- Radicalisering: een analyse in termen van sekten
- De Psycholoog
- Volume | Issue number
- 50 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Politically motivated religious radical groups, resorting to violence or willing to do so, are seriously challenging the current social order and security in Western societies, and even world peace and human rights. The most recent and dramatic example is the appeal the so-called Islamic State has on such groups. To counter these developments, social science should not omit to make its own contribution: analyzing the factors and processes which motivate individuals to join these groups and continue to participate in them. This paper offers a psychological analysis of some of these factors and takes as its starting point a similarity between radical groups and sects. This gives rise to the following view:
Like sects, radical groups especially attract normal adolescents and young adults with severe identity issues (this is even more prevalent in second and third generation immigrants). The radical views within such a group seem to provide an answer to pressing existential questions such as: who am I, what do I live for, and what can I signify in the world? A charismatic leader could strengthen and exploit this. The relatively small and well-defined nature of such groups provide a certain security, solidarity, community, and often a sense of superiority as well, all of which could further strengthen the person's identity.
Once such a person has joined a radical group, then processes of isolation, indoctrination and manipulation are put in motion, purposely arranged by the leader(s). These intensify the member's ties with the group and its ideology more and more, and increasingly reduce his receptiveness for correcting influences from outside. If, at last, the member progresses to violence, then this in turn, will activate internal and external negative spiral processes, which will increasingly block the way back to functioning normally in society.
Examples of internal negative spirals are: ways to appease one's conscience, hardening, addiction to the power inherent in violence. Examples of external negative spirals are: self-aggravating vicious circles of revenge and counter-revenge, as well as war stress and survival drive.
Our conclusion is that an analysis in terms of sects could yield fruitful insights.
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