Discussion on Models of radicalization



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Radicalization is a phenomenon that leads to homegrown terrorism whereby the perpetrators of terrorism are citizens born and raised in the actual nation they plan to attack (King & Taylor, 2011). In most Western countries, radicalization has increased over the past decades, with homegrown groups inspired by Al Qaeda conducting 78% of the terrorism conspiracies in the west, five years from 2003. Among the schemes are successful attacks like the March 2004 Madrid train blasting and the assassination of Theo Van Gotha filmmaker in Dutch (King & Taylor, 2011). Additionally, radicalization involves psychological changes occurring among Western Muslims as they progressively conform to the legality of terrorism and back violent jihad against western nations (King &Taylor, 2011). Consequently, domestic jihadists are among the most significant threats in the west, making radicalization an exciting topic worth discussing. Accordingly, this paper will discuss radicalization, its models, countering programs, and the psychosocial factors in disengaging from terrorism.

Models of radicalization

The conception of terrorists has changed over time; initially, the fanatic group was considered persons born, raised, and trained in foreign countries, secretly intruding Western countries (King& Taylor, 2011). Currently, a terrorist group is a radicalized, native cohort immigrant conspiring terrorism against their motherland. Consequently, the radicalization models prove changes in terrorists and terrorist groups (King

& Taylor, 2011). These models include Borum’s pathway, Wiktorowiez’s Theory of joining extremist groups, Moghaddams’ staircase to terrorism, the NYPD’s Radicalization Process, and Sagemans Four prongs.

Borum summarizes a prototypic cognitive pathway through which a person develops an idea justifying terrorism. He proposes four stages. At an early stage, it is wrong; the recruits judge their conditions as unwanted. The second stage is “it’s unfair” the recruits compare their needs to the anticipated requirements of others and feel the inequality as unjust and illegal. Accordingly, some individual recruits might blame particular others for the illicit condition of their set (King & Taylor, 2011). Finally, they merge entirely into the third stage of blaming others for their actions. Once the other group has been blamed for the illegal situation, it is brutalized, resulting in negative beliefs applied to all individual members of the outgroup. In the end, recruits justify violence towards an evil group accountable for all perceived biases (King.

& Taylor, 2011).

Like Borum, Magghaddam proposes that individual perceives terrorism as an unpleasant activity at the initial stages. He utilizes the staircase metaphor to define radicalization. Additionally, he suggests that specific factors can encourage further radicalization to recruit to every particular staircase relative to individual response (King& Taylor, 2011). Such factors include; feeling deficiency resulting from a biased interpretation of the Interco-operative situation as the first inspiration towards radicalization. Individuals who compare their groups to Outgroups, considering their groups disadvantaged, are likely to move towards radicalization since they are motivated to mend their group status. They may use different strategies relative to social flexibility and bureaucratic justice. If there are legal possibilities to improve their group status, individuals hardly engage in radical acts (King &Taylor, 2011). Similarly, if they are involved in the decision-making process, making them consider it, they are less likely to engage in terrorism activities (King& Taylor, 2011).

However, deprived justice and social kinesis lead individuals to the second stage of radicalization. At this stage, individuals displace their anger instead of focusing on the actual injustice source. Consequently, they may consider radical actions to counter prejudices moving to the third floor of radicalization. In most cases, individuals on the third floor are like-minded young men sharing their sentiments, fulfilling their affiliation needs, and radicalizing, resulting in justification and self-isolation (Doosje et al., 2016). They maximize their differences with their enemy enabling them to evade innate human inhibitions towards interspecies homicides. Later, they officially join a radical group solidifying their categorical intellect and consolidating the good versus evil mentality. Consequently, the individual attains a particular role in the group, like a recruiter or bomb maker in this stage (King

&Taylor, 2011). Eventually, obedience and conformism psychologically motivate those complying with terrorism towards violence Doosje et al., 2016)

The New York Police Department suggests four distinct radicalization stages. Afterward, they report a constant course of radicalization (King & Taylor, 2011). According to Bhatt and Silber, the initial stage is pre-radicalization, referring to a person’s world before the radicalization process. Unlike Moghaddam and Borum’, s model, Silber, and Bhatt of NYPD identify the mutual traits predisposing individuals to radicalization. For example, radicalized individuals are most likely to be young, often educated, recent converts, and unlikely to have criminal records (King &Taylor, 2011). Upon joining radicalization, self-identification commences for those with the disposing features. Consequently, individuals in the self-identification stage turn to Islam in reaction to personal crises like loss of employment (King and Taylor, 2011). Therefore, they believe that Islam can manage the underlying individual turmoil.

In the process of religious exploitation, individuals radically interpret Islam like Jihadi Salafi ideas, resulting in forming a novel identity. First, the individuals pursue like-minded others, and in unison, they become more religious and radical. Later, the individual fully admits the Jihadi-Salafi ideology and tolerates viciousness against everything un-Islamic. Thus, individuals transform from having individualistic goals to non- individualistic goals engrossed in defending Muslims (King &Taylor, 2011). Eventually, they declare themselves holy warriors committed to radical jihad and may seek military knowledge relative to Jihadi in training camps abroad or close to their home. Finally, they plot terrorist attacks and hold underground meetings to deliberate applicable matters like time, potential target, and the role of group members; they also obtain valuable materials for their operations (King & Taylor, 2011).

