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The emergence of radicalism took place in an early form with the French Revolution and led to the conception of other movements in countries across the globe. Radicalism then became prominent in the early 1830s in the United Kingdom alongside Belgium. It later extended across Europe between the 1840s and 1850s (Vidino, 2010). It should be noted that during these periods, Radicalism was seen as a movement in which the primary objective was to gain political legitimacy and progressive change in the electoral system (Vidino, 2010). Radicalism was also closely associated with civic nationalism, republicanism, the abolition of titles, and resistance to a state religion. In the 19th century, radicalism became a political force. The French radicals became a significant political force in parliament and later consolidated by forming the first major extra-parliamentary political party in the country. The Republican, which was a Radical-Socialist Party, emerged as the most important party of the government between 1899 and 1940 (Vidino, 2010). During the emergence of social democracy as a separate political force, the gap that existed between left-wing radicalism and conservative liberalism disappeared. Later, radicalism became obsolete in most parts of Europe, and its roles were taken by conservative-liberal and social democratic parties. Radicalism is also seen as a variant of liberal reformism which is more extreme or determined. Such interpretation maps radicalism to a political continuum expected to stretch from right-wing reactionaries to left-wing liberals with varying manifestations of more mainstream populism and middle-class liberalism (Calhoun, 2012).
Radicalization takes place through several different reinforcing routes, which appear to amplify the grievances of an individual or group through radical ideas, making them willing to pursue a political interest (Aly and Striegher, 2012). Some of these factors can be categorized as individual-level factors, grouped–level factors, or mass radicalization. Individual-level factors include personal complaints, loyalty, risk, and status (Jensen et al., 2018). Grouped-level factors encompass isolation, polarization, and competition. Mass radicalization, on the other hand, includes Jiujitsu politics and hatred. Personal grievance significantly contributes to violent acts since it compels one to seek revenge. Moreover, group grievances are intimately associated with ethnic or political violence, such as suicide bombing (Vidino, 2010). Some authors have argued that after the 9/11 attacks, the anger and suspicion that was directed toward Muslims who were living in Western countries, as well as the indignities expressed towards them by the security officials, can be perceived as a radicalization of recruits (Trip et al., 2019). Besides, the perception of ‘The US versus them’ exhibited by Donald Trump's travel ban, led to the shutdown of Muslim immigration to the United States to a large extent (Maltz, 2018).
Loyalty can also act as a force or connection between individuals or groups, creating massive support from the followers. This force could be observed in New Left radical groups, including the German Army Faction and American Weather Underground. This was expedited by the relationship that existed between Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohn and that of Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin, which served as an organizational nucleus between the groups (Trip et al., 2019). Loss of connection can make one vulnerable to strange ideas and new identities like political radicalization. Unfreezing exposes one to isolation from friends and family and inadequate access to basic needs, leading to an individual joining radical groups, such as cultural, political, and religious radicals. It is worth noting that isolation has the potential of reinforcing radical thinking. Competition can also make a group become radicalized since they compete for legitimate course and prestige with the general populace (Jensen et al., 2018). Undoubtedly, radicalization is composed of varied pathways that often result in distinct outcomes. The pathways act as ideal conditions for the transit to radicalization and then towards violence.
Radicalization is a cycle of transition, both cognitive and behavioral that primarily asserts how individuals change their actions and philosophy over time (Calhoun, 2012). This uncertainty describes the variations between concepts of radicalization; it has guided the theoretical discourse that has revolved around the connection between cognition and behavior; and it provides the backdrop for radically different approaches to policy (Borum, 2011).
Radicalization can range from extreme perceptions over things to intolerant attitudes against other individuals, to aggressive radicalism that has serious repercussions. Radicalization may take different forms based on the context, causes, ideologies, and period. In essence, there are four types of radicalization, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Single-Issue, and Politico-Religious radicalization (Ruggiero, 2017).
