Radicalization as violent extremism has provided fertile grounds for terrorist activities in contemporary times but there is little knowledge of the drivers of this inhumane behaviour
The term ‘radicalization’ defies a single definition but generally has two forms: nonviolent radicalism and violent radicalization. Non-violent radicals normally have strong ideological views and commitment to sweeping change in the society. This form is normally associated with left and right-wing political movements and parties as well as some radical civil movements (European Commission's Expert Group on Violent Radicalization, 2008 Radicalization Processes Leading to Acts of Terrorism).
However radicalization as violent extremism is ‘the process by which an individual or group adopts extreme political, social, or religious ideals that reject the status quo, undermining contemporary ideas regarding freedom of choice and expression and condoning violence to achieve ideological ends, including undertaking terrorist acts’ (Sodipo, 2013. Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria, Africa Security Brief; a publication of the African Centre for Security Studies).
A well-recognized threat to geopolitical security in contemporary times is the emerging ubiquity of terrorism—particularly in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Sahel region and now threatening Western Europe as a result of the Middle East migrant crisis. With the rise of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Taliban, the so-called Islamic State group (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, the Somali based Al-Shabaab and the notorious Boko Haram militant group in the Sambisa forest of North Eastern Nigeria, radicalization and the menace of terrorism is constantly heading towards what Ahmed calls ‘the globalization of insecurity’ (The Current Analyst, 2009 . Drivers of Youth Radicalization in East Africa . Retrieved June 18, 2016, from www.current analyst.com; Ahmed. 2004. The Globalizaion of Insecurity: How the International Economic order undermines Human and National Security on the World Scale).
According to some analyst, violent radicalization is driven by the crisis of the state and its fragility, religious extremism and ideological clashes, lack of strong institutions and international relations driven by reverse globalization (The Current Analyst, 2009). Again issues such as doctrinal and inter religious rivalries, the influence of radical charismatic leaders, inter-group tensions and struggles over socioeconomic privileges, alienated youth and their search for alternatives including the politicization and manipulation of religion by political elites has also contributed to this menace(Olawale. 2013. Radicalization and violent extremism in West Africa: implications for African and international security, Conflict, Security & Development).
DRIVERS AND ROOT CAUSES OF RADICALIZATION
The drivers of radicalization can also be classified as the root causes of terrorism. Indeed, because of the complexities surrounding this menace, scholars have not agreed on a specific approach for categorizing these drivers. But according to Veldhuis and Staun, the root causes of radicalization can be classified in two interconnected levels; Micro level drivers and the Macro level drivers (Veldhuis & Staun, 2009. Islamic Radicalization A Root Cause Model, The Hague, Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael: www.clingendael.nl).
The micro level drivers describe the beginning stage of radicalization. The public only see a terrorist act but research indicates that terrorism begins with radicalization which is difficult to detect. It links radicalization and violent extremism to factors affecting the ‘ego’—external forces that makes the ego potentially deviant. This happens when a susceptible person’s self-identity, social identity, social interactions and group processes, personal characteristics and personal experiences is tainted. There are several models that explain radicalization for instance the phase model developed by the Danish Security and Intelligence Services.
PHASE 1 - Radicalization begins with contact between the ‘radicalisator’ and a person open to radical ideas
PHASE 2 - There is gradual change of behaviour in the person– including change in religious behaviour, new communication habits on external sites like the internet
PHASE 3-The person then becomes solitary to former social bonds and families. Former friendships are then cut-off or restricted. A new social life is built with other radicalizers
PHASE 4 - The radical now goes through a process that builds hard-line views by watching violent videos, combat or terrorist scenes. At this time, the radical is now very likely to perpetrate violence (Veldhuis and Staun, 2009:14).
Micro level radicalization facilitators can be linked to socialization. When socialization processes inculcates the habits of youth radicalization and violent extremism, it becomes a considerable precondition that prepares the ground for the macro level drivers (European Commission's Expert Group on Violent Radicalization, 2008).
After a person’s self-identity, a social interaction or personality trait has been destroyed through the internet, social media interaction with radicalizers, religious propaganda or extremist ideology; the trigger effects may be self-radicalization. By self-radicalization, people self-learn mainly through published materials and through the internet as well as social media interactions with radicalizers (Singh, B. 2016, February 12. Youth Self-Radicalisation: Lessons From The Singapore Narrative. Retrieved February 2016, 2016, from South East Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Malaysia: searcct.org).
Self-Radicalization has misled many young people to join militant and religiously motivated groups. Violent Extremist Organizations sustain their illicit human resource through young recruitment; the exploitation of youth vulnerabilities through a fundamentalist and radical interpretation of religious ideologies (Africa Centre for Strategic Studies. 2012, January 22-27. Preventing Youth Radicalization in East Africa. Africa Centre for Strategic Studies Program Report:p10).
