At conferences on the topics of radicalization and terrorism there is a chance one may accidentally overhear a whisper that the proliferation of radicalization and terrorism researchers has been exceeding the proliferation of radicalism and terrorism. At face value, The Netherlands may prove to be a working example. Since 9/11 and especially since the terrorist attacks of Once de Marzo in Madrid, research on radicalization and terrorism has flourished up to the point that the country now hosts many qualified research groups and individual researchers dealing with the issues of radicalization and terrorism, and this in the absence of the types of incidents we have witnessed in recent years, in Manchester, Paris, Berlin, and many other places throughout Europe.
But that is not to say that the DARE project can be considered just another project about radicalization, a retaking of the same themes that have been discussed at length, indeed already by many.
The research group at Leiden University is excited to participate in the DARE because it pinpoints some timely issues of scholarly relevance, but above all of societal relevance. As we are experiencing the decline of ISIS as an organization, the stories, the hopes and aspirations, but also the grievances and the angers that once gave rise to radical engagement will very likely continue to resonate in the areas, streets, networks, and websites that together form the ‘milieu’ from which radical ideas and action may emanate. DARE will help us to understand how and why young individuals choose extreme political engagement, relating ‘our local’ to many ‘locals’ across Europe, affording comparison and insight in the deeper structure and dynamics at play. What’s more, the Netherlands, like other European countries, has not only seen the emergence of radical Islamist engagement. The Islamist rhetoric and mindset have also been met with less than moderate and discriminate response, a response that is attracting a still growing following in official politics and also in the “politics of the street”. Here, we see the emergence of radical engagement that comes in the form of a response, but that in its polarizing nature and Islamophobic tendencies also very much triggers further radicalization among many sides.
The study of radicalization has not lost its purpose. There is still so much to investigate. This is the time to study processes of cumulative radicalization, of studying varieties and similarities of radicalization, and this is the time to study radicalization empirically on a massive scale. DARE is doing exactly that. As a partner, the Leiden research group has been fortunate to already meet important stakeholders in the academic and policy world, but also, critically, in the milieus we aim to understand. We are grateful for their openness and their willingness to collaborate, despite the burdens that involvement in research imposes. The infrastructure is almost in place to conduct the research and ensure its impact. We are eagerly awaiting the first insights from our involvement in the field.
Athens is known as the only European capital without an official mosque. Muslims have to gather and pray in basements, storehouses and garages. Only four such places have received a state permission to function as religious prayer houses in the last years. The rest function either under other legal statuses (e.g. as cultural associations having also a room for praying) or are completely illegal. The historical background of the construction of a mosque in Athens can be found in the late 19th century and although the Greek Parliament has voted several laws and legal amendments for the establishment of the mosque, especially from 2000 onwards, this issue is still pending.
This situation has two main effects. On the one hand, the majority of Muslims living in Athens feel disappointed and frustrated because of these delays. On the other hand extreme-right wing groups, among which “Golden Dawn” is the most significant agent, are totally opposed to the construction of a mosque in Athens or anywhere else in Greece. Further to that, extreme-right wing groups have tried to delay the construction of the mosque occupying the place where it was decided to be built and holding demonstrations with the main slogans being: “No to a mosque in Athens, nor in any other place”. Further to that they have established Facebook pages with this particular topic and against Muslim immigrants and refugees. In such a context it is interesting for one to examine which is the impact of this situation upon Muslims, especially the younger ones, and those who have been born and raised in Greece or arrived at a very young age. It is also important to ask if this, among other issues, makes them feel unequal or socially excluded and perhaps susceptible to radical ideologies or if they reject radical ideologies despite such grievances. On the other side of the spectrum, it is also interesting to ask how young people of the right or the extreme-right, who are against Islam and Muslims, view the idea of having an Islamic mosque in central Athens and how they react to that. In other words, some of the main questions the PUA team will try to answer in DARE project are: Which is the role -if any- of the mosque issue in the reproduction of inequalities? Does cumulative extremism works somehow in such a situation or not? And if not, how this can be explained?