Left-Wing is a form of radicalization that is strongly associated with anti-capitalist demands that require a transformation of political systems perceived to be the primary contributor to the social inequalities resulting in violence as a means of presenting ideas. According to Ruggiero (2017), Left-Wing radicalization encompasses Maoist, anarchist, Trotskyist, and Marxist-Leninist groups using violence as a way of advocating for their cause.
Right-Wing, on the other hand, is connected to racism, fascism, ultra-nationalism, and supremacist ideology. It is defined by the defense of racial, ethnic identity, or pseudo-national identity. Right-Wing is also associated with radical hostility, mainly towards minorities like state authorities or immigrants.
Politico-Religious radicalization primarily focuses on the political interpretation of religion, using violence as a means of defending a religious identity perceived to be under attack.
Single-Issue radicalization is a type of radicalization that is mainly motivated by a single issue (Ruggiero, 2017). It encompasses radical environmental, anti-abortion extremists, anti-feminist groups, or independent extremist movements. There is a fine line between radicalism and extremism. Extremism defines people's views and behaviors that advocate or use violence to accomplish cultural, social, or political objectives. It comprises terrorism, certain types of politically driven crimes, and other manifestations of abuse in society. All types of violent extremism, however, motivated they might be, pursue reform through terror and coercion rather than meaningful political process (Attorney-General's Department, 2011).
Various studies seek to understand the root causes of extremism and radicalization. In so doing, several strategies have been proposed to be building blocks for preventing radicalization. This heavily depends on how communities, societies, and states opt to deal with the root causes (Marope, 2019). The basis of radical prevention is firmly anchored upon the political and economic empowerment, tolerance, and reduction of inequalities. According to Marope (2019), some of the building blocks of radical prevention include the following: Enhancing respect for diversity, human rights, and cultures of global citizenship
Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment
Promoting the fight against corruption
Working with faith-based institutions and religious leaders to prevent the abuse of religion by violent extremists
Promoting a rule of law and human rights-based approach.
Promoting participatory decision-making and civic space at both local and national levels engaging youth in building social cohesion
Providing alternatives to violence for the vulnerable groups
Enhancing the capacity of local governments in security and service delivery
Moreover, many organizations have invested considerable efforts into aggregating and standardizing the reduction of radicalization programs across the world, and some practice repositories illustrate this work. The most structuralist example is that of the Radicalisation Education Network (RAN), a specialist network whose research centers on radicalization that leads to violence. It is funded by the European Commission, to enable people to exchange expertise and experiences in this field (Ponsot, Autixier, and Madriaza, 2017).
However, it is important to note here that there are great challenges ensuing in containing radicalization by the authorities. The first big challenge facing practitioners on the front line is to establish relations with other individuals involved on the ground and with society. In the context of the UK, Romaniuk (2015) describes two waves of interventions that followed the direction of the UK's preventive strategy, presumably because this regional strategy generated much of the available unclassified data. The main critique of the original version of the program had to do with its effect on social affairs. Several scholars argue that Prevent leads to the Muslim community being stigmatized as a "suspect group" (Choudhury and Fenwick, 2011; Thomas, 2010).
Across Western nations, however, there is a strong understanding of the role of the government in preventing and mitigating violent radicalization. Hirschfield et al. (2012) suggested that the community being engaged is vital, as this brings significant transparency to the intervention; takes into account the interests of the group, and enlists local groups to assist with the implementation of any measures required to counter extreme radicalization. A few studies published in the Journal for Deradicalisation have used interviews with practitioners to explore issues such as their level of preparedness to deal with radicalization (Dryden, 2017).
