“Radicalization is a state of mind or ideology that is not static. It is linked with extremism and terrorism when it comes to achieve its targets. While war is an instrument to achieve the national and group interests and targets, radicalization can be defined objectively in the same domain; but it may not be the only definitional relevance. Radicals use violent means to bring change and sometimes states also do the same as Hitler and Stalin used brutal force to establish a new system. But I think the forces trying to maintain the status quo sometimes also fall within the boundaries of radicalization, be they individuals, groups or governments”. This was stated by Mr. Wusat Ullah Khan while sharing his views on “Understanding phenomenon of radicalization” at Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on March 5, 2009. He is a veteran journalist and writer, currently attached with the BBC Urdu service.
He, nonetheless, described radicalization as a complex phenomenon that has many folds and if tried to be explored within specified boundaries it may create more confusion as sometime radicalization is seen as extremism and terrorism because of its slack boundaries. However he asserted that radicalization was kinetic, fluid and relative in its conceptual framework. He also denied the impression that radicalization was merely a negative or reactionary term.
While giving the characteristics of radicalization he quoted the words of Defense Analyst Ayesha Siddiqua that lack of contacts and dialogue among various groups of society were major reasons of radicalization. “In addition to this lack of contact and dialogue, when stream of social evolution in a society becomes stagnant and takes form of a pond, then some people may try to drain its water according to their own thinking. It will also be a form of radicalization. For instance, it was tradition in Egypt that a virgin girl was sacrificed in Neil River to keep away the droughts. This concept of sacrifice was common among Indian tribes of the Central America. Similarly there was tradition to bury girls alive in some Arab tribes. When some first Egyptian, Indian or Arab person raised his voice against these inhuman traditions the supporters of status quo would have called him radical in his respective tribe or society”, he forwarded his argument.
He elaborated the fluidity and relativity of radicalization in a triangle of fundamental change, status quo and extremism. He said changes could take place in two different ways. In first case the preachers of change build their case on some ‘fundamental truths’ to inculcate into people their own versions. The second way is to replace some system with another through use of force. The movements that revolutionized the world have seen these two elements of change woven into them in a sequence. For instance most of the religious reformers started with preaching and reconciliation concepts, and became violent after getting power. Secular Marxists movement had similar shades in this regard. He revealed that whatever may be the form of radicalization, whether negative or positive, it is transformed into a new status quo after bringing change. Subsequently a new movement of radicalization, regardless of internal and external elements, surfaces up to challenge the status quo. This makes radicalization a kinetic and relative phenomenon.
However to control the negative impacts of radicalization, he explained, that reinforcement of democratic means was the key. The political fundamentalist groups think ten times before resorting to any effort to damage the system. It is imperative to work to strengthen democratic culture in the country as counter-radicalization strategy.
His address was followed by thought provoking question answer session.