Ways to Prevent Radicalisation Discussed at Night Owl Session

The Night Owl Session, held in cooperation with Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL) and dubbed Ordinary radical(s): In Search of a Meaningful Response, focused on preventive action, and on how to turn the trend of growing numbers of radicalised individuals. Participants addressed the reasons for the increasing radicalisation of young people and reflected on opportunities for education, employment and inclusion.

To kick off the debate at tables, participants were told a story of Mr Adam Deen, Managing Director of Quilliam Foundation, who had been a member of the Islamist extremist organisation Al-Muhajiroun.

Mr Deen urged the participants to understand that both radicalisation and deradicalisation were a process. The process of radicalisation is exploitative, building on an individual’s grievances, be it personal, partial or perceived, and it is driven by ideology. And the extremist ideology is driven by a binary outlook on the world; in the case of Islamic extremism, by the division between Muslims and others or infidels. To be effective in deradicalisation, understanding that radicalisation is a process is crucial as one can start picking at the radical outlook slowly.

His story was commented on by Ms Julia Reinelt of the Violence Prevention Network, who stressed that deradicalisation takes longer than radicalisation, as deconstructing the radical outlook takes a lot of patience and knowledge about the topic of radicalisation, be it right-wing or Islamist.

“Empathy is very important in this process,” because it is always easier to hate an abstract enemy than an individual, Ms Reinelt pointed out, adding that disillusionment was always the first step in deradicalisation.

Following discussions at individual tables, Mr Jakob Sheikh, Author and Investigative Journalist at Politiken, stressed that “we need to be very cautious about how we’re talking about these things”. It is important to distinguish between radical and radicalised individuals, he added.

Ambassador Ahmed Farouk, Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in New York, meanwhile pointed out that terrorism was also a “heavily politically charged” term, serving the interests of different politics.

Building upon terrorism, Mr Ahmad Saiful Rijal Bin Hassan, Religious Counsellor of the RRG Initiative, stressed that politicians who are willing to fight terror groups “the hard way” should also invest in soft measures, such as efforts to support deradicalisation. “All of us have a role to play in fighting terrorism, extremism and radicalisation,” he added.

Ms Elena González, Freelance Journalist from Morocco and Mr Matjaž Gruden, Director of Policy Planning at the Council of Europe, pointed to the issue of media depiction of Islam.

According to Ms González, a wall is being built between Muslims and non-Muslims by both ISIS and Islamophobia. Mr Gruden noted that what it means to be a Muslim, “not a radical one, an ordinary Muslim, maybe even non-practicing one”, in Europe today was the key question.

He proposed that those who defy radicalization processes despite coming from similar backgrounds to those who become radicalised, should be analysed as well.