The Extremism Lexicon: a toolkit for tackling Islamist and far-right extremism

Being able to clearly name, isolate and shame extremist ideologies is crucial in the fight against divisive beliefs and ideas. With this in mind, this short post is designed to equip its readers with a lexicon they can employ when discussing extremism or countering radical views. This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, and should instead be viewed as an aid when identifying, discussing and opposing extreme narratives. While many forms of extremism exist, this toolkit will concentrate specifically on Islamist and far-right ideologies.


Islamism: Islamism is the desire to impose any version of Islam over society. Islamism is not to be conflated with the religion of Islam or Muslims as people. Islamism is a contemporary, politicised reading of Islam.

Jihadism: the use of violence to spread Islamism. Jihadist groups include ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Non-violent Islamism: the desire to impose any version of Islam over society (initially) through non-violent means. Non-violent Islamist groups include Hizb ut-Tahrir.



While Islamism could justly be referred to as a far-right or fascist belief system, the terms far-right and fascist tend to be used in reference to extreme far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis.

Far-right/Fascism: a far-right ideology characterised by extreme nationalistic beliefs or extreme, intolerant behaviour. Far-right groups include Britain First and The British Democratic Party

Neo-Nazis: “groups or individuals who adhere to and promote Adolph Hitler’s beliefs and use Nazi symbols and ideology. Subjects subscribe to virulently racist as well as anti-Semitic beliefs, many based on national socialist ideals derived from Nazi Germany. Neo-Nazis may attempt to downplay or deny the Jewish Holocaust”. Neo-Nazi groups include Combat 18 and the National Alliance.

Like Islamism, these belief systems can manifest themselves both violently and non-violently.


Radicalisation: “The process by which an individual adopts an extremist belief system leading to his or her willingness to advocate or bring about political, religious, economic, or social change through the use of force, violence, or ideologically motivated criminal activity.”



Terrorism: defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the attempt to achieve political aims”. Terrorism can be perpetrated by both jihadists and the far-right.

Self-starter or Lone-wolf terrorism


Self-starter or Lone-wolf terrorism: an act of terrorism carried out by a self-radicalised individual rather than an organised group. Some consider the term self-starter terrorism preferable to lone-wolf terrorism due to the fact that very few individuals operate in total isolation, with evidence to suggest that supposed ‘lone-wolf’ operatives are frequently in contact with other radicalised individuals and networks. Self-starter or lone-wolf terrorism can be perpetrated by both jihadists and the far-right.


Click here to download a PDF copy of the Extremism Lexicon: a toolkit for tackling Islamist and far-right extremism.

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