For instance in 2015, a 19-year-old post-secondary Singaporean student was detained by the Ministry of Home Affairs after a collective security tip-off. This young student received his ‘radicalization lessons’ by viewing terrorist propaganda via the internet and was even planning to join ISIS. He vigorously surveyed the Internet for information on travel routes to Syria so that he could be a member of armed violence there. Further, he also disclosed to the authorities after his arrest the alternative goal if travelling to join ISIS in Syria failed. He was going to embark on homegrown terrorist attack targeting key state facilities, public places and assassinate government leaders using weapons like knives and explosives (Mediacorp News Group.2015, May 28. Self-radicalised Singaporean youths - one arrested, one detained under ISA. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from Mediacorp News Group.com).
That same year in Ghana, the National Security announced that about two Ghanaian youth had been radicalized and travelled to Syria to fight for ISIS, one of them Mohammad Alema, a 25-year-old Ghanaian University student. The National Security Coordinator confirmed that Alema was radicalized in an online forum, raising fears that ISIS may be using social media to persuade other Ghanaian University students to join the group in Iraq or Syria—or potentially, return home to take up arms in Ghana (O'Grady, 2015, August 28. In Ghana, Student’s Radicalization Prompts Fears ISIS Is Infiltrating Universities. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from WordPress.com).
MACRO LEVEL DRIVERS
Under the macro level drivers, Veldhuis and Staun (2009) identified political, economic and cultural issues as broad preconditions conducive for radicalization. These factors are further categorized as poor integration, foreign policies of the West, globalization and modernization. With the large influx of migrants into Western Europe as a result of the civil war in Syria and Iraq, considerably large communities of ethnic minorities mainly Muslims have found themselves in a different civilization in Europe. Although a lot of the migrants came to Europe on humanitarian grounds to integrate into this new western society, others have poorly integrated.
Contemporary foreign policies especially Western foreign policies has been interpreted by the leading figures of radical Islamic terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and now the so-called Islamic State group as war specifically targeted against Muslims and Islam. Again with the integration of the economies of the world as a result of globalization and modernization; interactions, contacts and the transmission of information to people all over the world has become very easy, cheap and fast (Veldhuis and Staun, 2009).
Technological globalization has revolutionized communication such as the internet, social media, video conferencing and telephoning among others. In contemporary geopolitics, these factors have also constituted significant precondition for the transportation of radical views, religious extremist ideas, gun attacks and terrorism— for example the 2015 Paris gun attackers had these sort of macro-level motives in support for ISIS agenda against the West. The problems associated with poor integration of minority Muslims in the Western World, globalization and what the radical Islamic groups see as Western hard power targets against Islamic ideals has been one of the drivers of violent radicalization, gun attacks and terrorism. In June 12th 2016, the US state of Florida Orlando was hit by the deadliest gun attack in US history that killed 49 members of the gay community. According to US Federal Authorities, the attacker Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, a terrorist group that was about 7108 miles away from the US. This is the extent to which violent radicalization can travel via the wings of technological globalization. In Somalia, the protracted conflict and its impact on neighbouring countries has created several regional vulnerabilities in the Horn of Africa. The Al-Shabaab militant group place recruiters strategically along East Africa’s coast where young people are faced with problems and they recruit them into radical cells (Veldhuis & Staun, 2009; New York Post. (2016, June 13). FBI chief: Orlando gunman was self-radicalized lone wolf. Retrieved June 18, 2016, from www.nypost.com)
In West Africa, Boko Haram and other violent Islamist groups have also been able to tap on the grievances of the people over widespread poverty, government corruption, ethno-religious divides, and abuses by security forces and they have succeeded in igniting Islamic radicalization in northeastern Nigeria. Today, they continue to inflict on Nigerians and surrounding neighbours inhumane terrorist wounds. They manage to radicalize young men and women who eventually carry out unconventional orders in surprised attacks and suicide bombings (Sodipo, 2013). The politicization of National Security issues is also a problem. For instance in 2014, President Kenyatta of Kenya blamed the official opposition for a terrorist attack in Poromoko Mpeketoni that Al-Shabaab had accepted responsibility. The politicization of National Security and particularly violent radicalized attacks encourages national insecurity and inspires the political drivers of radicalization (Botha, 2014, September. Radicalization in Kenya Recruitment to al-shabaab and the Mombassa Republic Council. Institute for Security Studies).
With the integration of the economies of the world as a result of globalization, the drivers of this menace calls for great global and national security introspection. At the micro level, basic collective security, civic education, productive socialization, counseling, re-radicalization measures and the strengthening of the security institutions will be helpful for continues protection of susceptible self-identities, social interaction and social bonds. At the macro level, more needs to be done on collective regional border security, the strengthening of governance and political solutions to fragile states like Syria and Libya.
The global technological giants such as the various social media networks must also collaborate with national governments in order to permanently block internet radicalization sites and media outlets in order to prevent terrorist groups from operating through the internet. As individuals, students, supervisors, husbands, wives and political party activists; we must also evaluate the gravity of this menace to our daily interactions with people in order to monitor and report micro-level radicalization and maintain zero tolerance principles and moderation towards politics and religion. Moderation and tolerance are paths to contemporary peace, harmony and coexistence.