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New book challenges misconceptions about radicalisation


As a result of an international conference organised by Malmö University, researchers are now pooling their knowledge in a new book on the controversial topic of radicalisation.  

Kristian Steiner, Associate Professor in Peace and Conflict Studies at Malmö University.

Kristian Steiner

In 2016, Malmö University organised an international research conference on the subject of radicalisation. The researchers involved have now collected work from the field in a new book titled Expressions of Radicalization: Global Politics, Processes and Practices.

The book’s editors, Kristian Steiner, Professor of Global Political Studies at Malmö University and Andreas Önnerfors (University of Gothenburg), hope that the book will help critically illuminate the concept of radicalisation and what it means.

Moving beyond Muslim radicalisation

“This is an understudied field and the term radicalisation is often used without a clear definition. In addition, political, academic and media discussions tend to focus on Muslim radicalisation and developing a profile to detect potential terrorists. We want to expand the debate,” says Steiner.

The book consists of thirteen articles written by scholars from Asia, the US and Europe. The studies deal with radical political movements such as Neo-fascism and Jihadism, religious groups’ views on peace, right wing politics in Israel, violence during elections and strategies for de-radicalisation, among other issues.

“The book is intended for both students and researchers. However, we hope it will also challenge perceptions among journalists, politicians and anyone interested in this much-disputed term,” says Önnerfors.

Andreas Önnerfors, Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg.

Andreas Önnerfors

Today’s radical could be tomorrow’s norm

In social debates that are often simplified and polarised, it is important to understand radicalisation and de-radicalisation as complex interactions between ideas and actions, Steiner argues. According to him, we also need to reflect on what we consider radical and why.

“There is a recurring idea in the West that people go from ideological indoctrination to action through a one-way process. The reality is that there are many reasons why people commit terrorist acts and individual experiences are different. In recent years, the word ‘radical' has acquired a very negative connotation, and has become almost synonymous with violent. This means that it may be used as a label to stigmatise certain groups.”

One of the most common misconceptions regarding radicalisation, says Steiner, is that it is a distinct and new phenomenon.

“Instead, it is universal; it occurs and has occurred in many different environments,” he says.

What is considered radical also changes over time, adds Önnerfors.

“Yesterday’s radicalisation could be tomorrow’s orthodoxy.” 

Text: Daniel Harju

Last updated by Maya Acharya