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Violent extremism is a form of extremism that condones and enacts violence with ideological or deliberate intent, such as religious or political violence. Violent extremist views can manifest in connection with a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. Though "radicalization" is a contentious term, its general use has come to regard the process by which an individual or group adopts violence as a desirable and legitimate means of action. Extremist thought that does not condone the exercise of violence may be accepted within society, and be promoted by groups working within the boundaries of legally permitted activity. The term "violent extremism" may also occur as a code name for Islamic terrorism.
In United States military jargon, the term violent extremist organizations (VEO) is defined as groups of "individuals who support or commit ideologically motivated violence to further political goals". This may include both international terrorist organizations (ITO) and homegrown violent extremists (HVE).
There is no single profile or pathway for radicalization, or even speed at which it happens. Nor does the level of education seem to be a reliable predictor of vulnerability to radicalization. It is however established that there are socio-economic, psychological, and institutional factors that lead to violent extremism. Specialists group these factors into three main categories: push factors, pull factors, and contextual factors.
"Push Factors" are factors which drive individuals to violent extremism, such as: marginalization, inequality, discrimination, persecution or the perception thereof; limited access to quality and relevant education; the denial of rights and civil liberties; and other environmental, historical and socio-economic grievances.
"Pull factors" are factors which nurture the appeal of violent extremism; for example, the existence of well-organized violent extremist groups with compelling discourses and effective programs that are providing services, revenue and/or employment in exchange for membership. Groups can also lure new members by providing outlets for grievances and promise of adventure and freedom. Furthermore, these groups appear to offer spiritual comfort, "a place to belong" and a supportive social network.
Radicalization and the Internet
The current state of evidence on the link between the Internet, social media, and violent radicalization is very limited and it is still inconclusive. Most studies fail to provide evidence on the drivers of interest in extremist sites, the engagement of social media in these issues, the reasons for the influence of its content, and the correlated external and internal factors, as well as the trajectories of youth who come to perpetuate violent acts.
Some evidence suggests that the Internet and social media may play a role in the violent radicalization process, mainly through the dissemination of information and propaganda, as well as the reinforcement, identification and engagement of a (self)-selected audience that is interested in radical and violent messages. The synthesis of evidence shows, at its best, that social media is an environment that facilitates violent radicalization, rather than driving it.
- Sudden break with the family and long-standing friendships.
- Sudden drop-out of school and conflicts with the school.
- Change in behavior relating to food, clothing, language or finances.
- Changes in attitudes and behavior towards others: antisocial comments, rejection of authority, refusal to interact socially, signs of withdrawal and isolation.
- Regular viewing of internet sites and participation in social media networks that condone radical or extremist views.
- Reference to apocalyptic and conspiracy theories.
Prevention of radicalization and deradicalization
The role of education in preventing violent extremism and deradicalizing young people has only recently gained global acceptance. An important step in this direction was the launch, in December 2015, of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism which recognizes the importance of quality education to address the drivers of this phenomenon.
The United Nations Security Council also emphasized this point in its Resolutions 2178 and 2250, which notably highlights the need for “quality education for peace that equips youth with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures and inclusive political processes” and called on “all relevant actors to consider instituting mechanisms to promote a culture of peace, tolerance, intercultural and interreligious dialogue that involve youth and discourage their participation in acts of violence, terrorism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination.”
Education has been identified as preventing radicalization through:
- Developing the communication and interpersonal skills they need to dialogue, face disagreement and learn peaceful approaches to change.
- Developing critical thinking to investigate claims, verify rumors and question the legitimacy and appeal of extremist beliefs.
- Developing resilience to resist extremist narratives and acquire the social-emotional skills they need to overcome their doubts and engage constructively in society without having to resort to violence.
- Fostering critically informed citizens able to constructively engage in peaceful collective action.
UNESCO has emphasized Global Citizenship Education (GCED) as an emerging approach to education that focuses on developing learners’ knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in view of their active participation in the peaceful and sustainable development of their societies. GCED aims to instill respect for human rights, social justice, gender equality and environmental sustainability, which are fundamental values that help raise the defenses of peace against violent extremism. In line with the understanding of Global Citizenship Education, individual level impacts, which encompasses three domains of learning include: cognitive, social-emotional and behavioural. Cognitive impacts involves critical thinking skills, understanding of violent extremism and radicalization. Social-emotional impacts relate to the development of a sense of belonging to a common humanity, sharing values and responsibilities, based on human rights. Behavioral impacts relate to encouraging participants to act effectively and responsibly at local, national and global levels for a more peaceful and sustainable world.
