Extremism

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Extremism means, literally, "the quality or state of being extreme" or "the advocacy of extreme measures or views". [1]

Contents

The term is primarily used in a political or religious sense, to refer to an ideology that is considered (by the speaker or by some implied shared social consensus) to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of society. [2] It can also be used in an economic context. The term is usually meant to be pejorative. However, it may also be used in a more academic, purely descriptive, non-condemning sense.

Politics is a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.

Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.

An ideology is a collection of normative beliefs and values that an individual or group holds for other than purely epistemic reasons. In other words, these rely on basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis. The term is especially used to describe systems of ideas and ideals which form the basis of economic or political theories and resultant policies. In these there are tenuous causal links between policies and outcomes owing to the large numbers of variables available, so that many key assumptions have to be made. In political science the term is used in a descriptive sense to refer to political belief systems

Extremists are usually contrasted with centrists or moderates. For example, in contemporary discussions in Western countries of Islam or of Islamic political movements, the distinction between extremist (implying "bad") and moderate (implying "good") Muslims is typically stressed. [3]

Centrism describes a political outlook or specific position

In politics, centrism—the centre or the center —is a political outlook or specific position that involves acceptance or support of a balance of a degree of social equality and a degree of social hierarchy, while opposing political changes which would result in a significant shift of society strongly to either the left or the right.

Western world Countries that identify themselves with an originally European shared culture

The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various nations depending on the context, most often including at least parts of Europe, Australasia, and the Americas, with the status of Latin America disputed by some. There are many accepted definitions, all closely interrelated. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient, or Eastern world. It is often correlated with the Northern half of the North-south divide.

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided mankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, claimed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Political agendas perceived as extremist often include those from the far-left politics or far-right politics as well as radicalism, reactionism, fundamentalism and fanaticism.

Far-left politics are political views located further on the left of the left-right spectrum than the standard political left.

Far-right politics are politics further on the right of the left-right spectrum than the standard political right, particularly in terms of extreme nationalism, nativist ideologies, and authoritarian tendencies.

The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary or other means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.

Definitions

There have been many different definitions of "extremism". Peter T. Coleman and Andrea Bartoli give observation of definitions: [4] Extremism is a complex phenomenon, although its complexity is often hard to see. Most simply, it can be defined as activities (beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, strategies) of a character far removed from the ordinary. In conflict settings it manifests as a severe form of conflict engagement. However, the labeling of activities, people, and groups as "extremist", and the defining of what is "ordinary" in any setting is always a subjective and political matter. Thus, we suggest that any discussion of extremism be mindful of the following: Typically, the same extremist act will be viewed by some as just and moral (such as pro-social "freedom fighting"), and by others as unjust and immoral (antisocial "terrorism") depending on the observer's values, politics, moral scope, and the nature of their relationship with the actor. In addition, one's sense of the moral or immoral nature of a given act of extremism (such as Nelson Mandela's use of guerilla war tactics against the South African Government) may change as conditions (leadership, world opinion, crises, historical accounts, etc.) change. Thus, the current and historical context of extremist acts shapes our view of them. Power differences also matter when defining extremism. When in conflict, the activities of members of low power groups tend to be viewed as more extreme than similar activities committed by members of groups advocating the status quo.

In addition, extreme acts are more likely to be employed by marginalized people and groups who view more normative forms of conflict engagement as blocked for them or biased. However, dominant groups also commonly employ extreme activities (such as governmental sanctioning of violent paramilitary groups or the attack in Waco by the FBI in the U.S.).

Extremist acts often employ violent means, although extremist groups will differ in their preference for violent vs. non-violent tactics, in the level of violence they employ, and in the preferred targets of their violence (from infrastructure to military personnel to civilians to children). Again, low power groups are more likely to employ direct, episodic forms of violence (such as suicide bombings), whereas dominant groups tend to be associated with more structural or institutionalized forms (like the covert use of torture or the informal sanctioning of police brutality). [4]

Although extremist individuals and groups are often viewed as cohesive and consistently evil, it is important to recognize that they may be conflicted or ambivalent psychologically as individuals, or contain difference and conflict within their groups. For instance, individual members of Hamas may differ considerably in their willingness to negotiate their differences with the Palestinian Authority and, ultimately, with certain factions in Israel. Ultimately, the core problem that extremism presents in situations of protracted conflict is less the severity of the activities (although violence, trauma, and escalation are obvious concerns) but more so the closed, fixed, and intolerant nature of extremist attitudes, and their subsequent imperviousness to change. [4]

