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LONDON, Apr. 15, 2010 (Reuters) — The way to beat al Qaeda and stop Islamist groups gaining recruits to violent causes is to remove their "cool" image and make fun of terrorists instead, according to a major international study published on Friday.
The two-year study by the British think-tank Demos concluded that the notion of "cool jihad" was more important in seducing young Muslims to violence than radical preachers, the foreign policy of Western governments, or their social background.
Those who became interested in terrorism had more in common with subversive groups such as street gangs and soccer hooligans than with Muslims who held radical views but rejected violence, the Demos report said.
"Young people are drawn to radical causes, and to rebellion against authority," said Jamie Bartlett, one of the report's co-authors.
"For most radical young Muslims, this takes the form of protest, argument and learning, but for a minority, al Qaeda might seem a 'cool' gang to join, even though the truth is its members are ignorant and incompetent."
"The trick for Western governments is to welcome non-violent forms of radicalism -- indeed to provide opportunities for young Muslims to engage in exciting, "radical' activities such as overseas volunteering -- while maintaining a zero-tolerance attitude to violence and terrorism."