Blog Entry On The Night Owl Session Entitled Ordinary Radical(S): In Search Of A Meaningful Response by Ivana Ponjavic

DISCLAIMER: The contribution is a part of series written by the table moderators of the Night Owl Session entitled Ordinary radical(s): In Search of a Meaningful Response, which took place on 5 September at the Bled Strategic Forum. Please note that the author contributed to this article in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of his/her employer.

We all know what we should do. Do we have courage for that?

Author: Ivana Ponjavic

Last year 211 terrorist attacks were carried out in six European Union Member States. In only one year, 151 people died and over 360 were injured as a result of terrorist attacks latest EUROPOL Report revealed.

How did this happen to Europe? Is there a European Perspective towards terrorism and extremism, especially among youth population? What drives them and how can we get to the roots? Are there any solutions? Those were the questions for our expert Mr Matjaž Gruden, Director of Policy Planning at the Council of Europe. Capacity to deprive terrorists is in our hands because they can’t succeed without us, he explained. It is not only about their actions, but also very much about our reactions which became part of their strategy.

Mr Gruden pointed out three ‘I’ as main causes of extremism among youth:

  1. Internet
  2. Inequality
  3. Identity

Widely used internet represents very powerful communication tool and strong amplifier of actions and reactions. Mismanaged globalisation has led us to inequality and stagnation, to rise of unsatisfied generations; it brought polarisation even in culture and identity. Significant number of young people feels like they have nothing to lose which is dangerous. They need perspective; they need visions of meaningful future, something really important worth striving for. At the same time, identity became central background for politics in Europe. Instead of being positive and inclusive, it is negative and aggressive which is exactly where terrorists wanted us to be.

Our second expert, Mr Jakob Sheikh, author and investigative journalist at Politiken from Denmark helped us to understand difference between ‘radical’ and ‘radicalised’.  We have to pay attention to inner narratives of the radicalisation and be aware that the issue is when radical becomes radicalised. What gives them courage to choose ‘another way’? Many of them became radicalised just because they met wrong persons at the wrong time. But is it just that? Pressures of life and ideological confliction are very important triggers.

The discussion moved on potential preventive activities and we all agreed that apart from strengthening security apparatus, governments have to do more on anti discrimination and inclusiveness, to make education widely accessible, to include civil society in dialogue and actions as well as to communicate with media as partners especially in polarising societies. What was our initial thought, turned out to be common conclusion of well balanced group of experienced and young colleagues coming from Ireland, Greece, Slovenia, Hungary, Iran, the US, and Switzerland. Reasons for the increasing radicalization of young people lay in our wrong-doings, in lack of inclusion, possibilities for education and employment. What we are doing so far is not what is expected. Although this problem is very difficult to deal with, we all know what we should do. Do we have will and courage for that?