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Why does violent radicalisation emerge?

Olivier Roy and Michele Grossman on the root causes of radicalisation.
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The root causes of radicalisation are complex. It’s not a collective movement. It’s a collection of individuals. And if we look at the individual motivation, the first thing you have is resentement – they resent society. They resent some sort of exclusion – not necessarily social or economic exclusion And they dream to become some sort of a hero. So you have this identification with a great cause, and a cause which is scaring the noble people in the West. So they have a fascination for becoming some sort of a negative hero. And of course, they choose Islam, because it’s the only thing you have on the market today.
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The leftist radicalisation is not dead, but it’s concentrated on local issues like Occupy Wall Street, or occupy different squares and things. Leftism is no more a universal cause. So the only violent, radical, universal cause which is on the market is jihadism. And it’s, I think, the main reason for that fascination towards jihadism.
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There are a lot of different theories about drivers for radicalisation and different schools of thought about what some of the most important elements that contribute to processes of radicalisation might be. I think that one of the most important ways of understanding processes and drivers of radicalisation is to think about the social dimensions and the social conditions that can sometimes enable an individual or, indeed, a group of people, to start to move towards radicalised violence. Primarily, these involve three things.
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The first is a set of grievances, where people feel that they have genuine grievances that they have come to believe are not able to be resolved by existing social or political mechanisms– say, through democratic processes or through being able to argue for change at the institutional or the social level. So grievances can certainly play a role. The second way of understanding processes of radicalisation from this more social platform or viewpoint is to think about the role of social influence and social networks. Social influence and social networks have been shown by a number of different researchers and thinkers to be really fundamentally important to processes of radicalisation.
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That is to say, that if you are operating in a milieu or a context where there are a lot of influences toward seeing violence as a solution to your problems or violence as a legitimate response to your grievances– if you are in an environment, a social environment, where a lot of your friends or a lot of people that you care about who are around you are also involved in radicalising to violence, it can be both very seductive to go along with that. And it also can be very difficult, or challenging, to take a stand against that. Because then, of course, you risk becoming isolated from within a social group or social network.
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So certainly, social influence and social networks not only in your immediate environment, but also broader social influences including online can also play quite a critical role. The third element that goes into radicalisation from a social perspective, I think, is very much bound up with the experience of humiliation. Of either feeling, or perceiving that you feel or are being made to feel, that you are somehow lesser than, that you don’t belong. That you are not as good as.
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So over and over in the life histories on the testimony and experiences of a number of people who have radicalised to violence, experiences of humiliation, experiences of not belonging– the anger, the frustration, the loneliness that can arise from those experiences has been shown to be quite important. This is really just an explanation of some of the features that can contribute to radicalisation as a process from that more social perspective or point of view. It is by no means an exhaustive account of all the different multi-layers and multi-levels that actually can contribute. You need lots of things to come together in particular ways and at particular points of time for people to really, seriously commit themselves to a trajectory of radicalisation.
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But the social features that I’ve described have been demonstrated certainly to be a part of that process.

In this double interview we ask the same question –what, in your opinion, are the root causes of violent radicalisation?—to two renown experts in this field.

One is Professor Olivier Roy, based at the European University Institute in Florence, who has published articles and books on secularisation and Islam, including “Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State” (2017).

The other interviewee, Professor Michele Grossman, is Research Chair in Diversity and Community Resilience at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, where she leads the AVERT (Addressing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation to Terrorism) Research Network.

Do you agree with the answers provided, and how would you answer the same question?

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Religion, Radicalisation, Resilience

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