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Research Report

Radicalisation Processes Leading to Acts of Terrorism

European Commission's Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation
Copyright Date: May. 15, 2008
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 20

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-1)
  2. (pp. 2-3)

    The Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation was set up by a European Commission Decision of 19 April 2006¹ to provide policy-advice to the European Commission on fighting violent radicalisation. The members of the Group and its Chairman were subsequently appointed by the Director General for DG Justice, Freedom and Security in accordance with article 3 of the same Decision.

    This Report has been drawn up in response to one of the tasks assigned to the Group and outlined in the Decision, namely that of preparing a concise Report on the current state of academic research on violent radicalisation. Neither the...

  3. (pp. 4-4)
  4. (pp. 5-7)

    According to the definition provided by the European Commission in its 2005 Communication 'Terrorist Recruitment: addressing the factors contributing to violent radicalisation', “violent radicalisation” involves embracing opinions, views and ideas which could lead to acts of terrorism. Actually, the term “violent radicalisation” originated in EU policy circles and was coined after the Madrid bombing of 11 March 2004. It is not widely used in social science as a concept but it obviously refers to a process of socialisation leading to the use of violence.

    However, the term can be misleading because the socialisation process itself does not have to be...

  5. (pp. 7-11)

    In any given society there will always exist a certain number of radicals. However, radicalism does not necessarily go against the law nor is it necessarily violent. Radicalism sometimes can even gain significant traction either by capitalising on widespread sympathy or by being able to draw a significant number of people to join the radical ranks. Significant radicalisation waves, including their violent and terrorist expressions, are not a new feature within European liberal democracies.

    Radicalisation is a context-bound phenomenon par excellence. Global, sociological and political drivers matter as much as ideological and psychological ones. The current wave of radicalisation into...

  6. (pp. 11-13)

    One of the most significant understandings gained from academic research over recent years is that individuals involved in terrorist activities exhibit a diversity of social backgrounds, undergo rather different processes of violent radicalisation and are influenced by various combinations of motivations. This is relevant not only with respect to the more recent expressions of Islamist terrorism but also as regards right-wing, left-wing and ethnonationalist manifestations of such violence previously experienced in a number of European countries.

    For example, the individuals behind the London and Madrid bombings differed in terms of origin, cultural background, educational level, integration into British and Spanish...

  7. (pp. 14-17)

    Ideology appears as a constant feature in the radicalisation process related to various forms of terrorism. Indoctrination constitutes a relevant factor in the radicalisation of a small but significant minority of persons dissatisfied with the socio-political context in which they live. This, in turn, contributes to consolidating violent ideas and attitudes and eventually generates a sub-culture of violence.

    As regards the most recent threat posed by international terrorism, a Jihadi Salafist ideology that promotes violence as a way to achieve the creation of a new caliphate as well as to recover territories that were once under Muslim rule is utilised...

  8. (pp. 17-19)

    Violent radicalisation, as has been noted at the beginning of this concise Report, is not a term widely used in the social sciences and humanities. It refers to a process of socialisation leading to the use of violence. Yet the academic usage of this term is far from uniform. For some authors and experts, it is understood as a path involving concrete violent behaviour, while others qualify the acceptance of ideas which condone or justify violence an indicator in itself of violent radicalisation. For some authors and experts, the process of violent radicalisation is an individual trajectory whereas others see...

  9. (pp. 19-20)