June 23, 2022

The process of radicalization

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Terrorist attacks like the Westgate Mall attack in 2013 and the Nairobi bomb blast in 1998, left citizens fearful and horrified but above all, bewildered. Most times victims are unable and unwilling to understand what motivates people to kill others indiscriminately. Before an individual becomes a terrorist, there are 4 vital stages that they go through whether knowingly or unknowingly.

The first stage of radicalization is Pre-radicalization I.e., the period before any radicalization occurs. In this stage, an individual at this point has not been exposed to an extremist belief system and leads relatively normal life although, there may be aspects of their experiences and environments that potentially make them more vulnerable to radicalization.

The second stage of radicalization is Self-Identification where an individual is introduced to and eventually embraces the belief systems of extremists. The individual is already vulnerable to extremist ideology through experiencing hardships economically, socially, politically, or in personal situations that expose them to extremist views. Radicalized individuals frequently display an affinity with online terrorist sympathizers or extremist groups. Extremist narratives at this stage are also promoted through online platforms and through friends and family affiliated with terrorist groups.

The third stage of radicalization is Indoctrination, where individuals’ extremist beliefs intensify and view violence as a necessary tool in supporting these radical and extreme beliefs. At this stage, individuals tend to join groups that embrace the same terrorist views and disassociate from individuals who do not.

The final stage of radicalization is Jihadization. In this stage, the terrorist groups, organizations, or movements’ goals take complete priority and the final steps are taken towards conducting acts of violence as individuals train, acquire weapons, and ultimately attempt to carry out attacks based on their radical beliefs.

There are signs in which would help identify whether certain individuals of interest are being influenced by extremist ideologies. One of them is noting behavior especially when the individual starts to isolate themselves from family and friends. Also, the individual’s speech or talking seems scripted and is unwilling or unable to discuss views.

Another sign that would help identify radicalization is the sudden disrespectful attitude towards others especially ones that do not share the same extremist views. There are usually increased levels of anger towards everything that is not in line with the indoctrinated ideology and the individuals become extremely secretive, especially around internet use, where most youth radicalization is rampant.