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Impact of counter-radicalisation policies on multiculturalism in Europe

Governments throughout Europe are developing strategies aimed at preventing radicalisation to terrorism. But do these policies have unwanted effects? An EU initiative explored the impact of counter-radicalisation on citizenship and discrimination.
Impact of counter-radicalisation policies on multiculturalism in Europe
Media and politicians in European countries have announced the “end” of multiculturalism. The main reason, they argue, is the need to tackle “homegrown terrorism”, a danger presented the result of ghettoization and ethnic and religious separateness. Counter-radicalization policies, which have been developed in European countries since the mid-2000s, therefore centred around social cohesion and community resilience. Yet research shows that they might generate the opposite effect.

The EU-funded COUNTERADICAL (Security and the politics of belonging: Homegrown terrorism, counter-radicalisation and the 'end' of multiculturalism?) project argued that current counter-terrorism strategies increasingly polarise European societies along ethnic and religious lines.

Using existing literature as a basis and comparing Great Britain, France and the Netherlands, the project explored the hypothesis that counter-radicalisation policy does not mark a return to assimilation policies. To achieve this, it mapped discussions and social stances to understand how counter-radicalisation policies targeting communities and ethnic groups have developed and continue to be maintained. Counter-radicalisation practices such as surveillance, ethnic and risk profiling, biometric identification and community policing methods were analysed through interviews, focus groups and ethnographic observation.

The COUNTERADICAL project dealt with questions surrounding the contradiction between politics and media and counter-radicalisation practices, and how these practices in turn function with respect to diversity and citizenship issues. The impact of these policies on target groups was also investigated.

The project found that even though politicians might anticipate electoral gains from an assimilationist stance, this is not shared by security professionals, which increasingly enjoy a high level of autonomy and legitimacy.

The research showed that by routinely functioning along ethnic and religious lines, counter-radicalisation methods and techniques reinforced such practices. Instead of promoting assimilation, counter-radicalisation policies create and strengthen a part of society into discrete ethno-religious groups.

Related information


Radicalisation, terrorism, multiculturalism, citizenship, assimilation
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