Theories of extremism

Eric Hoffer and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. were two political writers during the mid-20th century who gave what purported to be accounts of "political extremism". Hoffer wrote The True Believer and The Passionate State of Mind about the psychology and sociology of those who join "fanatical" mass movements. Schlesinger wrote The Vital Center, championing a supposed "center" of politics within which "mainstream" political discourse takes place, and underscoring the alleged need for societies to draw definite lines regarding what falls outside of this acceptability.

Seymour Martin Lipset argued that besides the extremism of the left and right there is also an extremism of the center, and that it actually formed the base of fascism. [5]

Laird Wilcox identifies 21 alleged traits of a "political extremist", ranging from "a tendency to character assassination" and hateful behaviour like "name calling and labelling", to general character traits like "a tendency to view opponents and critics as essentially evil", "a tendency to substitute intimidation for argument" or "groupthink". [6]

"Extremism" is not a stand-alone characteristic. The attitude or behavior of an "extremist" may be represented as part of a spectrum, which ranges from mild interest through "obsession" to "fanaticism" and "extremism". The alleged similarity between the "extreme left" and "extreme right", or perhaps between opposing religious zealots, may mean only that all these are "unacceptable" from the standpoint of a supposed mainstream or majority.

Economist Ronald Wintrobe [7] argues that many extremist movements, even though having completely different ideologies, share a common set of characteristics. As an example, he lists the following common characteristics between "Jewish fundamentalists" and "the extremists of Hamas": [8]

Psychological

Among the explanations for extremism is one that views it as a plague. [4] Arno Gruen said, "The lack of identity associated with extremists is the result of self-destructive self-hatred that leads to feelings of revenge toward life itself, and a compulsion to kill one's own humanness." Extremism is seen as not a tactic, nor an ideology, but as a pathological illness which feeds on the destruction of life. [4] Dr. Kathleen Taylor believes religious fundamentalism is a mental illness and that is "curable." [9]

Another view is that extremism is an emotional outlet for severe feelings stemming from "persistent experiences of oppression, insecurity, humiliation, resentment, loss, and rage" which are presumed to "lead individuals and groups to adopt conflict engagement strategies which "fit" or feel consistent with these experiences". [4]

Extremism is seen by other researchers as a "rational strategy in a game over power", [4] as described in the works of Eli Berman.

In a 2018 study at University College London, scientists have demonstrated that people with extreme political views (both extreme right and extreme left) had significantly worse metacognition, or the ability of a person to recognize they are wrong and modify their views when presented with contrary evidence, thus creating an opinion that supports only their idea of wrong and right. People found on either of the political extremes were shown to have much greater (but misplaced) confidence in their beliefs, and resisted change. [10]

A 2019 study found that political extremism on both the left and right tended to have four common psychological features: psychological distress stimulates the adoption of an extreme ideological outlook, extreme ideologies tend to have relatively simplistic black-white perceptions of the social world, said mental simplicity causes overconfidence in judgements and political extremists are less tolerant of different groups and opinions than moderates. [11]

Criticism

After being accused of extremism, Martin Luther King Jr. criticized the mainstream usage of the term in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, ″But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love…Was not Amos an extremist for justice…Was not Martin Luther an extremist…So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?″ [12] [13]

Barry Goldwater, in his 1964 acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention, said, "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." [14]

Robert F. Kennedy said "What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents."

In Russia, the laws prohibiting extremist content are used (both by poorly trained officials and as part of an intentional politics to suppress opposition)[ citation needed ] to suppress the freedom of speech through very broad and flexible interpretation. [15] Published material classified as "extremist", and thus prosecuted, included protests against the court rulings in the Bolotnaya Square case ("calling for illegal action"), criticism of overspending by a local governor ("insult of the authorities"), publishing a poem in support of Ukraine ("inciting hatred"), [16] [17] an open letter against a war in Chechnya by the writer Polina Zherebcova, [18] the Jehovah's Witnesses movement in Russia, [19] Raphael Lemkin, and articles by the initiator of the Genocide Convention of 1948. [20]

Other terms

Since the 1990s, in United States politics the term Sister Souljah moment has been used to describe a politician's public repudiation of an allegedly extremist person or group, statement, or position which might otherwise be associated with his own party.[ citation needed ]

The term "subversive" was often used interchangeably, in the United States at least, with "extremist" during the Cold War period, although the two words are not synonymous.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs. However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups–mainly, although not exclusively, in religion–that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established "fundamentals" and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.

Right-wing politics hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences or the competition in market economies. The term right-wing can generally refer to "the conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system".

Islamic fundamentalism Muslims who seek to return to the fundamentals of the Islamic religion

Islamic fundamentalism has been defined as a movement of Muslims who regard earlier times favorably and seek to return to the fundamentals of the Islamic religion and live similarly to how the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his companions lived. Islamic fundamentalists favor "a literal and originalist interpretation" of the primary sources of Islam, seek to eliminate "corrupting" non-Islamic influences from every part of their lives and see "Islamic fundamentalism" as a pejorative term used by outsiders for Islamic revivalism and Islamic activism.

Religious terrorism is terrorism carried out based on motivations and goals that may have a predominantly religious character or influence.

Militant means vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in "militant reformers". It comes from the 15th century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier". The related modern concept of the militia as a defensive organization against invaders grew out of the Anglo-Saxon fyrd. In times of crisis, the militiaman left his civilian duties and became a soldier until the emergency was over, when he returned to his civilian occupation.

A political moderate is a person in the center category of the left–right political spectrum.

Hisham Kabbani American Sufi leader

Muhammad Hisham Kabbani is a Lebanese-American Sufi Muslim. Kabbani has counseled and advised Muslim leaders to build community resilience against violent extremism. His criticism of extremism has stirred controversy among some American Muslims. In 2012 the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named him one of the top 500 most influential Muslims. His notable students include the world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali and former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America is a 1992 book by John George and Laird Wilcox. It is an examination of political extremism of both the far left and far right in the United States.

Jihadism Western neologism to describe armed Islamic movements

The term "Jihadism" is a 21st-century neologism found in Western languages to describe Islamist militant movements perceived as military movements "rooted in Islam" and "existentially threatening" to the West. It has been described as a "difficult term to define precisely", because it remains a recent neologism with no single, generally accepted meaning. The term "jihadism" first appeared in South Asian media; Western journalists adopted it in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001. It has since been applied to various insurgent and terrorist movements whose ideology is based on the Islamic notion of jihad.

Laird Wilcox American writer

Laird Maurice Wilcox is an American researcher specializing in the study of political fringe movements. He is the founder of the "Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements," said to be one of the largest collections of American political material in the United States. It is housed in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. Wilcox worked as carpenter, investigator and writer while living in Olathe, Kansas.

Islamic extremism form of Islam

Islamic extremism is any form of Islam that opposes "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs". Related terms include "Islamist extremism" and Islamism. Some people oppose the use of the term, fearing it could "de-legitimize" the Islamic faith in general. Some have criticized political rhetoric that associates non-violent Islamism with terrorism under the rubric of "extremism".

Chip Berlet American political analyst

John Foster "Chip" Berlet is an American investigative journalist, research analyst, photojournalist, scholar, and activist specializing in the study of extreme right-wing movements in the United States. He also studies the spread of conspiracy theories. Since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Berlet has often appeared in the media to discuss extremist news stories. He was a senior analyst at Political Research Associates (PRA), a non-profit group that tracks right-wing networks.

Radicalization is a process by which an individual, or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo or contemporary ideas and expressions of the nation. The outcomes of radicalization are shaped by the ideas of the society at large; for example, radicalism can originate from a broad social consensus against progressive changes in society or from a broad desire for change in society. Radicalization can be both violent and nonviolent, although most academic literature focuses on radicalization into violent extremism (RVE). There are multiple pathways that constitute the process of radicalization, which can be independent but are usually mutually reinforcing.

Institute for Strategic Dialogue organization

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) is a London-based ‘think and do tank’ that has pioneered policy and operational responses to the rising challenges of violent extremism and inter-communal conflict. Combining research and analysis with government advisory work and delivery programmes, ISD has been at the forefront of forging real-world, evidence-based responses to the challenges of integration, extremism and terrorism. ISD's founder and president was George Weidenfeld, Baron Weidenfeld. Its Director/CEO is Sasha Havlicek.

