Radicalization analytical essay

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In the twenty-first century, the issue of radicalization and violent extremism has been a major concern to global leaders. As a result, extensive research has been conducted by different scholars attempting to answer the question why anyone in his right mind can be involved in extremely violent activities that lead to loss of innocent lives as well as damage to property. Despite the social, political and economic consequences associated with radicalization, the social psychological process that drives individuals to embrace the sense of duty when exploring radicalization has remained underdeveloped. The underdevelopment in this field has consequently increased home-grown terrorism activities and inspirations which include the recent attacks in Orlando, Nice, Madrid, and Paris.

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The radicalization process can be long, complex, and devastating to both the radicalized person and to the society. The process covers an extensive spectrum and can, therefore, be defined from different perspectives. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) describes radicalization as the process that individual believes that engaging or facilitating non-state violence as to drive social or political changes is justified. In another definition, the German Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies define radicalization as the process in which an individual or a group develop an extremist mindset and readily engage in violent and nondemocratic actions as to achieve their goals. Other scholars such as Wilner and Dubouloz (2010) define radicalization as the process in which a group of people or an individual adopts extreme social, political, or religious ideals that undermine contemporary ideas or expressions of the state. Understanding the concepts of radicalization regarding what it is and how it develops is vital when developing prevention measures.

Despite the effort by global leaders to reduce radicalization, existing evidence suggests that it is the primary cause terrorism which is a significant threat to any State. The ideology of extremists such as Jihadi, Alshabaab, and ISIS drives potential recruits to believe that they are delivering some duties when engaging in radicalization. Through the ideology, the potential recruits particularly those frustrated by the society or policies of a state meet like-minded people, and as a group, they undergo a series of phases until they become extremists. As a result, the radicalization encourages violent acts such as terrorism and hatred within the society. In this paper, a detailed analysis of the social psychological process that extremist goes through to become radicalized and eventually carry out extreme activities is described.

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Literature review

Practical and theoretical studies have approached the radicalization process from a cognitive and behavioral perspective. Although it is evident that the two are critical in the radicalization process, the interactions between the two remain unclarified. However, RAN (2016) suggests that visual and audio elements play a significant role in the radicalization process. The visual and audio elements are particularly used on social media in the form of propaganda. The content posted on social media platforms is received by the young people who develop the desires to get involved in the activities they see. Alarid (2016) advocates that radicalized groups and self-proclaimed extremists such as the ISIS and the Jihad are sophisticated in creating online global networks which help them run their activities including soliciting and recruiting youths into the groups. By viewing or listening to what the extremists post, the perceptions of some youths are gradually changed, and they tend to believe in what they see and hear.

The literature on radicalization and terrorism activities is wide and diverse. However, Whittaker (2004) suggests that the existing research does not give solid facts regarding the development of radicalization as a mental process. He argues that the existing research details on the hypothetical profile of the personality rather than the influential factors that lead to radicalization such as peer pressure, life failures, low-income family structures and alienation, availability of opportunities, and development of a belief that one is being marginalized or exploited by a certain community. Whittaker states that the aggressiveness in radicalized people is aimed at finding excitement, by finding fault in others and reacting to the faults aggressively.

According to Post (2004), radicalized people sacrifice their identity to the identity of the collective ones. Post argues that when individuals are driven into a radicalized group, they are more likely to take riskier decisions than when they are acting alone. Furthermore, Turk (2004) suggests that members of the radicalized groups come from wealthy regions and are motivated by political ideologies rather than economic ideologies. However, Somaiya (2010) asserts that religious differences are the key drivers of radicalization. He associated religious ideologies to the numerous terrorist attacked carried out across the globe. Although some of the radicalization behaviors may not be directly linked to religious ideologies, Samoiya suggests that the basic suppositions of the ideologies are closely linked to dynamics of the radicalization process, and by understanding them, it is possible to identify their association with observable behaviors. By identifying the behaviors associated with religious radicalization process, then it possible to mitigate the radicalization process by developing counter- radicalization measures.

McCauley and Moscalenko (2011) research on radicalization focused on the social and individual variables of the Salafi-Jihadi radicalization. The research suggests that most of the Salafi-Jihadi radicals come from religious families and they are raised with positive perception about their religion and families. However, when they move to different countries, the radicalization process starts due to several factors which include discrimination by the host society, individual feelings of alienation, and frustration as a result of finding the unexpected. However, when an individual entrusts in family responsibilities, Berrebi (2007) statistical analysis proved that the individuals stand higher chances of avoiding radical groups or activities such as terrorism.

Causes of terrorism

The causes of terrorism are diversified, and therefore different scholars have developed different methods of classifying these causes. For instance, Matthew (2012) categorizes the causes into three categories which are situational, strategic, and ideological. Mathew subcategorizes the situation causes into pre-conditions and precipitant causes, while the strategic causes are subcategorized into long term and short term causes. Preconditioned causes include development within the modernity such as the internet, foreign policies such as the war on a foreign state, racial and religious discrimination, and economic and social exclusion.  He also subcategorizes the strategic causes into long-term causes such as the defeat of western modernity and short-term causes such as attention for aims or fear. The ideological causes result from non-negotiable beliefs within an individual about what is right or wrong.

