Dhaka Courier

Why does extremism attract young people?

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Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists have released a horrific video that shows five boys, including one said to be from the UK, aged between 10 to 13 years shooting prisoners in Syria.

There are reportedly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today — a number that is expected to grow to nearly 2.8 billion in 2050. In the Middle East and South Asia, nearly two-thirds of the population is reportedly younger than 30 and increasing rapidly.

While the vast majority of Muslim youth are reportedly peaceful, confronted cultural, political, social changes , the erosion of traditional societies, the rapid evolution of technology, widespread displacement, and urban migration have created an opening for violent extremists to shape their world view. These dynamics are expected to transform the trajectory of Muslim-majority and non-Muslim majority countries over the next few decades.

Violent extremism is not caused by any single factor or grievance. It grows out of an intolerant world view in which violence is the primary medium of exchange and society is a means to an end. That said, nearly 15 years of global research has shed light on why some people are attracted to violent extremism while others are not.

Experts have identified intersecting “push” and “pull” factors often operating within fragile, oppressive, or conflicted-affected environments that help to explain this phenomenon..  Structural conditions, including real and perceived marginalization, grievances, and experiences of injustice or corruption, may push individuals into joining a violent extremist organization, while radical recruitment narratives, propaganda, and social Unfortunately, radicalization models cannot predict who will become a terrorist. There is no single pathway into terrorism and no archetypal violent extremist.

Violent extremists are not simply marginalized misfits. They are no more likely to suffer from mental illness than the average person. Many are married and have children. Contrary to popular perceptions, violent extremists are often well-off, employed, and educated. Nor is violent extremism simply rooted in religious devotion.  Experts believe that religion in fact, can help individuals challenge extremist ideas and narratives.

In spite of the diversity of paths, a person is to take up the banner of violent extremism. There does appear to be a common thread. According to experts throughout the world, many Muslims suffer from a profound identity crisis. From Boston to Paris, Nairobi to Dhaka, young Muslims are struggling to find purpose and belonging and overcome an unshakable sense of emptiness or “otherness.”

The failure to integrate generations of Muslim immigrants, particularly in Western countries, sends the message that they will never be truly accepted as equal and valued members of society.

Immigrants in Germany, for example, encounter an education system that forces young people to choose their course of study in their early teens, disadvantaging those who are non-native German speakers. In the Netherlands, the Dutch word used for individuals born outside the country or with at least one parent born outside the country,” allochtoon,” is often applied more broadly to those who are nonwhite and not “indigenous” to the soil. This usage creates a second class of citizens, including Muslims, who are labeled as outsiders even if they were born and have lived their entire lives in the country.

Let us cite an example. The 19th-year old Shamima Begum was stripped of her British nationality reportedly in February. Her claim to Bangladeshi nationality through her mother is believed to have played a role in the British Home Office, BBC reported.

The 19th-year woman travelled to Syria from the UK with two friends at the age of 15, she has not admitted any terror offences. Pregnant with third child, she pleaded to return to the UK, claiming that she had been “brainwashed” by Islamic State and reportedly “now regrets everything”.

The BBC reports that she did not regret travelling to Syria but did not agree with the IS group had done. Meanwhile she had three children who died. It is reported that she had a son called Jarrah who also died in March this year. The British Home Office was criticized over depriving her British citizenship. Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, a person can be deprived of their citizenship if the Home Secretary (the Minister) is satisfied it would be “conducive to the public good”.

Barrister Harun ur Rashid, Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

  • Why does extremism attract young people?
  • Barrister Harun ur Rashid
  • Vol 35
  • Issue 45

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