Indifference, Sageman model describes sequential radicalization occurrences. He suggests that radicalization arises from the interplay of four aspects (King &Taylor, 2011). They include three psychological factors, and a situational factor. Psychological factors include; moral outrage resulting from interpreting events as moral heresies, like the response to the Iraq invasion, which served as a recruitment platform for violent Muslim extremists, and world perception by Islamic extremists playing significant roles in radicalization. These extremists believe that the world mainly, western countries, are waging war against Islam (King &Taylor, 2011). Also, individual moral violation, another cognitive factor, results in moral crimes.

All these cognitive factors can strengthen the conspirator world attack on Islam discernment. Similarly, Sageman emphasizes the socialization of like-minded individuals as an essential factor of radicalization (King &Taylor, 2011). Socialization entails confirming, validating, and understanding personal ideas and events relating to other radicalized groups. Mobilization facilitates the process through virtual social networks like the internet (King & Taylor, 2011). The process involves confirming, validating personal ideas, and understanding events with other radicalized groups facilitated by mobilization through virtual networks like the internet (King & Taylor, 2011).

Psychosocial factors in Disengaging from terrorism

Disengagement, de-radicalization, and counter-radicalization are related concepts studied at diverse levels. These levels include; including; mesa, macro-level, and micro (Feddes, 2015). Meso- classes emphasize group dynamics. Macro- stories concentrate on comprehensive issues like the government’s role in disengagement. And micro-levels analyze individual levels of disengagement (Feddes, 2011). At both group and individual levels, disengagement may be voluntary or involuntary (Bjorgo& Horgan, 2008). For example, groups may involuntarily withdraw in case of defeat, forcing them to surrender. Likewise, like terrorist groups, individuals may involuntarily disengage from terrorism due to arrest or deportation (Bjorgo & Horgan, 2008).

Nonetheless, the pull and push disengagement factors are distinct at an individual level. (Feddes, 2011) asserts that push factors make terroristic group members unattractive while pull factors motivate individuals to choose. Push factors include disappointment in unmet group goals, violence methods used by group members, leadership, and social relationships. Similarly, individual developmental processes making people desire friends and belonging to a social group are significant push factors. As individuals develop further, they shift their desires to maintain good family relationships, have families, and associate with diverse groups of people. Thus, development plays a vital role in the disengagement process.

Diversely, group disengagement occurs in case of ideological failures. For example, where the central group ideas fail to provide group members good purpose (Bjorgo &Horgan, 2008); as a result, the group lacks clear goals, plans to initiate desired societal changes and cannot meet its members’ desires. Similarly, leadership failures, lack of public support, continuous suppression from law enforcement, and policy changes resulting in involving legal processes in perusing justice lead to disengagement (Bjorgo & Horgan, 2008).

Methods and programs of countering radicalization

De-radicalization is any efforts aimed at preventing the occurrence of radicalization. However, some people understand de-radicalization to de-programming already radicalized individuals making them less radical (Schimid, 2013). It applies to both belief and behavior; concerning behavior and ideas and involves the termination of violent acts and a desire to be part of the society, respectively. Consequently, belief and behavior de-radicalization are interrelated factors. Governments direct different de-radicalization efforts and programs against radical individuals intending to discourage them from viciousness and reintegrate them into society (Schimid, 2013). Such programs include; religious re-education, vocational training, art therapy, and psychological counseling.

Despite the expenses incurred these programs report high success rates in Saudi Arabia, with more than 4000 radical detainees processed and close to 2000 released to re-join the society (Schimid, 2013). Similarly, post-release programs involve intense scrutiny of former terrorists and holding relatives responsible for the post-release activities of anterior radicals. Individuals going through post-release programs are less likely to be rearrested for re-offense, with only 10 to 20% rearrested compared to recidivism from routine crime. In America, de-radicalization, especially online de-radicalization, is done by formulating policies limiting internet access (Neumann, 2013). Additionally, governments use nationwide filtering as a means of reducing the transfer of violent radical content. Using government-controlled ISPS, which sifter contents according to government policy (Neumann, 2013), effectively controls online radicalization.


Radicalization has significantly increased over the years, making it a vital topic of discussion and a major concern of contemporary societies worldwide. Consequently, the study of radicalization relative to terrorism is vital since it stances grave physical pressures on societies. The study of Radicalization models helps people understand the de-radicalization processes. Because all the models distinguish three distinct features of radicalization: a sensitivity stage, a group involvement stage, and an action stage, furthermore, these stages help understand the characteristics of diverse radical groups and facilitate the organization of counter-radicalization programs. Eventually, radicalization and de-radicalization facilitate the successful reintegration of former terrorists into society, preventing recidivism.




Bjorgo, T., & Horgan, J. G. (Eds.). (2008). Leaving terrorism behind: Individual and collective disengagement. Routledge.

Doosje, B., Moghaddam, F. M., Kruglanski, A. W., De Wolf, A., Mann, L., & Feddes, A. R. (2016). Terrorism, radicalization and de-radicalization. Current Opinion in Psychology, 11, 79-84.

Feddes, A. R. (2015). Socio-psychological factors involved in measures of disengagement and deradicalization and evaluation challenges in Western Europe. Understanding deradicalization: Pathways to enhance transatlantic common perceptions and practices, 1-17.

King, M., & Taylor, D. M. (2011). The radicalization of homegrown jihadists: A review of theoretical models and social psychological evidence. Terrorism and political violence, 23(4), 602-622.

Neumann, P. R. (2013). Options and strategies for countering online radicalization in the United States. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 36(6), 431-459.

Schmid, A. P. (2013). Radicalisation, de-radicalisation, counter-radicalisation: A conceptual discussion and literature review. ICCT Research Paper, 97(1), 22.

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