Since the emergence of the Islamic State (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ISIL, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS) in early 2014, different countries have followed different paths in dealing with the problem of their citizens who have joined ISIS and have then tried to return to their home countries. Many countries established de-radicalisation programs while most also adopted laws declaring illegal the participation in such wars abroad and subsequently prosecuting, trying and jailing many of their own returning “foreign fighters.”
Balkan states have been struggling with challenges similar to those confronting the rest of Europe. However, one aspect that was given little attention concerns the connections which Balkan foreign fighters and recruiters established with their Diaspora in Western Europe. Some media and analytical reports indicate that many of the second-generation young men and women of Balkan nationalities, living in the West, have become equally or even more radicalised and joined jihadist organisations in conflict areas in the Middle East.
These reports reveal that a major role in the radicalisation and recruitment process belongs to networks established by key radical religious leaders in the Balkans, who are often back at home accused of links to terrorism or under increasing criticism for promoting a politicised version of Islamic practice. These leaders often appear as preachers in mosques in the Diaspora, opportunities they use to strengthen their networks and recruitment. This paper explores the connections between religious radicalisation and violent extremism in the ethnic Albanian-speaking Diaspora in Europe.