Recently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) released an intelligence assessment entitled “Venues of Sunni Islamist Radicalization in Canada”. One observation is that as “radicalization is usually a social process, it can occur wherever humans interact, in the real world or in virtual ones.” Some examples of where radicalization might happen include the family, on the internet, or in prison.
Family radicalization is a highly interactive process. As CSIS noted, “Parents have radicalized children [,] husbands have radicalized wives (and some wives have radicalized or supported their husbands) […] and siblings have radicalized each other.” An article published by the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies (CISS) shows that individuals usually become radicalized as young adults, which would suggest that parents have a minimal influence in the process. However, in multi-generational conflicts—such as the Israel-Palestine conflict or the Pakistani-Indian conflict over Kashmir—parents can play a more influential role by raising their children in a revolutionary environment. Moreover, there is some research showing that women play an influential role in encouraging men to develop radical interpretations of Islam. When young men marry women who are linked to radical movements, the wife may introduce the husband to social networks which facilitate radicalization.
A report from the Research and Development (RAND) Corporation found that individuals are more vulnerable to radicalization in prison. Prisoners often experience a psychological crisis that involves feelings of rejection, isolation, helplessness, and insecurity. Thus, they are more likely to adopt a new belief system as a coping mechanism. These new belief systems may involve extreme ideologies or radical religious interpretations, which opens the door to radicalization.
There is also extensive research showing that radicalization occurs on the internet in “virtual communities”. Individuals who feel politically or ideologically isolated may seek solidarity with similar individuals online. Almost anyone can, with relative ease, connect with others who share similar political beliefs, values, and worldviews on social networking sites. Discourses on these forums may encourage people to become radicalized, involved in a movement, or even recruited to an organization.
The examples provided above are certainly not exhaustive. It is important to recognize the limitations of discussing radicalization in the abstract. Radicalization is a complex social process, and it can occur in a multitude of environments. Each individual’s political and ideological beliefs are influenced by a vast array of factors. However, a general awareness of the venues of radicalization is necessary to develop an appropriate policy response.