Terrorism, Extremism, Radicalization

When a decision is made that fear, terror and violence are justified to achieve ideological, political
or social change, radicalization to violent extremism occurs’
Terrorism, radicalization and extremism are subjective concepts that have different meanings for
different people. Furthermore, their meanings are constantly evolving as they manifest
themselves in different ways in different parts of the world, exploiting new vulnerabilities,
technologies and approaches.
1.1. Terrorism
‘Terrorism is a complex and contested issue, as are the associated labels of extremism, violent
extremism and radicalization’
There is no single universally accepted definition for terrorism because the concept is invariably
political and cannot be framed in a manner that excludes the state. Most acceptable words to
understand terrorism are ‘acts committed with the objective of seriously intimidating a
population, destabilizing or destroying structures of a country or international organization or
making a government abstain from performing actions’.
1.2. Extremism
‘Violent extremist ideologies have found fertile ground in fragile communities characterized by
little access to development’
Extremism is generally understood as constituting views that are far from those of the majority
of the population. Accordingly, one definition describes extremism as ‘activities (beliefs,
attitudes, feelings, actions, strategies) of a character far removed from the ordinary’. Though this
is clearly a relative term which invites disagreement regarding benchmarks, it is broadly agreed
that extremist views are not necessarily illegal and do not automatically lead to violence or harm.
Indeed those with extremist views, who may also choose to observe extreme practices with no
impact on the civil liberties of fellow citizens, are rightly protected under fundamental freedoms
and human rights norms.
Extremism becomes a concern when those views threaten democratic and tolerant societal ideas,
or promote the use of violence to coerce their followers or to achieve their objectives. This form
of extremism is described as violent extremism, a term which remains contested, but which
generally refers to the creation of ideologically motivated or justified violence, as well as support
for such acts.
1.3. Radicalization
‘Radicalizer’s work by pointing to social, political and economic injustice around their followers.’
Like terrorism and violent extremism, radicalization is a contested term with various definitions.
It is commonly understood, however, as the social and psychological process of incrementally
experienced commitment to extremist political and religious ideologies. It does not necessarily
mean that those affected will become violent. However, when a decision is made that fear, terror
and violence are justified to achieve ideological, political or social change, radicalization to violent
extremism occurs.