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Radicalization can be religious, secular, political or economic phenomenon: Shabana Fayyaz

Radicalization is as an ongoing phenomenon and to define it there is need to look at the theoretical interpretations of the subject overtime. One must understand the radicalization in context of theories and approaches put forward by traditionalists/behaviorists, structuralists and constructivists. Radicalization is a process, which is not stagnant in its nature. In its definition objective and subjective elements are involved. It is an interactive phenomenon. One cannot say that it is religious phenomenon alone. It can be religious as well as secular, political, or economic phenomenon as in plutocracy. This was stated by Ms Shabana Fayyaz while delivering a lecture on “Radicalization – Definitional Enterprises” at Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on February 19, 2009. She is PhD fellow and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Explaining the traditionalist narrative she said that they have focused on the violent events that occurred in international system especially those violent events that are not expected. She said that this understanding applies to the United States and its allies as reflected by their policy statements. Regarding this she quoted US President George Bush’s statement as an example:  “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible”. About traditional view she quoted another statement and this one by the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair: “This terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life…. We, like them (the US), will not rest until this evil is driven from our world”.

Talking about structural approach to radicalization she stated that they have focused on the historical processes and relation of power rather than isolated events and the behavior of individual. This approach has been seen widely adopted by the third world or developing countries. According to them it is essential to understand the root causes of the radicalization to solve it. Regarding this they preferred to follow a strategy of dialogue, peaceful negotiations, give and take, changing norm rules, structures and processes in the international system etc. Here she quoted Jessica Stern as, “The war we are waging is ineffective. This is much certain: If we hope to stop terrorism, we need to understand what motivates those who perpetrate it”. In pursuit of the structural approach she also quoted Dr Robert Bowman: “we are not hated because we practice democracy, freedom, and human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in third-world countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. And that hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism and, in the future, nuclear terrorism. Once the truth about why the threat exists is understood, the solution becomes obvious. We must change our government’s ways”.

Briefing about constructivist point of view about radicalization she said that they have emphasized on the importance of “social context” to understand radical or violent behavior and the study of any conflict must be about relationships between actors and not simply about the environment they inhibit. She further explained that the interests and identities of actors are not fixed by the material world around them, but emerge in an unpredictable way through the processes of conflict and interaction. And this happens during violence, civil war, and insurgency that ideas are polarize, redefined, changed and consequently [new] identity and interests [are developed].

In concluding remarks she said that radicalization is a process, which does not stand stagnant in nature. It is not suitable to say it as a religious phenomenon alone. It can be both religious was ell as secular or economic as in a plutocracy. It exists in industry and even in education. She further said that analysts must elaborate phenomenon of radicalization using multi-disciplinary ways. That is, radical behavior may transfer into violence or may not do so. She concluded that there is a need to understand the critical role of the contributing structures (physical and mental) that give rise to the radical or extreme behaviors.