According to Horgan (2008), there are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding the nature of terrorism, as well as the perpetration of extremist violence. The myth is based on the fact that policies and government programs are designed about the theory of radicalization, which is responsible for transforming people to become those who are capable of participating or committing an act of violence because of their radical beliefs. According to the author, the theory is not scientific, and it is discredited. The theory tends to link people who adopt or express their extreme or radical religious ideas to the path leading to terrorism or violence. Besides, it is also an unsubstantiated truth that there are observable indicators that rubberstamp an individual to be vulnerable to radicalization. According to researchers, there are factual and methodological flaws in most of the reports that tend to promote the theory of radicalization. Other researchers, such as Decker and Pyrooz, have also produced reports that debunk the theory. Moreover, the researchers have not been able to identify the criteria or the behavioral indicator to predict those individuals who are likely to commit an act of terrorism or involve in any kind of political violence (Decker & Pyrooz, 2015). Decker and Pyrooz argue that there is no quantifiable evidence that religious practices and beliefs correlate with the propensity towards violence.
Schmid and Priceargue, claim that associating radicalization with poverty is a myth. This is based on the idea that many terrorists have middle-class backgrounds, and most of them have attained university-level education, especially in technical subjects like engineering and sciences. This proves that there is no substantiated association between radicalization and poverty. Poverty may be a factor in compelling one to join mutual aid organizations that have radical beliefs, but it does not necessarily mean that poverty can be responsible for radicalization (Baylouny, 2004). Besides, as much as the psychology of an individual may play a role in radicalization, mental illness has not been viewed as a root cause of terrorism. The beliefs that make an individual or group better than others or have the same advantages as others have not been supported by empirical evidence (Schmid & Price, 2011). Furthermore, the low levels of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds have not been found to correlate with the terrorists.
The claim that radicalization is a major root cause of terrorism is an area that needs to have a lot more research to dispel it as a known myth in the world of terrorism. The majority of people who hold extreme beliefs do not participate in any form of violence (Decker and Pyrooz, 2015). In the UK secret service, when defining radicalization it leads straight to terrorism, while in the Dutch version, terrorism is one of the methods or tactics that someone who is currently going through a process of radicalization might potentially use. This discrepancy in definitions is related to the distinction where on one hand, the radicalization which funnels and results in aggression, and, on the other hand, radicalization which, while typically very disruptive or unpleasant to its immediate context, remains non-violent (Sieckelinck, 2016).
Schmid and Price, 2011 explain that there is increasing evidence that individuals who engage in terrorism do not visibly hold radical beliefs and the word radicalization is often used to signify a linear path towards violence. Based on the argument that there are distinct stages in the life of a terrorist, it is hard or near impossible to predict whether an individual will or will not engage in violence or terrorism based on their beliefs, religion, or social profiles. Besides, Decker and Pyrooz (2015) state that despite the factors that may lead one to terrorism, law enforcement agencies have, for a long time, used flawed logic of radicalization so that they can justify the need to investigate innocent citizens.
The practice of equating religion or radicalism with violence during an investigation is not a fair and just investigative strategy, and it is deemed unconstitutional because it can damage the character of society or a group of people. According to Schmid & Price (2011), associating radicalism with terrorism is most likely to lead to a dampening effect on free expression, which can be by either an individual or government. According to the author, it is high time people, and more importantly, law enforcement organizations not allow do their preoccupations with radicalization to overshadow their understanding as far as the issue of terrorism is concerned.
Some researchers have argued that there is no predefined pathway that leads to radicalization. Schmid and Price (2011), continue to argue that radicalized individuals often originate from many diverse backgrounds and have different family beliefs, origins, gender, or social status. According to (Baylouny, 2004), social factors, including unemployment, educational background, and occupation may be regarded as contributors, but they are insufficient in explaining the scope or subject of radicalization because the social factors are closely linked to the cultural contexts. According to Sageman (2016), the global neo-jihadi attacks experienced in the West originated from home-grown groups without any connection to foreign terrorist groups. The reaction from the UK to deal with these events can be considered an overreaction. Most notably, the crude measures employed during Project Champion that resulted in alienating the Muslim community. The actions by the West Midlands police proved to be counterproductive as the Muslim community may not have been contemplating violence. The PREVENT program instigated by Britain was primarily focused on promoting community cohesion and fighting extremist ideology but unfortunately led to the stigmatization of the Muslims and rendered it almost impossible to gain their cooperation (Heathershaw & Montgomery, 2014). Describing an entire religious group to be possibly dangerous is not helpful when trying to build trust to allow groups to integrate into the local community.
