Street culture and jihadism

This project examined the relationship between criminal and jihadist subcultures. A key issue is how Western street culture combines with what is often called “jihadi cool”.


Many religious extremists have a background in street culture, drug use, violence and crime. Some are drawn to extremism because they are fascinated by its cultural and oppositional style. Others seek excitement, friendship, or absolution from previous sins or their employment of “legitimate” violence. In this project we examined both why people with a background in violent street culture and drug use were attracted to religious extremism and why they rejected it.


The project was based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in the city center of Oslo, and interviews with 54 criminals or ex-criminals with a Muslim background. Researchers spent lengthy periods in areas and milieus characterized by crime and street culture, where the sale and use of illegal drugs was widespread.  


The fieldwork and interviews showed that Muslims involved in crime mainly oppose religious extremism. Terrorists are frequently perceived as evil, bad Muslims, and “cowards” that do not have the right kind of masculinity. We also explored why some people in street culture are drawn towards extremism. Understanding why young, marginalized men are attracted to, or reject jihadism, may help prevent political and religious extremism.

Publications and media

Contact us for papers that are unpublished or behind a paywall.

Published Sep. 21, 2016 12:50 PM - Last modified June 27, 2022 12:02 PM