Media and Information Literacy (MIL)
UNESCO has also emphasized the need for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) as increasing terrorist attacks have called attention for more critical approaches to media via MIL and the issue of radicalization has been added to the MIL agenda. According to UNESCO, "MIL can effectively contribute to intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding, peace, promote human rights, freedom of expression, and counter hate, radicalization, and violent extremism." MIL has also been described as a strategy for "reducing demand for extremist content as a means to increase awareness of democracy, pluralism, and peaceful ideas for advancement."
Several formal and informal MIL initiatives have been implemented worldwide based on MIL as a pedagogical practice with a specific set of competences that can deflect narratives of anger and revenge and/or self-realization through violent extremism. These initiatives aim at creating digital counter-narratives that are authentic and reflect youth perceptions of self and others, especially in terms of injustice, felt experiences of discrimination, corruption and abuse by security forces.
Pakistan's Sabaoon Project
The Sabaoon Project, initiated by the Pakistan Army and run by the Social Welfare Academics and Training organization (SWAaT) since 2009, has been implemented to deradicalize and rehabilitate former militant youth who were involved in violent extremist activities and apprehended by the army in Swat and the surrounding areas in Pakistan. Based on an individualized approach and intervention, the project follows a three-step model (see image).
Kenya’s initiatives to address radicalization of youth in educational institutions
To tackle the issue of violent extremism and radicalization in schools, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Kenya launched a new national strategy targeting youth in 2014, entitled Initiatives to Address Radicalization of the Youth in Educational Institutions in the Republic of Kenya. The Strategy adopted measures that service the students’ interests and well-being. For example, it includes efforts to create child-friendly school environments and encourages students to participate in “talent academies” to pursue an area of their own interest.
The Strategy also includes the discontinuation of ranking schools based on academic performance. This was to lessen the overemphasis on examinations and to reduce student pressure, incorporating other indicators of student achievement, such as abilities in sport and artistic talent. The purpose is to reduce the stress of students’ lives at home and in school that may be vented through escape tactics, including joining outlawed groups. The Strategy also employs other effective means to prevent violent extremism, including the integration of Preventing of Violent Extremism through Education (PVE-E) in curricula and school programs; adopting a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach; encouraging student participation through student governance processes and peer-to-peer education; and the involvement of media as a stakeholder.
While it is being increasingly reported that women play an active role in violent extremist organizations and attacks as assailants and supporters, men are still more often the perpetrators of violent extremist acts and therefore the targets of recruitment campaigns.
Some research suggests however, that "women are serious candidates for violent radicalization." Although there may be a gender-based distribution of tasks (e.g. especially where participation in combat is involved), this distinction does not apply when it comes to embracing the radical ideology of, or the legitimation of, violent attacks. Some reports reveal that women recognize the same truths and accept the same rules of compliance validated by doctrines as compared to their male counterparts. When they are radicalized, women may appear more indoctrinated than men and more prone to encourage political violence.
Online gender issues in religious violent radicalization
In spite of the growing presence of radicalized women online, the number of articles devoted to gender and radicalization on social media is very low. One possible explanation may stem from the fact that many women cloak their female identity online, because of a masculinist bias, making them impossible to identify.
Online recruitment functions differently at a distance and reshuffles the roles of men and women alike. One identified trend is a feminist claim of women coming forward to take their place in the fighting, which coincides with a structured use of communication processes by terrorist groups to recruit them. The Internet allows women to move out of relative invisibility, without crossing the limits drawn by their ideology.
- Online youth radicalization
- Political radicalism
- Political violence
- Religious violence
- Religious terrorism
- Religious fanaticism
- Al Qaeda
- Boko Haram
- Christianity and violence
- Christian terrorism
- Islam and violence
- Islamic extremism
- Islamic terrorism
- Judaism and violence
- Jewish religious terrorism
- The Taliban
- Zionist political violence
This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA License statement/permission. Text taken from A Teacher’s Guide on the Prevention of Violent Extremism, UNESCO, UNESCO. UNESCO.
This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 License statement/permission. Text taken from Preventing violent extremism through education: A guide for policy makers, UNESCO, UNESCO. UNESCO.
This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO License statement/permission. Text taken from Youth and violent extremism on social media: mapping the research, 1-167, Séraphin Alava, Divina Frau-Meigs, Ghayda Hassan, UNESCO. UNESCO.
This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO Text taken from Preventing violent extremism through education: effective activities and impact; policy brief, UNESCO, UNESCO. UNESCO.
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