Radicalisation: the journey of a concept

race_class_radicalisationSince 2004, the term ‘radicalisation’ has become central to terrorism studies and counter-terrorism policy-making. As US and European governments have focused on stemming ‘home-grown’ Islamist political violence, the concept of radicalisation has become the master signifier of the late ‘war on terror’ and provided a new lens through which to view Muslim minorities. The introduction of policies designed to ‘counter-radicalise’ has been accompanied by the emergence of a government-funded industry of advisers, analysts, scholars, entrepreneurs and self-appointed community representatives who claim that their knowledge of a theological or psychological radicalisation process enables them to propose interventions in Muslim communities to prevent extremism. An examination of the concept of radicalisation used by the industry’s scholars shows its limitations and biases. The concept of radicalisation has led to the construction of Muslim populations as ‘suspect communities’, civil rights abuses and a damaging failure to understand the nature of the political conflicts governments are involved in.

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7 thoughts on “Radicalisation: the journey of a concept

  1. Nobody can de-radicalise young Muslims overnight by engaging some Islamic scholars to teach them Islamic ethics. Most Islamic scholars again, believe in the supremacy of Islam and Muslims. They hardly teach Islam through the Quran. In sum, Muslim radicalisation in the West is not a religious but a political problem. And a political problem needs a political solution, which includes initiating a meaningful dialogue between leaders of the host nations and Muslim Diaspora.

    Nevertheless, even after the disappearance of all Islamist terror outfits in the world, there will be alienated Muslims in the West. As Muslim parents, elders and clerics/techno-clerics are collectively responsible for this alienation, so is the prevalent identity crisis among Muslim youths. It is difficult to delegitimise Islamic supremacist ideology of the “born-again-Muslims” as un-Islamic. Popular Islam is more overpowering than what is written in the Quran. Democracy, education and empowerment of women are no longer effective antidotes to Islamist militancy. Around 3,000 Muslims have so far joined the ISIS fighters in Syria from the newly democratised Tunisia; and several hundred educated/empowered Muslim women from Europe, US and Canada have joined ISIS fighters, mostly as “jihadi-brides.”

    Many second-generation British Muslims now find themselves detached from both the religious traditions of their parents, which they often reject, and the wider secular society that insists on viewing them simply as Muslims. A few are drawn inevitably to extremist Islamist groups where they discover a sense of identity and of belonging. It is this that has made them open to radicalisation.

    Muslim alienation is partially spontaneous and partially attributable to racism, Islamophobia, Muslim parents’ (and children’s) identity crisis, and their twisted understanding of Islam. Thanks to the teachings of the average clerics, Muslims everywhere grow up believing in the inherent superiority of Islam over all other religions. Pseudo-clerics or technocrats-turned-clerics (I have classified them as techno-clerics in my latest book) have been mainly responsible for radicalising Muslim youths. Interestingly, masterminds of Islamist terrorism, from Bin Laden to al-Zawahiri, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Ramzi Yousuf and Anwar Awlaki, among others, were technocrats, not Islamic scholars.

    Contrary to the popular perceptions of Islam in the West and among the vast majority of Muslims everywhere, the Quran does not promote the supremacy of Islam or Muslims. It does not promise paradise only to good Muslims but to good Christians, Jews and others as well [2:62]. It forbids mindless killing of human beings (and animals), and suicide. Interestingly, as we find in the Quran, Allah allows Muslims, Christians, Jews and others to wage their jihad to protect their properties, honour, and “monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where the name of God is honoured most [22:39-40].”

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