Heathershaw and Montgomery, argue that associating religion with terrorism is a myth since most of the volunteers of terrorist groups have little or no knowledge of religion. This makes them more vulnerable to being recruited. For instance, the two British Muslims who, before heading to Syria, bought Islam for Dummies. Heathershaw and Montgomery further suggest that people, especially law enforcement organizations, should not hold ordinary people responsible for the violence others have executed in their name. The myth surrounding radicalization is a critical concept because it has a political influence (Heathershaw & Montgomery, 2014). It is imperative to note that the myth of radicalization acts as a reference point, meaning, that it becomes a focal point that can potentially induce common threat perceptions. Consequently, this can trigger collaborations focusing on counter-radicalization towards minority groupings living amongst the UK population.
Radicalization intimately relates to terrorism, violent acts, or extreme activities. According to Kundalini, several European nations associate terrorism with radicalization. In his argument, he asserts that the Muslim migrants in society are highly polarized (Kundnani, 2014). Kundiani’s assertion is evident through various attacks that took place in London under the name of Islam. Various groups and movements have instilled a lot of fear and tensions among people as they consider Muslims as enemies of the West. Such polarization and politicization result in acts of terrorism. It further contributes to the movement of people from one point to another in search of safer areas that are not associated with groups of radical Muslims.
Radicalization and terrorism beliefs within the Western mindset are associated and stereotyped with Islam. Some have defined the features of violent terrorism as being motivated by Islam, while others have described it as the workings of the majority society. These theories are mostly inconsistent and vague (Abbas, 2012). The real clash between Islam and Christianity leads to a rise in radical movements that contribute to terrorism. Additionally, Kundiani asserts that individuals who used violence to end some form of war were associated with terrorism and, therefore, considered enemies of the West (Kundnani, 2014). Kundalini further gives examples of the terrorist activities that took place, such as the killings of immigrants by Neo-Nazis and the fatal cases of Anders, as he transferred his frustration to the people he believed were against his policies and practices. Focusing on the domestic struggle against terrorism, Kundiani associates terrorism with radicalization as a result of the war against terror in the United States and the United Kingdom (Kundnani, 2014). The two countries have established a policy to deal with radicalization. Creating a policy against radicalization increases the threat of terrorism for most people with Islamic ideologies. As a result, any person who appears to object to or challenge the existing policy becomes an object for observation as he or she may become radicalized.
Husband and Alam (2011) have also argued on the connection between radicalization and terrorism with violent activities. The authors focus on the experiences of young Muslims living in Bradford with a Pakistani heritage. According to Husband and Alam 2011, the process of globalization leads to an increased flow of people, goods, and resources across various national borders. Globalization leads to the rise of a mix of people from ethnic backgrounds. With the increase of multi-ethnic societies, governments decide to create policies that govern the relations between people in the multi-ethnic community. However, people with differing opinions in the United Kingdom criticize the policies. Their questioning becomes radicalized as they form movements against such policies. Such movements end up engaging in violent or terror actions and thus affirming the relationship between radicalization and terrorism together with extreme activities.
In particular, their work assesses the idea, of the factors and issues that cause terrorism. In their argument, they assert that terrorism comes as a result of extreme speeches and beliefs. However, there exists weak supportive evidence for their idea as most of the policies around the argument are flawed. Additionally, the primary purpose interferes with society and legitimizes extreme views that foster division in society. Radicalization and violence also go hand in hand with one another. Various factors contribute to radicalization, which leads to violent activities. Morey & Yaqin, 2011 present a case about the negative perception and representation of Islam in the media. The media portrays Muslim men as tyrannical. On the other hand, it considers women as individuals who are easily controlled or exploited. Such representations cause anger among Muslim representatives who plan acts of violence. Morey and Amina have further exposed the power that exists in stereotyping Muslims as they scrutinize the terror television shows associated with the Muslim leaders (Morey & Yaqin 2011). They two reveal the power and influence of the media in causing violence, which is associated with radicalization.
