historically constructed ideologies.

Jais Adam-Troian and Ayhan Kaya

This is a paper published within the framework of an ongoing European Research Council Advanced Grant Project called "Prime Youth". This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme grant agreement no. 785934. The Project lasts between 2019 and 2023.
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