The term "violent extremism" refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically-motivated violence to further radicalideological, religious, or political aims. Violent extremist views can manifest in connection with a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. No society, religious community, or worldview is immune to violent extremism.[need quotation to verify] Though "radicalization" is a contested term to some[who?], it has come to be used[by whom?] to define the process through which an individual or a group comes to regard violence as a legitimate and a desirable means of action. Radical thought that does not condone the exercise of violence to further political goals may be seen[by whom?] as normal and acceptable, and be promoted by groups working within the boundaries of legally permitted activity. The phrase "violent extremism" may occur as a code name for Islamic terrorism.
In American military jargon, the term "violent extremist organizations" or VEO has come[when?] into use. The Obama administration defined VEO as groups of "individuals who support or commit ideologically motivated violence to further political goals". These groups include both ideologically-motivated international terrorist organizations (ITO) and homegrown violent extremists (HVE).
There is no single profile or pathway for radicalization, or even speed at which it happens. Nor does the level of education seem to be a reliable predictor of vulnerability to radicalization. It is however established that there are socio-economic, psychological, and institutional factors that lead to violent extremism. Specialists group these factors into three main categories: push factors, pull factors, and contextual factors.
"Push Factors" drive individuals to violent extremism, such as: marginalization, inequality, discrimination, persecution or the perception thereof; limited access to quality and relevant education; the denial of rights and civil liberties; and other environmental, historical and socio-economic grievances.
"Pull Factors" nurture the appeal of violent extremism, for example: the existence of well-organized violent extremist groups with compelling discourses and effective programs that are providing services, revenue and/or employment in exchange for membership. Groups can also lure new members by providing outlets for grievances and promise of adventure and freedom. Furthermore, these groups appear to offer spiritual comfort, "a place to belong" and a supportive social network.
See also: Online youth radicalization
The current state of evidence on the link between the Internet, social media, and violent radicalization is very limited and still inconclusive. Most studies fail to provide evidence on the drivers of interest to extremist sites, engagement in social media on these issues, the reasons for influence of content, and the external and internal correlated factors, as well as the trajectories of youth who come to perpetuate violent acts.
Some evidence suggests that the Internet and social media may play a role in the violent radicalization process, mainly through the dissemination of information and propaganda, as well as the reinforcement, identification and engagement of a (self)-selected audience that is interested in radical and violent messages. The synthesis of evidence shows, at its best, that social media is an environment that facilitates violent radicalization, rather than driving it.
The role of education in preventing violent extremism and deradicalizing young people has only recently gained global acceptance. An important step in this direction was the launch, in December 2015, of the UN Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism which recognizes the importance of quality education to address the drivers of this phenomenon.
The United Nations Security Council also emphasized this point in its Resolutions 2178 and 2250, which notably highlights the need for "quality education for peace that equips youth with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures and inclusive political processes" and called on "all relevant actors to consider instituting mechanisms to promote a culture of peace, tolerance, intercultural and interreligious dialogue that involve youth and discourage their participation in acts of violence, terrorism, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination."
Education has been identified as preventing radicalization through:
UNESCO has emphasized Global Citizenship Education (GCED) as an emerging approach to education that focuses on developing learners' knowledge, skills, values and attitudes in view of their active participation in the peaceful and sustainable development of their societies. GCED aims to instill respect for human rights, social justice, gender equality and environmental sustainability, which are fundamental values that help raise the defenses of peace against violent extremism.
UNESCO has also emphasized the need for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) as increasing terrorist attacks have called attention for more critical approaches to media via MIL and the issue of radicalization has been added to the MIL agenda. According to UNESCO, "MIL can effectively contribute to intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding, peace, promote human rights, freedom of expression, and counter hate, radicalization, and violent extremism." MIL has also been described as a strategy for "reducing demand for extremist content as a means to increase awareness of democracy, pluralism, and peaceful ideas for advancement."
Several formal and informal MIL initiatives have been implemented worldwide based on MIL as a pedagogical practice with a specific set of competences that can deflect narratives of anger and revenge and/or self-realization through violent extremism. These initiatives aim at creating digital counter-narratives that are authentic and reflect youth perceptions of self and others, especially in terms of injustice, felt experiences of discrimination, corruption and abuse by security forces.
The Sabaoon Project, initiated by the Pakistan Army and run by the Social Welfare Academics and Training organization (SWAaT) since 2009, has been implemented to deradicalize and rehabilitate former militant youth who were involved in violent extremist activities and apprehended by the army in Swat and the surrounding areas in Pakistan. Based on an individualized approach and intervention, the project follows a three-step model (see image).
To tackle the issue of violent extremism and radicalization in schools, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Kenya launched a new national strategy targeting youth in 2014, entitled Initiatives to Address Radicalization of the Youth in Educational Institutions in the Republic of Kenya. The Strategy adopted measures that service the students' interests and well-being. For example, it includes efforts to create child-friendly school environments and encourages students to participate in "talent academies" to pursue an area of their own interest.
The Strategy also includes the discontinuation of ranking schools based on academic performance. This was to lessen the overemphasis on examinations and to reduce student pressure, incorporating other indicators of student achievement, such as abilities in sport and artistic talent. The purpose is to reduce the stress of students' lives at home and in school that may be vented through escape tactics, including joining outlawed groups. The Strategy also employs other effective means to prevent violent extremism, including the integration of Preventing of Violent Extremism through Education (PVE-E) in curricula and school programs; adopting a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach; encouraging student participation through student governance processes and peer-to-peer education; and the involvement of media as a stakeholder.
While it is being increasingly reported that women play an active role in violent extremist organizations and attacks as assailants and supporters, men are still more often the perpetrators of violent extremist acts and therefore the targets of recruitment campaigns.
Some research suggests however, that "women are serious candidates for violent radicalization." Although there may be a gender-based distribution of tasks (e.g. especially where participation in combat is involved), this distinction does not apply when it comes to embracing the radical ideology of, or the legitimation of, violent attacks. Some reports reveal that women recognize the same truths and accept the same rules of compliance validated by doctrines as compared to their male counterparts. When they are radicalized, women may appear more indoctrinated than men and more prone to encourage political violence.
In spite of the growing presence of radicalized women online, the number of articles devoted to gender and radicalization on social media is very low. One possible explanation may stem from the fact that many women cloak their female identity online, because of a masculinist bias, making them impossible to identify.
Online recruitment functions differently at a distance and reshuffles the roles of men and women alike. One identified trend is a feminist claim of women coming forward to take their place in the fighting, which coincides with a structured use of communication processes by terrorist groups to recruit them. The Internet allows women to move out of relative invisibility, without crossing the limits drawn by their ideology.
Violent extremist threats come from a range of groups and individuals, including domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists in the United States, as well as international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL.
Extremism is a tendency or disposition to go to extremes, whether they be political, environmental or ideological extremes.
Not all extremist behaviour leads to violence but if a person or group decides that fear, terror and violence are justified to achieve ideological, political or social change, and then acts on this belief, that is violent extremism.
For weeks now, pundits and politicians have been raging over President Obama's insistence that America is fighting 'violent extremism' rather than 'radical Islam.'