Before and since the death of Osama bin Laden, the role and place of violent Muslim converts in the context of Islamist homegrown terrorism (hereafter HGT) largely remains below the radar screen, both in the research community and in the security practitioners’ pool. Despite the exponentially growing evi-dence which suggests that converts are steadily moving from the periphery into the epicenter of HGT, conventional wisdom still treats them as a marginal, fringe phenomenon rather than as a sustained and arguably growing trend posing serious security challenges. This essay represents a modest attempt to help bridge the gap between outdated perceptions and existing realities vis-à-vis the (in some quarters sensitive) issue of converts. It is to be hoped that this chapter will also contribute to future shaping of the topic as an independent and important sub-discipline in the field of counterterrorism.
Accordingly, the essay first touches upon the general issues of definition and terminology. Subsequently, it provides a brief historic overview and offers em-pirical data suggesting that the threat posed by violent converts is evolving to a higher level. After that, this chapter addresses the core questions, related to the personal characteristics of converts, as well as the reasons for and patterns of their conversion experience and radicalization. Finally, it analyzes practical as-pects of violent converts’ activities in the format of HGT. Given its limited scope, this essay is not aimed at covering the whole picture in a comprehensive sense. Rather, ambitions are limited to simply charting the general contours of the problem and providing a number of initial thoughts, while leaving its particular aspects, as well as policy recommendations, for future in-depth research publi-cations. All views, expressed in the essay, are those of the author and do not reflect an official position of any institution.