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The United Nations Development Programme (2015) suggests that the main causes of radicalization are relative deprivation, weak state capacity, and denial of basic needs. In the relative deprivation, the idea of extremism arises when individuals develop tension and frustration after comparing themselves with others. The tension and frustration develop as they considered themselves worse than those they are compared with. For instance, in the Islamic states, there are different social classes. Children from the low social class more are frustrated after comparing themselves with children from the higher social class. Consequently, they explode the frustrations by engaging in extreme activities such as terrorism.

The weak state capacity is also a significant cause driver of radicalization. Weak states are unable to project power and authority within their borders, and consequently, other organizations attempt to fill the ungoverned spaces. The entrance into the governance space creates favorable conditions to influence radicalization, and they become the reservoirs for creating and exporting extremists.

The denial of basic needs is also a significant cause of the radicalization. It can take different forms including social injustices, religious constraints, and cultural constructs. Social injustices result when people are denied their basic needs including food, shelter, and water. Religious constraints arise when some groups are denied the right to belong to a certain religion or when their rights to belong to a certain religion are limited. The denial of the social needs, cultural identity, and the right to belong to certain religion causes frustration and consequently lead to radicalization.

The process of radicalization

The process of radicalization is non-linear and non-predetermined. The process is shaped by numerous factors which include personal, social, religious, political, and psychological. Despite being a diversified process with numerous elements, the radicalization process shares a common sociological, and psychodynamic pathway can be traced. The pathways have two levels which are the personal and social levels. At the personal level, the pathway focuses on personal revenge against a perceived harm. The revenge triggers a psychodynamic process such as thinking on how to carry out the revenge in groups. At this stage, all the interpretations are viewed in ideological terms. Consequently, the individual rejects any competing explanation or alternative means other than the revenge. The ideology at this level justifies taking part in a radical action including participating or supporting violent acts.

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At the social level, the radicalization process begins by the individual questioning certain social, political, or economic aspects. The questioning of these aspects is triggered by emotional experiences which may be social or political. After questioning, the individuals opts to share the aspects they question to a group which increases the commitment to the cause and consequently result in the development of divergent conceptions to counter the aspect in question.

Modes of radicalization

Several theories and models of the radicalization process have been developed by various scholars. These theories include the social movement theory, the conversion theory, and the social psychology theory. Other scholars such as Borum (2011) have developed conceptual models consisting of a four-stage process involved in the development of a terrorist mindset. Borum’s model is based on the social movement theory, and it involves the transformation of grievances and vulnerabilities into hatred ideologies. Basically, the four-stage model starts with the individual framing some events, grievance or conditions as being unjust. The injustice is then blamed on a particular target such as a nation or a person. The responsible party is then vilified and finally demonized as to justify the aggression.


The issue of radicalization and extremism has been a major concern worldwide. It is through radicalization that violent individuals such as terrorists are developed. Radicalization is a process that is triggered by several factors including social, political, religious, or psychological factor. Since the radicalization process is nonlinear scholars have developed various theories such as the social movement theory, the conversion theory, and the social psychology theory to explain why individuals become radicalized.

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  1. Alarid Maeghin (2016) Recruitment and Radicalization: The Role of Social Media and New Technology. Impunity. Retrieved (December 1, 2017) http://cco.ndu.edu/Publications/Books/Impunity/Article/780274/chapter-13-recruitment-   and-radicalization-the-role-of-social-media-and-new-tech/
  2. Borum, Randy (2011). “Rethinking Radicalization.” Journal Of Strategic Security 4, no. 4: 1-6.Bottom of Form
  3. Mathew Francis (2012).What causes Radicalisation? Main lines of consensus in recent research. Radicalization Research. retrieved (December 4, 2017) https://www.radicalisationresearch.org/guides/francis-2012-causes-2/
  4. McCauley, C., & Moskalenko, S. (2011). Friction: How radicalization happens to them and us. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
  5. Post, J. M., & George, A. (January 01, 2004). Leaders and their followers in a dangerous world: The psychology of political behavior.
  6. Somaiya, R. (2010). Who is Al-Shabaab? Somali terrorist group’s first deadly strike abroad puts it on the radar screen. Retrieved (December 1, 2017) website:http://newsweek.com/2010/07/12/the-rise-of-al-shabab.print.html
  7. Turk, A.T. (2004) ‘Sociology of Terrorism,’ Annual Review of Sociology, 30, pp. 271-286.
  8. United Nations Development Programme (2015). The Root Causes of Radicalization in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Retrieved (December 4, 2017)
  9. Whittaker, D.J. (2004) Terrorist and Terrorism in the Contemporary World (New York: Routledge).
  10. Wilner, A. S., & Dubouloz, C.-J. (February 01, 2010). Homegrown terrorism and transformative learning: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding radicalization. Global Change, Peace & Security, 22, 1, 33-51. http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/democratic-governance/conflict-  prevention/discussion-paper—root-causes-of-radicalism.html
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