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M. Ümit Necef is an associate professor at SDU (University of Southern Denmark). He works together with prof. Malin Åkerström og Henriette Esholt (both from Lund University) on a 4-year project financed by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE) on the motivations of young Swedish and Danish Muslims to join Islamic State (IS) and other jihadist groups. Short description of the projects is as follows:The appeal of violence-promoting Islamic extremism. An investigation of masculinity and femininity.In international research on the motivations of young Muslims to sympathize with Islamic State (IS) and similar organizations there is an ongoing debate on, whether it is the “push” or the “pull factors” which play the most important role? Researchers who focus on the “push factors” refer to a number of negative phenomena such as racism, Islamophobia, socio-economic marginalization, unemployment and discrimination especially in liberal democratic Western and claim that they are the culprits which “push” some young Muslims to the arms of IS. The “pull factors” mostly mentioned by the subscribers of the alternative approach are the fascination of being a part of a new state project (the caliphate), taking revenge from the West for its colonial history, exploitation and humiliation of the Muslim lands, discontent with a number of principles of late modern society such as gender equality, democracy and secularism, the ecstasy and warmth of being together with the like-minded around a religious and political project.This project investigates why young people are attracted to violence-promoting Islamist extremist environments (e.g. IS/Daesh) with a focus on how these groups construct masculinity and femininity in contrast to late-modern gender cultures.Focusing on how IS and similar violent jihadist organizations construct femininity and masculinity, which we see as a component in “pull factors”, challenges the narrative that involvement in violence-promoting Islamist extremism is mainly based on the poor integration of young Muslims. Instead, this emphasis points to an understanding of the phenomenon as a "counterculture" which opposes existing traditions and norms and is formed around an aesthetic and affective community.However, there is a lack of research that uses cultural sociological concepts to seek a deeper understanding of violence-promoting Islamist extremism as an aesthetic and affective community, just as there is a lack of research that further concretizes what jihadism as a "counterculture" is a rebellion against. In this context, this project puts the focus on masculinity and femininity as relevant perspectives in the understanding of the attraction of violence-promoting Islamist extremist environments for young people.Empirical data is collected through "go-alongs" and observations of the meetings between key people in prevention work and young people who are at risk of becoming, involved in violence-promoting Islamist extremism, interviews with these key people and the relatives of these groups of young people. There is also an analysis of IS propaganda material, both written and visual.The project contributes to an understanding of the attractions to violence-promoting Islamist extremism from a gender perspective.


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