Monash University

Embargoed and Restricted Access

Reason: Under embargo until Apr 2017. After this date a copy can be supplied under Section 51(2) of the Australian Copyright Act 1968 by submitting a document delivery request through your library

A search for meaning in life? a model for understanding violent radicalization in Australia

posted on 2020-05-18, 05:42 authored by Mohamed Ali, Rosleenda Binte
Previous research has consistently alluded to the search for meaning as a characteristic feature in the radicalization of seemingly well-integrated young Muslims in western countries. However, what these studies have not examined is whether the search for meaning in life serves as a catalyst for radicalization. This research proposes a novel conceptual model for understanding the homegrown threat of violent extremism in Australia, in particular how neojihadists construct meaning in their violent pursuit. Specifically, the research attempts to demonstrate that radicalization can be reduced to four psychological antecedents of meaning: (a) instability of values, goals and aspirations, (b) ambiguous standards and expectations, (c) competitive and hostile social environments, and (d) limited opportunities and capabilities. These antecedents evoke a plethora of biases, which translate into beliefs that perpetuate extremism, culminating in radical behaviour and even terrorist acts. Hence, the model will demonstrate that attempts to derive meaning, from biased assumptions, will impede the capacity of individuals to forge an enduring sense of meaning overall. As such, some individuals render themselves vulnerable to extreme religious ideologies, which are prescriptive on how to lead a meaningful life. Materials from wiretap recordings of convicted Australian neojihadists, interviews with former Australian neojihadists who have renounced violence, and focus group sessions with Australian Muslims elucidate these biases. With this unique approach, the research seeks to extend the knowledge on violent extremism and generate new insights to better understand the psychological determinants of radicalization. Several provisional implications for countering violent extremism are delineated.


Principal supervisor

Simon Moss

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Psychological sciences

Campus location



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences