Road to extremism: Identity crisis & radicalization in Western societies

This paper focuses on how crises of identity can push individuals towards radicalization in Western contexts, focusing on North America, Europe, and Australia. Using insights from theory and research in the disciplines of social psychology, criminology, and political science, our study explores how feelings of alienation and the search for belonging can make individuals more vulnerable to extremist ideologies. Drawing on rigorous empirical research on this topic, it sheds light on the individual and social triggers that drive people to seek identity and community within radical groups, offering policy recommendations on how to mitigate the risks of radicalization.

To counteract these vulnerabilities, strengthening community engagement through programs that promote social integration and provide robust support networks is essential. These initiatives can reduce feelings of alienation and foster a stronger sense of belonging.

Islamist radicalism, in particular, exploits identity crises by portraying a narrative of victimization by Western powers. This defensive reaction taps into feelings of social alienation, providing “solutions” to personal and collective grievances. Despite these powerful narratives, it is important to note that only a small fraction of Muslims in the West turn to terrorism as a result of identity crises. Promoting inclusive narratives through education, media, and public policies that celebrate diversity can help counteract extremist ideologies and support healthy identity development.

Extremist groups such as Daesh leverage identity crises by crafting narratives that resonate deeply with those feeling marginalized. These narratives are disseminated through social media and other channels, creating an ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy that attracts individuals to their cause. By offering a clear identity and community, these groups effectively manipulate social identities to recruit members. Addressing this manipulation requires a nuanced approach, including educational programs focused on critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

Our research paper provides crucial insights into preventing radicalization and fostering a more inclusive and secure society.

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Identity Radicalization Alienation Islamist
Road to extremism:

Identity crisis & radicalization in Western societies

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