Quilliam is a London-based think tank co-founded by Maajid Nawaz that focuses on counter-extremism, specifically against Islamism, which it argues represents a desire to impose a given interpretation of Islam on society. Founded as The Quilliam Foundation, it says it lobbies government and public institutions for more nuanced policies regarding Islam and on the need for greater democracy in the Muslim world whilst empowering "moderate Muslim" voices. The organisation opposes any Islamist ideology and champions freedom of expression. The critique of Islamist ideology by its founders, Maajid Nawaz, Rashad Zaman Ali and Ed Husain, is based, in part, on their personal experiences.

The White House released the United States' first strategy to address "ideologically inspired" violence in August 2011. Entitled Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States, the eight page document outlines "how the Federal Government will support and help empower American communities and their local partners in their grassroots efforts to prevent violent extremism." The strategy was followed in December 2011 by a more detailed Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. The National Strategy for Empowering Local Partners and the strategic implementation plan (SIP) resulted from the identification of violent extremism and terrorism inspired by "al-Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents" as the "preeminent security threats" to the United States by the 2010 National Security Strategy and the 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism. Regardless of the priorization of the threat from al-Qaeda's ideology, both the strategy and SIP are geared towards all types of extremism without focus on a particular ideology.

Islamic Extremism is any form of Islam that opposes "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs." These extreme beliefs have led to radical actions in the past across the Middle East, and Egypt itself has a long history of these radical and extreme sects of Islam with roots dating back to around 660 CE. Islamic extremism in Egypt has been the cause of much terrorism and controversy in the country in the 20th century, and still continues to be a main issue in the current Egyptian society. The main conflict between Islamic extremists and the government officials throughout history stems from two major issues: “the formation of the modern nation-state and the political and cultural debate over its ideological direction.”

The term "violent extremism" refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically-motivated violence to further radical ideological, religious, or political aims. Violent extremist views can manifest in connection with a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. No society, religious community, or worldview is immune to violent extremism. Though "radicalization" is a contested term to some, it has come to be used to define the process through which an individual or a group comes to regard violence as a legitimate and a desirable means of action. Radical thought that does not condone the exercise of violence to further political goals may be seen as normal and acceptable, and be promoted by groups working within the boundaries of legally permitted activity. The phrase "violent extremism" may occur as a code name for Islamic terrorism.

Online youth radicalization is the process by which a young individual, or group of people come to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of the nation. As for radicalization, online youth radicalization can be both violent or non-violent.

References

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  2. "Extremism – definition of". The Free Dictionary . Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  3. Mogahed, Dalia (2006). "The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Moderate vs. Extremist Views in the Muslim World" (PDF). WikiLeaks. p. 2.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Dr. Peter T. Coleman and Dr. Andrea Bartoli: Addressing Extremism, pp. 3–4
  5. G. M. Tamás: "On Post-Fascism Archived 2014-08-26 at the Wayback Machine ", Boston Review , Summer 2000
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  7. "Economics at [University of] Western [Ontario]". Economics.uwo.ca. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  8. Wintrobe (2006), p. 5
  9. Bruxelles, Simon de (30 May 2013). "Science 'may one day cure Islamic radicals'". The Times. London. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  10. "People with extreme political views 'cannot tell when they are wrong', study finds". The Independent. 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
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  12. "Letter From a Birmingham Jail - The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute". kinginstitute.stanford.edu. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  13. "What Martin Luther King taught me about extremism". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  14. "Washingtonpost.com: Goldwater Speech". www.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  15. Paul Goble (29 March 2015). "FSB Increasingly Involved in Misuse of 'Anti-Extremism' Laws, SOVA Says". The Interpreter Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
  16. "Examples of forbidden content". Zapretno.info. 2014. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-29.
  17. Neef, Christian; Schepp, Matthias (22 April 2014). "The Propaganda War: Opposition Sings Kremlin Tune on Ukraine". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2015-06-10.
  18. "Otkrytoe Pismo Hodorkovskomu o Voyne v Chechne Priznali Ekstremistskim". meduza.io. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  19. "Russian Appellate Court Decision Reverses Ban of JW.ORG Website" . Retrieved 2015-08-20.
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Cited publications

Further reading