What are the main drivers of far-right and Islamist radicalisation? What is the role of social exclusion within radicalisation processes? How can we design better policies to safeguard young people from radicalising? The DRIVE project, led by Leiden University in The Hague seeks to address these questions, working with a consortium of eight partners from across North-Western Europe (two civil society organisations and six universities).
Original research carried out in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom over 36 months will help determine European-wide policy solutions that concentrate on social inclusion in deradicalisation initiatives by bringing together the expertise, skills and knowledge of researchers and practitioners involved in creating an understanding of radicalisation and building resilience against violent extremism and social polarisation.
In recent years, research on extremist identity politics and political violence in Europe has focused on patterns of violent radical Islamism and far-right radicalisation among young men. This includes understanding the changing patterns of radicalisation, e.g. from foreign fighters to individual knife attackers; or from targeting ‘foreigners’ to targeting ‘Muslims’ in far-right extremism. This research has brought to the fore problems of identity, belonging, inter-generational change, alienation, marginalisation, inequality, masculinity and a lack of education. These findings also point to the significance of matters of space and place that compound existing exclusionary discourses based on ethnicity, religious identity, socio-economic status and political orientation. Not only do far right movements and violent Islamists have similar breeding grounds they also feed off each other’s rhetoric and activism.
Despite knowledge gleaned from existing studies, significant gaps remain in terms of understanding the interplay between local manifestations of extremism. Notably, there are no extant studies that have investigated the synergies and reciprocity between Islamist and far right extremism in a comparative European context. Concomitantly, there is no detailed understanding of the relationship between individual and structural factors that also take into consideration the psychosocial circumstances affecting people who may already be vulnerable in a variety of ways. Social determinants of health in general and mental health, in particular, are well established in research but have rarely been applied to radicalisation research. There remains a fundamental lack of appreciation of the wider struggles of social inclusion that affect the radicalisation experience in local areas. This is a central concern for all vulnerable people on matters of radicalisation, where questions of personal and political identity combined with issues of intergenerational change affect the paths individuals take.
DRIVE tests four variables at the level of enabling factors that take into consideration the issues of social exclusion based on spatial formation, identity politics, intergenerational change and reciprocal radicalisation. The project will also serve to increase understanding of individual and public mental health issues (well-being and resilience) related to experiences of social exclusion as they contribute to the processes of radicalisation within North-Western European societies.
All of these concerns will help to determine a set of generalisable policy-relevant findings to be applied in the specific countries of the project. They will also be considered in terms of relevance across a wider European context.
DRIVE has three overarching objectives
First, to understand how spatial formation, identity politics, intergenerational change and cumulative radicalisation act as enabling factors in radicalisation processes in North-Western Europe.
Second, to identify and describe European social inclusion issues at the structural level and to understand how they interact on the individual and group levels in terms of psychosocial and mental health.
Third, to determine a range of potential policy solutions to the complex and context-specific requirements of countering and preventing radicalisation that concentrate on social inclusion in deradicalisation initiatives.
Leiden University (NL) is coordinating this consortium in partnership with Aarhus University (DK), Umeå University (SE), University of Cambridge (UK), University of Liverpool (UK), the University of Oslo (NO), and in collaboration with the civil society organisations, ConnectFutures (UK), Fryshuset (SE).
DRIVE begins on 1 January 2021 and ends on 31 December 2023.