1. Analysing Radicalisation
Why analyse radicalisation?
In the introduction to this toolkit we stated that a key objective here is to elevate the level of dialogue between young people and educators. Young people, who are a focus of this toolkit, are particularly responsive to external influences associated with radicalisation and extremism. This responsiveness to radical or extreme messages and actors, in part, stems from their age group where behaviours, attitudes and engagements with the world around them are already subject to considerable transformations as they transition, or prepare to transition, into adulthood. This makes it particularly difficult for those closest to them (family, friends, educators) to clearly identify changes in behaviour that may warrant further opportunities for dialogue. This period of transition is also typically a period in which young people experiment with new ideas, activities and people in building their own identity.
In the sections and case studies included in this toolkit, it will become apparent that behavioural transformations that may typically be associated with radical or extremist attitudes, are not always apparent to close family members (See example of Fatima in session 1). Similarly, in other contexts, family members and friends may be absent altogether. It is important to stress here, that while some radicalised young people can be labelled as ‘vulnerable’, the view held throughout this toolkit, as well as the DARE project more broadly, is that young people engage with radical ideas consciously and in response to their lived experience and the information available to them. It is also important to note that in the case of so-called ‘vulnerable’ individuals, the absence of a sense of belonging may prompt young people to experiment with new ideas as a way of connecting with others. This places educators in a unique position to be able to identify a space for communication and dialogue that provides young people with opportunities to critically, and safely, interrogate ideas, perceptions and experiences. This point highlights the overall objectives of this toolkit, which are, on the one hand, to raise awareness of messages conducive to radicalisation among young people and awareness of extremism, more broadly. On the other hand, by providing educators with the tools to better understand how young people engage with radical or extreme views, fosters better communication between educators and young people, contributing to a more inclusive environment (See toolkit 2). This last point is reflected in the structure and layout of the second toolkit, designed to help educators better engage with young people, and which is also focused on addressing some of the root causes of young people’s radicalisation: marginalisation and a lack of belonging. For example, the DARE national report for France, based on a case study in Corsica, highlights that youth with right-wing nationalist affiliations feel a sense of belonging through ‘being oppressed’ at the hands of the French state and the targets of injustice. Similarly, a former member of an extreme-right group, in the Malta study, makes reference to the sense of belonging through their ‘collective stigmatisation’.
This toolkit is informed by the concepts and definitions outlined by the DARE project. Session 1 (Page 9 of this toolkit) provides a detailed and interactive guide to the concepts and definitions that are important for understanding radicalisation and the contexts that characterise this process. For the purpose of this toolkit, we adopt the following definition of radicalisation:
This definition of radicalisation recognises the fluidity of the term and its application to either end of the political ideological spectrum, whilst identifying it as a counter-reaction to the established ‘norm’. It also makes the indirect distinction between radicalisation and other terms, such as extremism and terrorism, by highlighting that radicalisation is not in itself necessarily conducive to violence. This is an important distinction to make, since contention has risen between scholars and practitioners alike, over the widespread association between radicalism and terrorism, particularly following the 9/11 attacks (Malthaner, 2017). For the purposes of this toolkit, the following definition of extremism is applied, by contrast:
Extremism is the overzealous conviction that the survival or success of one’s own group can only be achieved through active hostility towards ‘other’ group(s). This may be driven by a belief in the superiority of one’s own group and/or distrust or hatred towards ‘other’ groups. It may also be rooted in a sense of injustice towards, or vulnerability of, one’s own group (DARE project).
These definitions clarify the distinction between radicalisation and extremism, where radicalisation is considered to be the initial phase in a process that may eventually lead to extremist actions, such as violence against others. However, such a development only takes place in a tiny minority of cases, which further underscores the toolkit’s objective of facilitating dialogue and providing young people with the critical tools to challenge messages that legitimise violence. Although we will go into further detail later in this toolkit, it is useful here to provide an example of how the two concepts presented here are related and how they translate in real scenarios. The video below provides an excerpt from an interview with Nicola, a British Muslim whose adolescent son became radicalised, joined the terrorist group ISIS and finally went on to engage in acts of extreme violence.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 725349