Religious extremism among Muslim youth is an emergent challenge and a variety of factors contribute towards its rise. However, few studies have explored this phenomenon in predominantly Muslim countries. Using expert interview approach, this study explored factors that provoke Malaysian youth into joining religious extremist groups and discussed findings from a social-ecological theory perspective. Inductive thematic analysis guided by socio-ecological theory was employed to analyze the data. Factors identified were Islamic Ideology-choice & Interpretation, Ummah and Practicality, and Charismatic leadership. The investigation through the social-ecological lens suggests that these causes mainly interacted at the macro-ecological and community-levels to influence the behaviour of Malaysian youths.


Violence, Religion, Positive Youth Development, Adolescent, Qualitative Methods, Expert Interview

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Norhafezah Yusof is a communication researcher interested in finding patterns of communication involved in terrorism. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: norhafezah@uum.edu.my.

Dr. Amrita Kaur and Professor Rosna Awang Hashim are educational psychologists who are interested to look from a psychological perspective. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Dr. Kaur at amrita@uum.edu.my; and to Professor Awang-Hashim at rosna@uum.edu.my.

Professor Azizuddin is a researcher in politics and international relations. He is interested in analyzing political perspective of terrorism at the local and global level. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: azizuddin@uum.edu.my.


The authors wish to thank you the Ministry of Education Malaysia in funding this study under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS), S/O code 13604, and Research and Innovation Management Centre, Universiti Utara Malaysia, for the administration of this study.

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