GCU leads drive to tackle violent extremism across Europe

Thu, 26 Nov 2020 11:39:00 GMT
The project has secured more than €3m from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 fund
The project has secured more than €3m from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 fund

Glasgow Caledonian University is to lead a £2.7million study into radicalisation and violent extremism across Europe.

Researchers from the UK and 16 other countries will examine the growing threat from lone wolf acts of terrorism and far-right nationalist groups across the continent.

The project, De-Radicalisation in Europe and Beyond: Detect, Resolve, Re-integrate (D.Rad), will seek to identify trends in radical ideologies, help shape policies to improve social inclusion, and forecast the potential impact on society of the widening inequalities created by COVID-19.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also be used to understand how radicalisation develops over time, using information gleaned from online interactions, including social media, blogs, and discussion forums.

The project has secured more than €3m from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 fund and will focus on practical ways to re-integrate radicalised young people back into society. It is led by a team from Glasgow Caledonian University headed by Professor Umut Korkut, Dr Xander Kirke and Dr James Foley.

Professor Korkut said: "Cultural and political polarisation are facts of life in most countries, and this is driving marginal people, particularly in online forums, to embrace extreme ideologies.

“The roots of this often lie in economic and democratic failures, as well as the psychologies of individuals.

"Government de-radicalisation programmes have suffered from a narrow focus on individual pathology, or from a perception that they seek to penalise the Muslim community. Many have been counterproductive. With the far-right becoming one of Europe’s biggest threats, we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past.

"At the heart of radicalisation is a feeling of injustice, which leads to grievance, alienation, and polarisation.

"The injustice is felt in everyday life - the more aggrieved you feel, the more you feel alienated from wider society."

Evidence will be gathered from research teams in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Georgia, and Austria over the next three years.

The study will look to highlight the experiences of young people and excluded communities and offer "policy and practical recommendations" to the EU on how to improve social inclusion.

Community leaders, social workers, and youth groups will be encouraged to work on proposals to reconcile grievances and foster stronger community links. 

Professor Korkut added: "Alienation and perceived injustices are grounded in how people view their relationship to citizenship, culture and community. 

"The goal is not to depoliticise or achieve apathy, but rather to inspire ownership of issues of injustice, to convert tendencies that could lead individuals to radicalisation into activism, volunteering or alternative forms of civic engagement." 

D.Rad will be based at the WISE Centre for Economic Justice at GCU.