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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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  • 8 July 2020
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Radicalization leading to violence, hate-motivated acts, and social distancing: How can we train prevention agents? The CPRLV’s upcoming webinars

In this period of social distancing, training workshops and programs present a particular challenge for actors and organizations involved in the prevention of radicalization leading to violence and hate-motivated acts. How can we address such sensitive and complex themes through virtual means? Is it possible to develop and maintain knowledge among different prevention actors? Is […]
  • 8 July 2020
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Webinar offered to the City of Strasbourg

The CPRLV offered a webinar on support and engagement as means to intervene and prevent radicalization leading to violence to the City and Eurometropolis of Strasbourg.For requests for online presentations and/or trainings, please write to info@info-radical.org.
  • 6 July 2020
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Webinar offered on conspiracy theories and hate speech

The CPRLV offered a webinar on “Resisting Hate Speech and Conspiracy Theories in the days of Coronavirus” for and in collaboration with the Centre de ressources pour la prévention des radicalités sociales (CRPRS), based in Lille, France. This was the last of a cycle of 4 webinars that began in early June.The participants that attended this webinar […]