“The Global Islamist Extremist Threat: Still Significant in 2021” is the title of a paper by Kumar Ramakrishna for Security Nexus. This paper discusses six trends which will likely enable extreme Islamic terrorism to remain a threat in 2021.


Violent Islamist extremism remained the most potent terrorist threat to global stability in 2020 and will remain so in 2021. Six trends were observed the past year: the continuing salience of lone actors; the involvement of women and family networks in combatant roles; the challenge of rehabilitating and reintegrating returning foreign fighters and their families; the role of diasporas; the diversity of terror financing mechanism and ideological ecosystems propagating violent Islamist perspectives. Going forward, while a range of customized short-term counter-terrorist kinetic and coercive measures remain important to deal with the evolving physical threat of violent Islamist extremism, these should be complemented by softer medium to longer-term counter-terrorism approaches, to deal with the underlying political, socioeconomic and ideological factors that generate the threat in the first place. Importantly, a more granular understanding of the ideological ecosystems that propagate the Islamist extremism that sustain terrorist and support networks, would be salutary.

Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Dean for Policy Studies, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research and Research Adviser to the National Security Studies Programme, at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of DKI APCSS, the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

Security Nexus is a peer-reviewed, online journal published by the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.