Radicalization of European Citizen. A Case Study

Academic Paper, 2017

17 Pages


Table of Contents



Socialization and Mobilization

Radicalization in Europe

Radicalization in the United States




Richard Reid is a British citizen, famously remembered for his failed suicide mission. He attempted to bomb an American Airline, which had one hundred and ninety-seven passengers on board. Reid had joined the Islam group and trained for his mission in Al-Qaida. Despite his failed brutality, the suicide bomber does not regret[1]. For instance, in his letters, he believed that the mission failed because it was not his time to die nor for the passengers on board[2]. Reid stated a second reason for the failed mission as God's plan to let him stay in prison. True to the fact, he does not regret his loss of freedom. In this context, this assignment will use the case study of Reid to explore radicalisation. The analytical tools used in this case are "strains" and "causes"; "frames" and ideology; and socialising and mobilisation.


Radicalization refers to a situation where someone changes stances, cultivate and adopt far-reaching positions, either on social or political issues. Such extremist behaviour shows up when a person's enactments and opinions become considerably diverse from the way most members of the society view issues in the world. Human beings have the urge to belong to certain beliefs or groups. The need to conform to these behaviours makes people acquire manners that are intolerant of individuals who belong to a different ethnicity, culture, religion, gender and sexual identity. As a result, radicalised people tend to force their beliefs and views on others. In most cases, these assumptions make them justify their violent course of actions.

In the human life, there exist different forms of the radicalisation process. Typical examples include political-religious extremism, right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism and single-issue extremism. First, right-wing extremism has a close relationship with supremacies, racialism, ultra-nationalism, and totalitarianism. Notably, it involves violent defence of an ethnic, pseudo-national or racial identity, particularly towards minorities, state administrations, and migrants. Second, political-religious radicalism involves mostly an understanding of religion from a political point of view, and defence through the use of force of a spiritual distinctiveness seen as the one attacked through social considerations and international conflicts among others. Any religious group may nurture this type of violent radicalisation. Left-Wing extremism focuses on calls for the revolution of political systems and anti-capitalists difficulties that are accountable for creating social disparities. Its classification includes Marxist-Leninist, Trotskyite, Maoist and Anarchist groups that campaign for their course aggressively. Lastly, the single-issue radicalism is the type that is encouraged essentially by one issue.

A person who experiences radicalisation becomes a radical. There are different types of radicals, namely; passive, active and violent fanatics. Passive radicals do not protest, vote, lobby or run in a democratic society because they consider the system in place wrecked. On the other hand, when someone is keen to do an act against the system considered intolerable to alter peace, then such an individual is referred as an active radical. A violent radical is a person who believes that transformations on the already existing systems can only be achieved through the acts of violence. True to the fact, violent extremists tend to support other groups that use brutality against other people[3]. Richard Reid is an excellent example of a violent extremist who is willing to use force to change the regime. A common trait among such people is the act of justifying their violent actions and considering them as legitimate towards seeking justice.

Socialization and Mobilization

The nature of the socialisation process in the world determines if a person becomes an extremist or not. Different agents of socialisation contribute to political participation and influences that determine whether an individual chooses to become a Democrat, a leftist or a radical rightist. For example, formal and informal socialisation processes play a crucial role in shaping the behaviour of every person in the society[4]. Specifically, formal socialisation takes place in the formal institutions such as schools and churches among other social institutions.[5] On the other hand, informal socialisation result from family influences, peer influences, and political events. An important aspect to note is that both of them play an essential role in enhancing political socialisation such as political awakening. As a result, people sharing similar political extremes tends to choose different solutions and beliefs that are in line with the ideologies arising from their political socialisation. However, it is worth to note the difference between the two. Informal socialisation processes are very useful in mobilising people to follow a precise political extreme orientation. On the contrary, formal institutions tend to foster responsibility among all members of the society. For instance, learning institutions impart a sense of responsibility, patriotism, love, and unity among the citizens. These organisations work towards ensuring that people coexist harmoniously and solve their differences amicably. Consequently, they tend to extricate any possible forces that can promote the existence of an extreme group.

