“Talk about terror in our back gardens”: an analysis of online comments about British foreign fighters in Syria

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The phenomenon of foreign fighters has become a central issue to the ongoing conflict in Syria. This article explores how members of the public answer the question ‘Why do British citizens join the conflict in Syria’ on social media sites and in response to online news articles. Building upon research on everyday narratives of security and terrorism, we analyse 807 comments, and in doing so, we argue that online comments are important in producing the discursive environment for making sense of British foreign fighters and what should be done in response to them. We find that there is a tendency to view British foreign fighters as being purely motivated by religion, and there is also a belief that British foreign fighters should be responded to through exceptional measures. We discuss the implications of such perceptions, and we highlight how problematic misconceptions about Islam and Muslims are not just disseminated through elite and media discourse, but through everyday narratives published by members of the public online.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-186
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Oct 2016