Wikipedia defines it as “a form of extremism that condones and enacts violence with ideological or deliberate intent, such as religious or political violence.”
Most young people would not join a violent extremist organization willingly yet the overwhelming majority of people who become violent extremists are the youth — most of whom are male. The following factors have been identified from research of violent groupings around the world. They indicate an increased likelihood of individuals deciding to involve themselves in a specific campaign of violence:
- The existence of a grievance or perceived injustice by a subgroup of the population.
- Age and gender (terrorist acts are generally committed by young males aged 15 to 25).
- Past family involvement with, or support for, the movement.
- Community support for the insurgent group, or high status associated with membership of the group.
- Coercion or conscription into the movement.
- Eventual membership as a result of an incremental process of increasing acts of insurgence.
- Vengeance as the individual feels a need to hit back and right wrongs.
- To become a member of an armed group there must be an organisation that the individual has the opportunity to join, and that wants his or her membership.
One significant thing to note is that the list does not mention Religious ideologies as a cause or as having a direct causal relationship with violence. It has been suggested that religious ideology may have more to do with binding a group of people together i.e having a common ground. With these factors at play, it is easier to determine that Al Shabaab and many other religious extremist groups have been taking advantage of the youth’s faith.
Extremist violence thrives in our ignorance about young peoples’ lives and about their voices and aspirations, as well as in our lack of understanding about how rigid gendered norms shape their identities. The solutions to extremist violence, or youth violence of any kind, will only be found when we truly listen to youth; when we let youth drive the solutions; and when we simultaneously support young women and help young men find the empathy, connection, and peaceful identities they long for.