The impact of informal socialisation processes has gone to a greater extent in ensuring that radical groups exist in the modern society. Many of the young people do not exercise their democratic rights such as voting and party activism. Despite the fact that these are informal socialisation institutions, the younger generation tends to engage in a socialisation process that is very effective in mobilising them to join specific extreme groups. The increased use of internet through improved technology in the society tends to encourage many people to engage in extreme political discussions. Majority of the internet consumers do not seek information associated with knowledge, self-efficacy and civic responsibility.[6] They tend to discuss politics on the online platforms and produce stronger associations since such forums stimulate reflective thinking and political participation. True to the fact, civic messaging has a close connection to engagement and also amplifies the effects that radicals use to manipulate participation.

The use of online socialization platforms ensures that people engage in effective campaigns that also influence collective actions significantly. Some groups sharing radical and ideologically homogenous communities become very effective and in manipulating the cognitive factors that promote joint operations. Therefore, online groups that share similar traits strengthen a collective identity. The main reason for such orientations to occur is due to the reduced social cues, condensed differences among members, fostered identification with groups or a group that promotes unity. These processes help to create a solidarity that can be useful in fostering collective actions.

Online groups also serve an essential role in increasing the self-efficacy of the participants. Through intensifying the views of the members and encouraging them to express those aspects, they gain the ability and courage to oppose an existing system in the society. Since these groups are likely to increase the confidence of the participants, execution of planned actions against an operational institution becomes effective. The support gained through these platforms is immense; hence, leads to a more significant influence of the group members and also increases the chances of recruiting new affiliates. The ultimate significance of online groups is that activists get easy access to a large group of people that is easy to influence. Therefore, the process of mobilising them to oppose an existing rule or participate in violent and radical actions becomes easy.

Online social groups do not operate in isolation. Their members also belong to off-line social classes. The external influences on an individual's political behaviours are very significant in every society. People who tend to share common social factors also share similar political ideas.[7] For example, a political movement in a particular area tends to share similar beliefs and support. Therefore, these external factors are responsible for explaining the political orientation of some groups. In most cases, offline social networks are made of intimate friends, close relatives, coworkers, distant relatives or neighbours. Religious organisations are instrumental in influencing members to support specific political ideologies. As a result, offline groups become instrumental in promoting political beliefs that can lead to mobilising people to engage in extreme behaviours.

Reid belonged to both online and offline groups that had a direct contribution to his extreme behaviours. For instance, he belonged to the Islamic religion, which instilled him with the belief that killing people was a legitimate way of seeking salvation. As a result, he never took offence in his failed efforts to kill over one hundred individuals. Instead, he justified his actions as being acceptable before God and whose main aim is to meet a genuine responsibility in the course of human life. For instance, maintaining God had a particular purpose for him to remain in jail. His argument that the failed mission denied him a chance to accomplish the unique task is an influence he had from offline socialization groups. Additionally, Reid maintained a strong network of other terrorists across the world. Writing letters while in jail shows that terrorists from all over the world had formed a vast network for sharing similar ideologies. As a result, it is impressionable that the group maintained a secure online network where they shared information that made them stronger in their radical thoughts.

Radicalization in Europe

Every country in the UK has a unique government structure that helps to govern its operations. However, there exist different groups that use violent means, whereas other utilise legal avenues to oppose the influence of the government. The most common extremist groups in the region have a close connection with Muslims. Islamism refers to the form of political theory and practice that have similar goals of establishing a political institution based on the Sharia laws[8]. In the UK, an Islamic group is a flexible faction that is manifested in different ways[9]. A critical point to note is that the extremist's actions in various countries are entirely different, but their primary objective is to undermine the abilities of the democratically instituted governments.

