Prevention vs empowerment? How Citizenship Educators can react to the radicalization of youth

This workshop dealt with the issue of "Prevention vs empowerment. How Citizenship Educators can react to the radicalization of youth". The theoretical background of prevention, radicalization and de-radicalization was also presented as existing strategies to fight against these tendencies.

Asiem El Difraoui, Institute of Media and Communications Policy (France), gave some conceptual remarks, such as the distinction between radicalization - as not accepting the rules of a society - and non-violent and violent radicalization (as jihadist movements). There is also a difference between prevention, de-radicalization and disengagement. In case of prevention people try to avoid that someone de-radicalizes him-/ or herself. De-radicalization is an attempt "bringing someone back where he came from", as El Difraoui quoted. In order of de-radicalization it is important to understand motives of radicalization, as ideological or psychological motives. After some remarks about de-radicalization in terms of ideological reasons, he summed up why we have to take all the efforts: "Because there is no alternative and we need to integrate them into the society."

Following on the classification by El Difraoui, Gereon Flümann from the Federal Agency of Civic Education (Germany) gave an overview of Salafism and Extremism in Germany and the role of civic education in this context. There are over 7000-8000 followers in Salafist movements and more than 700 travelled to Syria. This has a huge impact concerning democracy and security. Prevention of politically extremist attitudes is a core task of civic education, but it’s only one element of prevention alongside to Police, Intelligence, Social Work, etc. Flümann distinguished on the one hand between what civic education is not capable of, for example that we as citizenship educators cannot do counter-propaganda to ISIS videos. On the other hand he explained what civic education can do: "Civic education must concentrate on its assets: Help to independently form one’s opinion on the basis of democratic principles." The Federal Agency for example offers information in Salafism and Islamism for a broader public.

Examples of Citizenship Education in this field

Anastasia Andritsou from the British Council (UK) gave an overview of approaches, such as the cultural relations approach to increase the individual resilience, e.g. by supporting them in critical thinking. One example of this approach is the program “Active Citizens”, which promotes intercultural dialogue and community-led social development. Furthermore she presented the program “Young Arab Voices”, which aims at increasing young people’s skills for public debate. Wissem Missaoui, Tunisian Office of the project "Search for Common Ground" (Tunisia), reported about youth de-radicalization in Tunisia and his understanding of the difference between prevention as a reaction to challenges, and empowerment as a proactive action, where youth are defined partners. He referred to the definition of the European Commission, after which "radicalization is a phenomena of people embracing opinions, views and ideas, which could lead to acts of terrorism". After being involved in many programs he summarized that for the success of a program it is very important to be involved in the process of planning and carrying out strategies and to arrange a "peer to peer" project. Finally the best way to prevent youth radicalization is to empower them through changing behaviors, perceptions and relations within their environment.

Citizenship Education
Conference Day: 

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