Studying violent radicalization in Europe

When, why, and how do people living in a democracy become radicalized to the point of being willing to use or directly support the use of terrorist violence against civilians, and what can be done about it?

These questions have been at the center of both academic and public debate over the past years. Yet, there is still a scarcity of empirically based knowledge and no consensus with regard to which theories and approaches to apply to the study of violent radicalization and mobilization.

These two working papers explore the potential contribution of Social movement theory and socio-psychological approaches to throw light on the question of why and how violent radicalization occurs in Europe.

 

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Violent Radicalization in Europe: What We Know and What We Do Not Know

When, why, and how do people living in a democracy become radicalized to the point of being willing to use or directly support the use of terrorist violence against fellow citizens? This question has been at the center of academic and public debate over the past years as terrorist attacks and foiled plots inspired by militant Islamism have grabbed European and American headlines. This article identifies and discusses empirical studies of radicalization and points to the strengths as well as the weaknesses characterizing these studies. The aim is to take stock of the current state of research within this field and to answer the question: From an empirical point of view, what is known and what is not known about radicalization connected to militant Islamism in Europe?

 

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The Dilemma of Predicting Violent Radicalization

Parents, educators, law enforcement officials, and health professionals are all concerned about the violent radicalization of adolescents. Health professionals may be called on to assess teenagers regarding the risk that they will become dangerous. We present a case in which a psychiatrist is asked to do a forensic evaluation of a young adolescent who said troubling things and had some concerning posts on his Facebook page. The evaluation reveals things about both the young boy and his community.

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Preventing violent radicalization of youth through dialogic evidence-based policies

Radicalization of youth leading to violent extremism in the form of terrorism is an urgent problem considering the rise of young people joining extremist groups of different ideologies. Drawing on qualitative research conducted under the PROTON project (2016–2019) by CREA-UB on the social and ethical impact of counter-terrorism policies in six EU countries, the present article presents and discusses the ways in which actions characterized by creating spaces for dialogue at the grassroots level are contributing to prevent youth violent radicalization. The results highlight four core elements underlying these spaces for dialogue: providing guidance to be safe in the exploration of extremist messages and violent radicalization; the rejection of violence; that dialogue is egalitarian; and that relationships are built on trust so that adolescents and young adults feel confident to raise their doubts. If taken into account, these elements can serve to elaborate dialogic evidence-based policies. The policies which include a dialogue between the scientific evidence and the people affected by them once implemented, achieve positive social impact.

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The Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism

In recent years, the issues of radicalization and political violence have occupied a lot of place in the media, culture and politics of the entire West. Quebec has seen a significant increase in cases of youth enlisted in armed conflicts abroad, who have been inspired by so-called “jihadist” actors in these conflicts, or who have chosen to join political groups of the far left or extreme right. Paradoxically, they are fueled by extremely radical Islamophobia and xenophobic rhetoric, in an endless loop of feedback.

The Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism (OSR) and the Philosophy, Education and Society Group (PES) have set up a program to counter and defuse extremist discourses leading to violence: the Youth Forum – Thinking democracy differently. A different theme is proposed each year to stimulate discussion and democratic political engagement of high school and CEGEP youth. The idea is to help CEGEP high school ethics and religious culture teachers and philosophy teachers address issues related to political extremism in their courses. in, who are free to use it in whole or in part in their teaching…More