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The concept of groups at risk of radicalising

Are some groups more prone than other to become violent?
I would say no, there is not a particular group that we can identify in society that’s more at risk than another group. It’s very much a context-bound phenomenon. And it’s difficult to know who might actually be vulnerable to being recruited into a violent, extremist organisation. There are some things that people who are recruited have in common, and there are a range of different motivating factors. But they’re not the same in every case. And so it’s very difficult to know. Often it seems the case that people who join violent extremist groups are doing so because they want to be part of something. They want a sense of belonging. The groups are offering them something that they don’t have.
They may feel something is missing in their lives. They don’t have purpose or meaning. They don’t have a job. They don’t have a sort of future– a sense of future or a future orientation. The group may give them that. The group might say, hey, you want dignity? You want to have a job? You want a sense of a future? You want to change the world? Join us. And so that becomes a very appealing proposition to particularly some young people who might be feeling a bit directionless. They may be feeling disenfranchised. They might be feeling discriminated against in different ways.
If we think about, for example, some of the dynamics on the far right side of things in terms of recruiting towards far right organisations, a lot of these far right groups, for example, might appeal to men’s– the feeling of shame that they might be feeling in response to, for example, things like the MeToo movement, which, in part, has gained prominence through the public shaming of a whole range of different male figures based on certain behaviours that have been violent and sexually violent towards women. But the ways in which that’s been addressed has had the effect, sometimes, of men uncertain in some parts of society feeling that they are under attack.
Whether or not that’s the case is another question, but the reality is that the reaction to that feeling of being under attack or being in the wrong is, for some people who can’t or don’t want to deal with that or feel threatened, perhaps, by women’s increasing empowerment, maybe to feel a loss of dignity, to feel that they’ve lost their place and position.
And so a far right group, for example, that’s offering or promising to restore dignity to men by making society great again, for example, in the case we can think of a very prominent far right actor who promises to make certain countries great– the appeal of that sort of statement really speaks to the feeling of loss of dignity or loss of pride of place, loss of a traditional role that is no longer there in the same way. And these groups are saying we can give you that back. So that’s one part of the appeal, the dignity that’s offered.

In this interview, Dr. Gerrand dispels some of the misconceptions on whether certain social, ethnic or demographic groups might be more at risk than others of radicalising.

Vivian Gerrand is an Associate Investigator on two projects focused on building resilience and understanding the risk factors for and appeal of violent extremism to a minority of young people.

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Religion, Radicalisation, Resilience

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