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Dialogue About Radicalisation and Equality

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - DARE (Dialogue About Radicalisation and Equality)

Période du rapport: 2020-05-01 au 2021-10-31

The DARE project aims to shift how we address radicalisation by understanding it as a societal rather than purely security-related phenomenon. Its research programme focuses on ‘Islamist’ (ISE) and ‘extreme-right’ (RWE) radicalisation, specifically young people’s encounters with messages and agents of radicalisation and the choices they make in response. It employs a multi-method research approach including meta-analysis, online data analysis, experimental survey and historical and ethnographic studies of radical(ising) milieus. The milieu approach allows the study of actors who hold radical ideas without becoming violent extremists, i.e. the process of partial or non-radicalisation. It concludes that a societal approach to understanding radicalisation helps develop effective counter-extremism (CVE) policy and practice; engaging with, rather than targeting, groups considered vulnerable to radicalisation can prevent their further stigmatisation and ensure CVE interventions do not drive radicalisation by fuelling grievances.
DARE has published reports, Research Briefings, Policy Briefs and academic outputs on 4 main research strands.
i) Inequality and radicalisation: Systematic reviews of 141 quantitative and 94 qualitative empirical studies on inequality and radicalisation established the need to distinguish objective and subjective measures of inequality when considering its relationship to radicalisation. The studies show a more consistent relationship between perceived (subjective) than objective inequality and radicalisation. Subjective socio-political factors (e.g. feeling ‘silenced’) were important factors in qualitative studies. Both reviews found the link between inequality and radicalisation to be highly context dependent.
The analysis of 7 European survey data sets confirmed no significant relationship between economic inequality and cognitive radicalisation but found a consistent association between personally and collectively experienced discrimination and support for political violence and opposition to democracy. A ‘survey experiment’ (using representative online panel samples of 18-35 year olds) in 3 countries tested the hypothesis that perceived inequality among a non-Muslim youth population - relative to an outgroup (Muslims) - engenders negative intergroup attitudes and radicalised intentions.
ii) Online radicalisation: A study of radicalisation through social media participation in 7 countries analysed data from almost 600 Twitter accounts. It showed that, between 2010 and 2019, RWE Twitter activity increased while ISE activity was scattered. The content and use of Twitter differed across the two types of milieu. RWE accounts showed shared ideological positions, were more radical in their messaging and more networked (sharing materials or retweeting). The ISE accounts appeared more as a ‘store front’, rerouting users to other online platforms. Content promoted fundamentalist religious beliefs and associated lifestyles with low levels of sharing or retweeting content.
Ethnographic studies confirmed online spaces are a key source of encounter with radical(ising) messages, contributing to a sense of injustice and leading to invitations to join extremist movements. Milieu actors use online spaces to seek information, connect with likeminded others and feel they ‘belong’. These studies also point to the continuing importance of offline relationships - with friends, family and milieu members - in encouraging but also constraining radical views or actions.
iii) Trajectories through radical(ising) milieus: Ethnographic studies (10 ISE and 9 RWE milieus) were conducted in 12 countries and included just under 400 interviews with 369 young people alongside milieu observations. Findings were analysed as individual case studies and across the ISE and RWE milieus using a meta-ethnographic synthesis method.
Across all milieus, actors dissociate themselves from ‘extremists’, and reject their own labelling as such, while identifying ‘others’ - ideological opponents but also some within their milieu - as ‘too extreme’. This confirms the relational nature of ‘extremism’. However, most milieu actors reject the use of violence, lending weight to the argument that radicalisation involves separate pathways of radicalisation of ‘opinion’ and ‘action’. This is supported by the 5 historical cases of radicalisation, which also found no uniform relationship between radical thought and action. This suggests that including ideas/beliefs alongside actions/behaviour in understandings of extremism in academic and policy/practice circles may further alienate the actors that CVE ‘targets’.
While involvement in radical milieus may signal a shift towards extremism, research participants’ rejection of violence means their trajectories were often of partial or non-radicalisation. Reflecting on their own and others’ pathways, respondents saw online and offline encounters as well as events (such as terrorist acts) as drivers of extremism. However, these shifts were underpinned by pre-existing perceived injustices. A range of affective and situational factors also emerged as important in moves towards and away from more radical positions while milieu activism was seen, in some cases, to protect against radicalisation. Studying trajectories of partial or non-radicalisation revealed milieu actors to adopt protective strategies to contain their own, and others’, radicalisation and an openness to dialogue with political ‘others’ and (credible) agencies and individuals engaged in countering extremism.
Interactional radicalisation: Reflecting policy concerns about violence escalation as opposing movements interact, 5 case studies traced the dynamics of radicalisation. In contrast to the binary process envisaged in models of ‘cumulative extremism’, DARE identified a complex set of interactions, multiple involved actors (including state and media agencies) and other influential factors such as internal group culture and non-equivalent interaction. Violent contestation between opposing groups leads not only to more violence but also to de-escalation and non-escalation. The multiple actors involved in, and various outcomes of, such contestations suggest they are best understood as interactional (rather than cumulative) radicalisation and visualised as a series of ‘spikes’ rather than a downward spiral into violence.
The project provided findings and recommendations to support CVE policy and practice. The role of National Stakeholder Groups - acting as a channel for dialogue during project design, implementation and exploitation - was central to this. Outputs tailored to policy and practice communities include: European Policy Briefs and policy recommendations; and Research Briefings on key themes emerging from the study. A series of DARE short films provide an overview of findings including on how research can inform P/CVE work.
Two new tools to support P/CVE practitioners have been produced and tested: the De-radicalisation Programme Integrity Evaluation tool (DPIEC), developed to assess the structural integrity of CVE programmes; and two educational toolkits, drawing on research findings and including input from young people through community dialogue events.
DARE researchers have participated in advocacy events at EU, national and regional level and 2 policy focused events were held: a mid-term Policy Forum (2019); and a Research-Policy-Practice Event (2021).
DARE logo (white background)