teleSUR, 14 March 2015 **** Front Page

'Radicalisation' - A Buzzword Singling out Muslims?

By Bruno Jäntti

Is it tenable to define the concept of radicalisation in a way that encompasses, say, European Muslims who join Islamic State and other Sunni takfiri movements, yet excludes, say, European Jews who join the Israeli military?

“Cause (someone) to become an advocate of radical political or social reform.” Such reads the definition of radicalise in Oxford English Dictionary. Its derivative radicalisation has emerged as an established concept in academic research.

In academic terrorism and counterterrorism jargon, the term is devoid of objective definition, as is to be expected. The process of radicalisation is connected with Muslims and Jihadist movements. Donatella Della Porta of European University Institute and Gary LaFree of University of Maryland published a guest editorial in the International Journal of Conflict and Violence titled "Processes of Radicalization and De-Radicalization". Della Porta and LaFree put forth an illuminative summary of the field of academic research on radicalisation:

“In research on political violence in advanced democracies in the 1970s, the term radicalization emerged to stress the interactive (social movements/state) and processual (gradual escalation) dynamics in the formation of violent, often clandestine groups (Della Porta 1995). In this approach, radicalization referred to the actual use of violence, with escalation in terms of forms and intensity. In recent years, the term “radicalism” became prominent in research on terrorism, particularly research on Islamist terrorism in OECD countries. Scholars were especially concerned with the phenomenon of young Muslims with Western socialization who joined militant Islamist groups. Much of this research sought to explain processes of individual radicalization and ways of becoming part of violent groups --. Some studies identified elements in the personal and social situation of Muslim immigrants that make them vulnerable to radicalization.”

One is tempted to ask: what is the grounds for such a definition? Is it tenable to define the concept of radicalisation in a way that encompasses, say, European Muslims who join Islamic State and other Sunni takfiri movements, yet excludes, say, European Jews who join the Israeli military? If so, why?

The record of the Israeli army doesn't exactly amount to a stellar performance in terms of adherence to international humanitarian law, or international law in general. It is, after all, an institution which is imposing the longest illegal belligerent occupation in the post-WWII era. Although some of the Israeli army's crimes are becoming more widely recognised globally, such as the regular killing of Palestinian civilians, there are still aspects of Israeli military rule which have barely entered the public debate on Israel-Palestine. Consider the fact that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF routinely publish deeply disturbing accounts on, and condemnations of, Israeli army's treatment of Palestinian children. A recent UNICEF report, for instance, notes that unlawful treatment by the Israeli military of Palestinian children is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”.

Thus, a question arises: why aren't those European and American Jews who knowingly and willingly join the Israeli occupation army labeled ‘radical' and studied persistently in academic ‘radicalisation' research?

Let us think of another example: private mercenaries in the US. Much more US citizens have joined private mercenary companies and taken part in illegal US military operations abroad than the number of foreigners serving in Islamic State or Al Qaeda affiliated groups. Indeed, the number of US citizens who have operated as private mercenaries solely in Middle Eastern states is in hundreds of thousands.

Furthermore, scores of US citizens have provenly committed blatant violations of human rights in their mercenary gigs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only in Iraq, there are several well-documented instances of cold-blooded murder of civilians by these mercenaries.

One of the rare cases of butchering of civilians by US mercenaries which did receive media attention took place in Iraq in  September 16, 2007. Operatives of Blackwater massacred 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 in Nisour Square in Baghdad. The event ultimately led to some criticism and legal action, having said that, it did not lead to any noteworthy consequences for the private mercenary industry itself.

Traveling from the EU or the US to Middle Eastern countries to willingly and knowingly take part in illegal military operations. Radicalisation? God forbid, no! Unless we are talking about Muslims, of course.


The archive: Bruno Jäntti, Middle East, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ramzy Baroud, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Phyllis Bennis


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