Radicalization is not a myth it is an issue that is evident in society. Most Muslims form part of the European political, economic, and social part of life. However, it becomes a wonder when they fight against discrimination without extremism. They not only fight against discrimination but also fight against various injustices such as racism. Most of the European policies are unjust and violent. For example, the British held the Muslims responsible for multiple criminal issues and social tension that occurred in society. They also associated Islam with international terror attacks. According to Abbas, Muslim communities are associated with reacting to issues of alienation, imperialism, and colonialism through violent means. As the Muslims attempt to fight and look for an identity in society, they end up becoming radical as some policies are against their struggle to get identity (Abbas, 2010). As a result, the concept of violence and radicalization occurs. Societies view Muslim youth as individuals who are vulnerable to exploitation by radical individuals. In his discussion, Abbas mentions the varied reactions that arise in response to the concept of radicalism. The author transcends the orientalist thought of radicalism and focuses on Islamic theology, considering it as a source of radicalism (Abbas, 2010). The general linkage of Muslim theology to radicalism contributes to a rise in extreme reactions among Muslims who do not engage in radical activities. As a result, they express their opinions but go beyond the normal levels of expression leading to extreme scenarios and hence radicalism. Similarly, the study conducted by Lynch (2013) notes that radicalization is a cycle that has been increasingly identified with Muslim youth, particularly male Muslim youth, as the catalyst to violence against Western states that is influenced by Islam. Due to this, terrorism, radicalism, and racism have been intertwined with the conceptions of nationality, citizenship, discrimination, and multiculturalism, and this coiling has made "Muslim youth" a vulnerable demographic in the United Kingdom.
The violent extremist disseminates dissimilar propaganda using various means such as video clips and messages to a targeted population, which is likely to receive such messages. Radical individuals use multiple strategies, such as using psychological techniques to make the members of the extreme teams committed. Some states use radicalization ideas to express various ideas on an extremist set of behaviors and desires. Some of the behaviors used include using violence and extreme views to advance political or religious goals. Other individual defines radicalization as the strategy of establishing violent and extremist ideas which lead to terrorist acts. Kundnani writes on the overfocus on religious-centric concepts as the primary cause of extremism and radicalism (Kundnani 2014).
While assessing the factors that influence extremism, it is necessary to exercise a lot of caution in selecting the specific terms to use to avoid confusion and assumptions that are related to radicalization. Some movements have developed an approach to move from using the term radicalism and adopting the term violent extremists. Therefore, radicalization has a close relationship with extreme activities. Many people in society consider others as radicals, yet they do not engage in radicalistic or violent activities. Obtaining a clear meaning of extremism and radicalism will play a significant role in assessing the concept and understanding that radicalization is not a myth.
In conclusion, based on the arguments and the contributions of various scholars on the concept of radicalization, it is evident that there is an intimate relationship between radicalism and violence or terrorism. Scholars have also found some of the ways that can help individuals, avoid, getting into thoughts of radicalization. Having high self-esteem and enhancing the ties within the community are some of the ways that may aid in trying to reduce levels of radicalization. As observed, the United States and the United Kingdom have been stereotyping Muslims as violent extremist individuals, instead if they try to adopt a better approach and develop favorable policies to handle radicalism they might be able to curtail the prevailing problem. Fruitful prevention of radicalization leading to violence depends on a more detailed understanding of the problem, especially at the community level: not only the reasons that cause people to consider engaging in violent activities, but also the front-line practitioner's ability, expertise, and efficacy are required to combat it. According to the research presented above, it is also evident that radicalization has been the primary contributor to an individual or group, being compelled to participate in violence and terrorism. Therefore, there exists a link between radicalism, terrorism, extremism, and violent actions, which debunks the idea that radicalism is a myth.
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