How To Prevent Radicalization: 3 Principles

Note: This is the final installment of our series on refugee radicalization. Find the previous articles here: Introduction, Who Is at Risk of Radicalization?, What Causes Radicalization? and How Does Radicalization Happen?  So far in this series I have attempted to answer a lot of pressing questions about radicalization, at the risk of simplifying the great complexity of the issue. The final question - what can be done to prevent radicalization? - is by far the most difficult one to answer. I am not going to presume to know enough about how to prevent radicalization to present detailed programs or strategies for decreasing rates of radicalization. Sociologists and other experts have spent countless hours creating and implementing such programs, so I will leave the details to them. I will, however, put forth a handful of principles that I believe any detailed program should take into consideration if they are to be successful.


I cannot drive this principle home enough (if you haven't read it yet, read What Causes Radicalization? which explains the single biggest factor that leads to radicalization). Radicalization begins and ends with community. A longing for community and a desire to belong is often what drives individuals to seek camaraderie with others in organizations like Daesh. If that need to belong was being met by involvement in a peaceful community of some sort, then there would be no need to find a new (and violent) community.

Any program or initiative whose aim is to prevent radicalization needs to foster community as their first priority. Many of these programs tend to focus so completely on preventing radicalization that they fail to see community as the most effective means to their end. In fact, I firmly believe that if we positively focus on building community instead of negatively fixating on ending radicalization, we would see long-lasting change happen much more quickly.

[bctt tweet="Radicalization ends and begins with community." username="refugee_review"]


This principle is really at the heart of what makes community effective. Communities are groups of people who are drawn together because they share something in common (religion, hobby, occupation, etc.), but that is not all that community is. A community is also a group of people who care about each other and seek ways to express that care by spending time together and reinforcing their commonality.

When programs are being designed to prevent radicalization an emphasis on community is vital, but equally so is a focus on caring for individuals who are at risk of radicalization. Any program who tries to foster a community just to pursue their own agenda is doomed to fail. Their target audience is bound to see through their facade and to feel as if they are being talked out of radical ideology simply to keep other people safe. If we understand the dangers of radicalization, not just for whole cities or countries, but for the individual at risk of being radicalized, then we would urge them not to go down that path for their own sake - because we care.

[bctt tweet="We shouldn't want a person to be radicalized because we care about them, not just our own safety. " username="refugee_review"]


Most programs designed to prevent radicalization are going to be implemented by government agencies. I think this is entirely the wrong way to approach the problem of radicalization. Remember in this post that one of the factors listed which indicates risk of radicalization is a negative view of government? So, governments trying to convince people who probably don't like them to like them? Yeah, I don't think that's going to work.

Governments need to humbly recognize when they might not be the ones best equipped to address a particular problem, and then they need to ask help from those who are better equipped. I believe that those people are a part of preexisting communities in our cities. Churches, mosques, schools, and after-school programs are all built in communities of caring people who can provide a sense of belonging to hurting young people. Governments need to cooperate with these communities by making them aware of the factors that place individuals at risk of radicalization, and then they need to cooperate again by stepping back and letting them do what they do.

[bctt tweet="Some things are out of government's league. Radicalization is one of those things. " username="refugee_review"]

I believe that these three principles, community, care, and cooperation, tell us how to prevent radicalization. Big intricate programs may be helpful, but without these aspects, they will ultimately fail. I hope this series as a whole has been an insightful look into radicalization, specifically the risk of radicalization faced by refugees because of their unique situation. Give me your feedback in the comments, let me know if you have a question about radicalization that I haven't answered in this series, and tell me what you learned from this series!

For more: The EU's counter radicalization strategies.

And a slightly more digestible perspective. 

Image Source: Wikipedia