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RADICALIZATION

Definition

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DEFINITION

What is radicalization leading to violence?

There is no universally accepted definition of radicalization leading to violence. However, the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV) defines it as follows:

a process whereby people adopt extremist belief systems—including the willingness to use, encourage or facilitate violence—with the aim of promoting an ideology, political project or cause as a means of social transformation.

At the heart of the process of radicalization leading to violence is a dynamic that involves individuals severing ties with those in their immediate environment (family, friends, colleagues, etc.), and progressing along a radical path that may eventually lead to violence.

In short, violent radicalization entails:

  • The adoption of an ideology that becomes a way of life and a framework for meaningful action for the individual;
  • Belief in the use of violent means to promote a cause;
  • The merging of ideology and violent action.

Are violent and non-violent radicalization the same thing?

It is important to distinguish between violent and non-violent radicalization. Sometimes people who are firmly entrenched in their own beliefs may adopt positions that, while radical, may not necessarily be opposed to democratic norms and values. Such radicalization would not be considered violent.

Moreover, nonviolent radicals may play an extremely positive role in their communities as well as in a larger political context. Most progress in democratic societies has been the result of some form of radicalization. Martin Luther King, Gandhi and even Nelson Mandela were all considered radicals in their day. When firmly established ways of thinking and doing things are contested via a radical critique of certain aspects of the social system, this may cause society to evolve in a positive direction.

Radical viewpoints become problematic when they legitimize, encourage or validate violence or forms of violent extremist behaviours—including terrorism and violent hate acts—in order to further a particular cause, ideology or worldview. Individuals who are undergoing a process of violent radicalization may encourage, assist in or carry out violence in the name of a specific belief system because they are categorically convinced their system of beliefs is absolute and exclusive.

Is violent radicalization a form of mental illness or cult-like mind control?

Violent radicalization should not be confused with mental illness, nor should the two been seen as mutualy exclusive. While mental illness may at times be a possible factor in some forms of radicalization, current research has thoroughly documented the psychological ‘normality’ of individuals on the path of radicalization. Similarly, it would be wrong to confuse “radicalization leading to violence” with cult-like mind control: while the two phenomena have numerous characteristics in common, radicalization does not automatically involve the development of a sort of “mental hold” over the individual that removes the latter’s ability to exercise free will.

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  • 23 April 2021
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CALL FOR PARTICIPATION FOR OUR “EXTREME DIALOGUE QUEBEC” PROJECT

As part of the “Extreme Dialogue Quebec” project, the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRMV) is looking for people in situations of extremism who wish to share their experiences in video. To participate, email us at: info@info-radical.org by May 5, 2021 > Read the Call for Participation (in French)