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.