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WGS 2017: Governments can counter extremism

Staff Report /Dubai
Filed on February 12, 2017
WGS 2017: Governments can counter extremism

(Supplied photo)

Discussing cases of violent extremism, Professor Kruglanski referred to the 3N model of radicalization

Governments can counter extremism, a willful deviation from general norms of conduct, through a series of steps according to Arie Kruglanski, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Maryland. His comments came during a fullhouse breakout session entitled 'Inside the Most Dangerous Minds: Insights for Government' on Day One of the World Government Summit (WGS) 2017 in Dubai.

Kruglanski said: "As the human mind is malleable and flexible, countering extremism is possible. It is critical for governments to reduce feelings of insignificance through education and policy. Possible methods include designing and implementing counterterrorism and deradicalization programs, discrediting violence at all levels, promoting idealism and moderation, and finally, establishing anti-violence networks.

He added: "It is important to not only combat extremism in the field of battle, but also to prevent and reverse the trend as it occurs. Decades of research have shown that terrorists are neither schizophrenic, nor depressed or psychopathic. Therefore, it is vital to delve into the psychology of extremists. Extreme behavior of an individual is out of balance, someone willing to do anything and because imbalance is difficult to sustain, few persons do so. A majority of the people are moderate - only those in the fringes are extreme."

Discussing cases of violent extremism, Professor Kruglanski referred to the 3N model of radicalization. The first N is need for significance - the quest to matter or the quest for dignity that can be channeled in different ways. The second N is Narrative, and a violent narrative bestows that significance. The third N is network.

Kruglanski said: "We are special beings and we need our shared reality to be validated by others.  And these three Ns result in the combustive or explosive violence extremists inflict on the world. It is the overriding commitment to significance, everything else is forgotten. The quest for significance is activated by loss of significance that can result from either personal or social loss or humiliation or suffering, and also by the chance to gain or regain significance. Al Qaida, ISIS and Daesh, for example, activated this quest for significance for new recruits." 

All of these theories were based on empirical evidence gained from surveys, interviews, and analysis of content and events. The research focused on different samples, including terrorists in Indonesia and the Philippines, Tamils in Sri Lanka, white supremacists in the United States and Neo-Nazis in Germany.

He added a few examples of empirical evidence, such as the immigrants and refugees in the US, who suffer from feelings of insignificance and therefore are seen to endorse radical views. Suicide bombers' quest for significance is strongly correlated to the effectiveness of terrorist attacks.

The World Government Summit (WGS) 2017 has drawn the participation of more than 4,000 personalities from 139 countries around the world, reflecting the leading stature of the summit on regional and international levels and the high interest from governments, global organizations, private and public sector entities, decision makers, entrepreneurs, academics and university students as well as scientists and innovators. WGS 2017 features 150 speakers across 114 sessions that highlight the world's most pressing challenges and showcase best practices and cutting-edge solutions to deal with them.

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