Everyone’s journey to extremism is unique: Expert at UAE event.
Although a generalisation is not possible on socio-economic backgrounds of extremists, the United Kingdom’s experience has shown a common element, an expert told Wam.
“All extremists [including Daesh and far right-wingers] lack a sense of belonging. They feel a lack of social standing they feel isolated and marginalised, and believe they don’t have a stake in the community or society. They feel the grievances they hold about injustice in the world are not addressed,” said William Baldet, Advisor and Coordinator of the UK Government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent programme and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right.
Finally, these disgruntled people find a sense of belonging and purpose in life when they join an extremist group, he said in an interview at the Foreign Correspondents Club, FCC, in Abu Dhabi.
Baldet delivered a talk at the FCC on ‘Deradicalising Isamic and Far-Right Extremists: Lessons from the UK’ on Wednesday afternoon, which was attended by senior UAE Government officials and prominent people from different walks of life.
Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, moderated the event.
Baldet told WAM that among the right-wing extremists he dealt with, at least 50 percent of them had pre-existing mental health problems.
Among the Daesh recruits, the mental health issues are increasingly seen, although an exact ratio cannot be given, said the expert who is also teaching counter-extremism at the University of Leicester.
“When I started ten years ago, this ratio [of mentally ill] was very low. Now the world has moved on, extremist movements have moved on whatever we see is an increase in those cases,” he said.
“We know anecdotally that Asperger’s syndrome can cause this problem,” Baldet revealed.
Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder related to autism and characterised by awkwardness in social interaction, pedantry in speech, and preoccupation with very narrow interests.
This disorder causes social isolation of an individual due to awkwardness in social interactions and creates some psychological fixations about something, he said.
In a case he dealt with, the person was obsessed with mass murderers and learned new languages to understand speeches of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden and Stalin. He was not interested in any particular ideology, Baldet revealed.
Religious discrimination has also led some people to extremism, he said.
“One might leave the university with a fantastic degree but his application for job is rejected for his name is Mohammed for no other reason other than being a Muslim,” Baldet explained.
“For somebody else, the reasons may be different. It could be longing for establishing a Caliphate in the Middle East it might be ideologically driven,” he pointed out.
According to official figures, around 900 British citizens left the UK to join Daesh in the past few years and 40 percent of the have already returned. About 10 to 15 percent have died abroad, he said.
Idea of pluralism is the apt solution to counter Islamic extremism, he stressed.
Therefore, the UAE’s propagation of pluralism is very critical as it undermines the extremist narratives of Al Qaeda and Daesh.
Drawn his attention to some thinkers’ observation that social inequality ignites extremism, he said, “Everyone’s journey to extremism is unique. We might not know until we speak to the individual.
“So we don’t make any assumptions before we start the conversation with the individual,” he said.
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