DRIVE Project Conference in Brussels: Challenging Conventional Thinking on Radicalisation

June 17, 2024

The ground-breaking project DRIVE, which receives funding from the European Union, recently held its main conference in Brussels, Belgium, on 11-12 June 2024. The two-day event brought together a diverse audience from across Europe, including scholars, policymakers, practitioners, and community groups representing various disciplines such as the social sciences, humanities, and medical sciences. The conference aimed to foster meaningful exchanges and challenge conventional thinking about radicalisation, which often overemphasises the role of ideology while neglecting the complex interplay of psychosocial, structural, and cultural factors that contribute to the marginalisation of individuals.

One of the key themes that emerged from the conference was the need to shift the narrative surrounding radicalisation. Many speakers argued that the current discourse tends to focus disproportionately on the ideological dimensions of radicalisation, such as extremist religious or political beliefs. While ideology undoubtedly plays a role, this narrow focus can obscure the deeper social, economic, and psychological factors that render individuals vulnerable to radicalisation in the first place.

Several presentations highlighted the importance of addressing the structural inequalities and systemic barriers that contribute to the marginalisation of certain communities. Factors such as poverty, discrimination, lack of access to education and employment opportunities, and social exclusion can create a sense of alienation and disillusionment, making individuals more susceptible to extremist narratives that promise a sense of belonging and purpose.

Moreover, the conference emphasised the need to recognise and appreciate the resilience and agency of those at the margins of society. Too often, marginalised individuals are portrayed as passive victims or potential threats, rather than as active agents with the capacity to resist and challenge extremist ideologies. By supporting and empowering these individuals and communities, we can help build resilience and counter the pull of radicalisation.

Another key takeaway from the conference was the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing radicalisation. The complex nature of the phenomenon requires input from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, and more. By bringing together experts from diverse fields, the DRIVE Project Conference facilitated the sharing of knowledge and best practices, fostering a more holistic and nuanced understanding of radicalisation.

The DRIVE Project Major Conference in Brussels represented a significant step towards challenging conventional thinking about radicalisation and promoting a more nuanced and compassionate approach to the issue. By recognising the complex interplay of factors that contribute to marginalisation and vulnerability, and by empowering and supporting those at the margins of society, we can build more inclusive and resilient communities that are better equipped to resist the lure of extremism. The insights and recommendations that emerged from the conference will undoubtedly shape future research, policy, and practice in the field of radicalisation prevention and counter-extremism efforts across Europe and beyond.

Written by:

Prof. Tahir Abbas

Scientific Coordinator

The opinions expressed here are the author's own and should not be taken to represent the views of the DRIVE project.
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