November 20, 2015 4:20 pm
Why the term ‘violent radicalisation’?
For understanding the why of the tragedy that happened in Paris last week, and tracking back the current major threat in Europe – terrorism – , we must dive into the origins of the cause that leads us in this case towards ‘violent radicalisation’.
Although Europe has experienced different types of terrorism along its history, according to the latest Studies into Violent Radicalisation by the Change Institute of the European Commission, the current main threat comes from extremist interpretation of Islam. For this reason, ‘violent radicalisation’ is linked to Islamic terrorism in the European collective imaginary and the media.
Condemning a terrorist act of ‘violent radicalisation’ seems pretty obvious from a moral perspective. Defining the concept with absolute terms, however, becomes a little trickier as it happens every time that beliefs and ideas get involved. Because “not all individuals who share the same sense of injustice or are living in the same polarised environment turn to radicalism and even less so to violence or terrorism” when “violent radicalisation is indeed only at the far end of a wide array of possible radical expressions” concluded the report by the European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation in 2005.
How to define ‘violent radicalisation’?
After the Madrid bombing of 11 March 2004, the concept of ‘violent radicalisation’ began to be part of EU terminology and some time later the European Commission defined it as an action that “involves embracing opinions, views and ideas which could lead to acts of terrorism” (same definition given in IATE). Nonetheless, this term has been barely used in modern social science and therefore there is no agreed definition in academia.
And here comes the tricky part: according to the above definition ‘violent radicalisation’ could lead to terrorism but not necessarily, the same way radicalism does not imply violence by definition. Indeed, radicalism has been historically related to ideologies of all political colours but “there can be radicalism without the advocacy of violence to strive for the realisation of social or political change” said the report mentioned above.
So if the term ‘violent radicalisation’ is used in connection with the authors of the Paris attack, then the following definition seems to be more accurate: “violent radicalisation is to be understood as socialisation to extremism which manifests itself in terrorism”, also given by the European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation.
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- Change Institute for the European Commission. 2015. Studies into violent radicalisation; Lot 2 The beliefs ideologies and narratives . [ONLINE] Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/doc_centre/terrorism/docs/ec_radicalisation_study_on_ideology_and_narrative_en.pdf. [Accessed 19 November 15].
- European Commission . 2015. Migration and Home Affairs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/crisis-and-terrorism/radicalisation/index_en.htm. [Accessed 19 November 15].
- European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation. 2008. Radicalisation Processes Leading to Acts of Terrorism. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fhs.se/documents/externwebben/forskning/centrumbildningar/cats/2008/expert%20group%20report%20violent%20radicalisation%20final.pdf. [Accessed 19 November 15].
- Government Uk. 2012. Roots of violent radicalisation. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228597/8368.pdf. [Accessed 19 November 15].
- Kamaldeep Bhui, Nasir Warfa and Edgar Jones. 2014. Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0090718. [Accessed 19 November 15].
Written by Ana Escaso Moreno
Communication Trainee at TermCoord
Journalist & Social Media manager
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