“Be sensitive to change and get help”
A conversation with Kemal Bozay, Professor of Social Work and Social Sciences at the IUBH Dual Studies Programme, about radicalisation processes among young people and effective pedagogical concepts to be able to intervene in time.
We are increasingly witnessing radical tendencies in the media in Germany, especially in the right-wing extremist or anti-Semitic sphere. What are the dangers associated with this development?
Kemal Bozay: It is true that radical attitudes in Germany have gained momentum in recent years: The current Authoritarianism Study by the Leipzig social psychologists Oliver Becker and Elmar Brähler shows that radicalisation tendencies, especially in the context of right-wing extremism, right-wing populism and anti-Semitism, are experiencing an enormous increase. There are many socio-political, but also group-related and individual reasons for this. Things become problematic for a democratic society, however, when more and more people question social cohesion, diversity and solidarity, increasingly turn their backs on them and use violence to achieve their goals. The current radical tendencies reinforce this misanthropic worldview. Disadvantaged persons are affected in particular.
In research, young people are considered to be particularly susceptible to this because they are in an orientation phase. Which preventative measures do you recommend?
Bozay: Feeling excluded from a group or wanting to belong to a community can trigger radicalisation processes in young people. Through protest and provocation, radicalised youth groups and scenes manage to challenge society. These movements increasingly offer young people social orientation – among other things through a sense of belonging, security and politicisation. These developments present both social institutions and social work with new challenges. Deradicalisation is a possible pedagogical concept of prevention in which radicalised people abandon their extremist ways of thinking and acting and in particular turn away from violence. In the pedagogical sense, we therefore need close support, advice and specific training for young people at risk of radicalisation. In addition to intervening measures, counselling and dialogue measures are also needed in the exiting work with radicalised young people. This also includes counselling and accompanying relatives. At the federal level, the EXIT-Germany initiative supports people who want to turn their backs on right-wing extremism and build a new life for themselves. Programmes such as “Demokratie leben!” try to sensitise and activate target groups with deradicalisation projects. National prevention programmes are also well known, such as “Wegweiser” or advisory networks that oppose violent Salafism or Islamism in youth scenes.
How can you tell that somebody is radicalising?
Bozay: At first glance, it is difficult to tell when a young person is radicalising. People from the immediate environment, such as family, friends, teachers and social workers, are usually the quickest to notice these trends. Classic signs are when the radicalised person increasingly withdraws, changes his behaviour or expresses his new, more radical opinions in his parents’ house, school, youth centre or group.
What can friends or family do?
Bozay: Family, friends and relatives are not only affected by radicalisation processes, but are usually the first points of contact to observe changes in young people. It is important to be aware of any radicalisation tendencies – in order to even notice them when they occur – and to seek help in emergency situations. There are currently various deradicalisation programmes and projects at the federal and state levels to which families, friends and relatives can explicitly turn. Here they are advised anonymously and can obtain information and help. Teachers, social workers and educators can also contact these counselling centres, programmes and projects with their questions.