Excerpt : Just what does the term radicalisation mean, in relation to the war on terrorism? We use it quite often but we all attach a different meaning to it, and its causes.
Just what does the term radicalisation mean, in relation to the war on terrorism? We use it quite often but we all attach a different meaning to it, and its causes. The typical dictionary definition is that radicalisation is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo, or reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice. Radicalisation can be both violent and non-violent, meaning an individual or group may be radical without necessarily being engaged in violent extremism or terrorism. The convenient definition by our security authorities is that radicalisation is the indoctrination of a young Muslim by a radical Imam!
Many institutions in Western countries have undertaken research in recent years to understand the causes of radicalisation among the youth. In 2007, the New York Police Department published a report that concluded that ‘there is no single pathway to extremism, and that all cases take different paths of radicalisation’. They noted that ‘if an individual goes through all or even some of the steps of radicalisation that does not mean that they will commit an act of terrorism. Several cases exist where an individual radicalised (wholly or partially) and never committed any acts of terrorism’.
In January 2012, The UK House of Commons Home Affairs Committee tabled a report titled ‘Roots of Violent Radicalisation’ in which it noted that mosques and religious institutions account for less than 2 per cent of the total cases of radicalisation in UK, noting that mosques are less ‘engaged in open radical preaching’ and that the they were largely ‘disconnected from young at risk Muslims’. Internet, and universities and colleges were the major sources, with over 40 per cent of al Qaeda terrorist attacks in UK between 1999 and 2009 being conducted by individuals with university or college education. It says ‘the Home Office told us that violent radicalisation is increasingly taking place in private homes, particularly as the authorities clamp down on radicalisation in more public areas’.
According to the report, the triggers for extremist violence include perceived or experienced discrimination, religious harassment, cultural conflict, social exclusion leading to feelings of alienation, and grievances.
In a research by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations conducted in 2009, it was observed that radicalisation in Western nations was not generally driven by poverty or religious fanaticism, nor is it driven by political oppression. The institute noted that most of the villains were well educated, middle-class and well integrated individuals, driven by ‘perceived suffering of their brothers in the Islamic world’. Perhaps this informed the recent assertion by John Prescott, the former UK Deputy Prime Minister, that Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq largely contributed to the radicalisation of British Muslim youth. He observed that every time people watch TV and see ‘rockets firing on all these people, that’s what radicalises them’.
There is growing understanding in recent years that religious ideology ‘gives coherence to individuals engaged in terrorism’ but is not necessarily the driver. John Hogan, Director of the International Centre for Study of Terrorism at Pennsylvania State University is more explicit in his comments that ‘the idea that radicalisation causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research’. He says ‘overwhelming number of Muslims hold radical beliefs but are not violent’, arguing that there is growing evidence that people engaged in terrorism don’t necessarily hold radical views. Perhaps the government needs to critically examine drivers of radicalisation before planning counter measures.