Some of the common extremist groups in the UK are violent rejectionists and non-violent rejectionist. The extreme groups are also known as the jihadists[10]. They have a close connection to the al-Qaida group, and their main aim is to reject the democratic governments. They rely on violence to achieve their objectives, and the UK governments have laid down strategies of reducing the actions by these groups since they cause direct harm to people's lives or property. In other words, the jihadists are always willing to die for the course of their faith, and they get pleasure in causing death. On the other hand, other groups do not use violence to oppose the ruling regime. An excellent example of these groups is the Hizb ut-Tahrir, which rejects the legitimacy of an administration based on Islamic laws openly. The good thing about this group is that it does not use violence to advance its objectives. Another group found in the UK is the participationists group, which has a close connection to the Muslim. Their primary intention is to advocate for interaction with the society at all levels of the government.

In the late nineteenth century, UK faced more threats from the actions of Jihadist terrorists. Some factors such as massive influx of the Muslim groups in the region from the south Asia had a significant influence on the increased terror attacks[11]. Majority of the people who took part in the malicious actions had easier access to the training camps where they obtained effective training to execute terrorist actions. Reid belonged to the Jihadist extremist groups. Motivated by the Islamic faith and Al Qaida training, Reid was convinced that the regime of that time was not legitimate; hence, he was ready to cause massive deaths to fulfil his calling to be a Jihadist[12]. His faith in the brutal actions was great, and he associated it to Gods plan. As a result, he viewed the failed mission as a direct intervention by God because it was not yet the right time and that the targeted people to die had not come.


[1] Philip Sherwell, Failed 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid describes 'tactical regrets' that mass murder mission failed. Feb 3, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11388442/Failed-shoe-bomber-Richard-Reid-describes-tactical-regrets-that-mass-murder-mission-failed.html (accessed Nov 6, 2017).

[2] Kunal Dutta, Shoe bomber Richard Reid shows no remorse after a decade in prison for failed terror atrocity. Feb 4, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/shoe-bomber-richard-reid-shows-no-remorse-after-a-decade-in-prison-for-failed-terror-atrocity-10022074.html (accessed Nov 6, 2017).

[3] Angel Rabasa, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeremy J. Ghez, and Christopher Boucek. "Implications and Recommendations."Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists, (Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA: RAND Corporation, 2010): 181-94.

[4] Angel Rabasa, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeremy J. Ghez, and Christopher Boucek. "European Approaches."Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists, (Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA: RAND Corporation, 2010): 121-56

[5] Lantos A. Nora, and Anna Kende, "From the Same Starting Points to Moderate versus Radical Solutions. Hungarian Case Study on the Political Socialization of Young LMP and Jobbik Party Political Activists ."East European Journal of Society and Politics, 2015: 59-80.

[6] Magdalena, Wojcieszak "Carrying Online Participation Offline - Mobilization by Radical Online Groups and Politically Dissimilar Offline Ties."Journal of Communication, 2009: 564-586.

[7] Quintan, Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005)

[8] Dustin J. Byrd, "Adversity in Post-Secular Europe." Islam in a Post-Secular Society: Religion, Secularity and the Antagonism of Recalcitrant Faith (LEIDEN; BOSTON: Brill, 2017): 43-89.

[9] Peter O’Brien,"Terrorism."The Muslim Question in Europe: Political Controversies and Public Philosophies (Philadelphia; Rome; Tokyo: Temple University Press, 2016): 199-240

[10] Lindsay Clutterbuck and Richard Warnes. "Violent Jihadist Groups/cells in the UK."Exploring Patterns of Behaviour in Violent Jihadist Terrorists: An Analysis of Six Significant Terrorist Conspiracies in the UK, (Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA: RAND Corporation, 2011): 9-16

[11] Laurel E. Miller, Martini, F. Jeffrey, Stephen Larrabee, Angel Rabasa, Stephanie Pezard, Julie E. Taylor, and Tewodaj Mengistu. "Southern Europe."Democratization in the Arab World: Prospects and Lessons from Around the Globe (RAND Corporation, 2012): 109-44

[12] Mackinlay, John, and Alison Al-Baddawy. "Defining the Environment." In Rethinking Counterinsurgency: RAND Counterinsurgency Study--Volume 5, (Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA: RAND Corporation, 2008): 21-42.

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Radicalization of European Citizen. A Case Study
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Amos Wesonga (Author), 2017, Radicalization of European Citizen. A Case Study, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/429308


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