What does Extremism mean, and what is Radicalization?

What does Extremism mean, and what is Radicalization

What is Extremism?

We hear the word Extremism at most in news, articles, and other media sources. Most people interpret it wrong or in a confused way. Moreover, people also link extremism with religion. But in a broader sense, we can interpret it as the opposition to the fundamental values of democracy: individual liberty, rule of law, mutual respect, and tolerance of different beliefs.

How broaden is the word “extremism”?

Extremism is not only in religion, but it can also be political, social, inactions, or beliefs. Extremism is the strict idea that one has about certain norms. They are reluctant to listen other’s point of view. Also, they have a violence-backed ideology. Furthermore, in conflicts, low power extremist groups are viewed as more extreme than high power extremist groups.

In the level of violence, low-power extremist groups do suicide bombing; preferred to target infrastructure, military personnel, civilians, and children. While the dominant group focuses more on structural and institutional forms. Besides, people in the west often narrow down extremism to Muslims rather than in general.

Extremism can be classified in different forms. It includes; religious extremism, political extremism, and social extremism. Following are the more simplified form of these terms that will narrow down your thoughts and ideas.

Religious Extremism

To begin with, everyone has the right to choose their religion. They also have the right to change their religion or to preach according to their religion. Now coming to the topic, religious extremism and terrorism are like terms.

Religious extremists are ready to murder because they feel that they are the champions of theology and do violence in the service of God. They feel no sympathy for the obsessed one because they see them as the enemies of God. With such thoughts, they are also ready all the time to sacrifice their lives in the way of God. They hope that they will get their reward in the afterlife.

Tamil Tigers and dismantlers of Babri Masjid were Muslims?

When we look deep inside the theological explanations, it raises the bulk of questions. On one side, if theology is important, then why most terrorist organizations are not religious? When afterlife rewards are so important then why a non-religious organization like “Tamil Tigers” is involved in most of the terrorist activities than any other? Similarly, the demolition of “Babri Masjid” in 1992 and then in Oct 2020 by Hindu Fascists were not Muslims. 

Religious extremism comprises the ideology to bring back the political system that is suggested by the religion. So, such people start fighting against the government and start imposing their agendas. They fight against the mainstream system that is accepted by the majority of people. We have examples like ISIS in Syria, against the Syrian Government. MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) against the Philippines Government, and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. People that are fueled by the injustice of society join such extremist groups.

Such oppressed people pass through four different stages. First, they become open to new people and ideas. Second, the individual takes up the extremist idea and his openness leads to acceptance of group norms. Third, they start believing the group norms. Last, they start acting according to the norms of the group and do violence intentionally.

But if we look at the other side of the picture, these religious extremists need change through violence, while other groups are preaching their religion peacefully. In conclusion, I will say there are no religious extremists; these are just names that they are using and spreading terror across the world. 

Political Extremism

As we know extremism is the opposition to the fundamental values of democracy. Similarly, when we talk of political extremism, it is the opposition to the mainstream societal values and differences in the ideological spectrum. Political extremism is basically due to hatred, fear, and anger towards the government and people of different ethnicities, races, and nationalities. Also, some political extremists are motivated by the issues of animal rights, environmental protection, and abortion, etc.

Political extremist does not favor the rights and liberties of others and envies his restrictions. Furthermore, they always want to censor their enemies but manipulate and terrify others to spread their ideology or by using religious claims. Political extremism is coming from history in different forms. It can be in the form of Neo-Nazi and Fascist organizations; Charlottesville in the United States in 2017, in Chemnitz Germany, or terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

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Moreover, political extremists have trust issues. They don’t trust out-group people or their information. They show no flexibility in their actions or beliefs. The entire world has political extremists. You cannot associate it with specific religion or caste. Everyone comes up with their own sets of claims and ideologies. Like in the United States of America, there is the big problem of White and Black supremacy. The US is responsible for such extremism till date.

Similarly, in Great Britain, there is the problem of immigrants, which some of them think is a threat to democracy. For that very reason, they did Brexit with 50-55% of the vote and left all the remaining indecisive. In Short, political extremism like religious extremism follows its own set of rules and left no space for another party to intervene. If, some did: they response in violence.

Social Extremism

Social extremism, as the name indicates is the extremist in societal norms, culture, tradition, and ways of living. Extremism in another way, we can say the rigidness of one’s opinion. A community have different types of people having different views, ideas, and approaches. Everyone has their own rules of life and that’s their democratic right.

Eastern and western Norms of living style:

The main problem of today’s world is with the East and the West. Westerns have their way of living and interactions, while eastern is totally in contrast with them. Western is criticizing Eastern and vice versa. Criticism is part of life one can’t get rid of it. But the real tension arises with the shadow of extremism. That means, when you strictly follow and force people to follow the path of the forefathers, it is then termed as social extremism. 

We are talking about social extremism in general but particularly in the east. Besides other extremist views, eastern are more extremist in the case of social extremism. Eastern are much stricter in their daily lives. Not all of them, but I am talking about specific people who spread the venom of extremism.

Moreover, social extremist also targets their victims using social media platforms. They manipulate them by bringing tradition, religion, and threats to life. We can take the example of Pakistan, Qandeel Baloch, who was killed by her brother because she was not acting according to the norms of culture and religion. Other prominent examples indicate Social Extremism in the East at its peak. 

Extremism has no Religion

Extremism is the synonym of terrorism. Anyone can be extremist in one or another way depends upon the situation. Extremism has no religion, creed, or caste. It is the surrounding that compels them to do violent acts. They are either brainwashed or fed up with the people to such an extent that they see only violence to be the way.

Not only Muslims are extremists as we see them in different terrorist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other jihadist groups, but non-Muslims do have terror organizations. As we know ‘A bad name is worse than bad deeds’ which means that Muslim terror groups are on the camera while other non-Muslims terror groups are off the camera.

Some examples associated with other religions:

Here are the examples to defend my view. Let’s take the example of an incident that happened in New Zealand Last year. A guy came and killed many Muslims in the Mosque while they were praying. After confirmation, he came from Australia and he was not a Muslim. Similarly, in the US last year, a man opened fire on Jews in Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California. One woman was killed and three other people were injured. He was inspired by an Australian terrorist. 

These were just two examples that I have given. From those very examples, you can get to the point that Muslims are not the only terrorist and there is no such threat of Islamophobia. Islam is the religion of peace, not violence. Indeed, none of the religions permits you to commit a crime but that’s the people and their followers that take it to extremism.

How can we avoid labeling a religion?

Extremism can be best understand, study and fought from outside the religion. Moreover, the world has to decouple the word extremism from Islam or any other religion. They have to stop dehumanizing ordinary people. Religion doesn’t tell you to go and make a suicide blast and kill innocents. That is everyone’s ideology. We must study the basics of any religion before defaming or associating anything to it.


Radicalization is a phenomenon in which individual adopts radical perceptions in opposition to political, social and religious ideologies. Three categories composed this phenomenon. Need, narrative, and network. All of them are related to one another.

There must be respect for every individual. But, continuous rejection, failure, and humiliation alienated the person. That person then feels dissatisfaction and rejects every norm of society. The person then wants to restore his status. Here, he enters into the first stage. He becomes open to different ideologies and maybe furious ones; he is left with frustration. Experts say that social alienation also paved the way for radicalization that leads to violence. 

This starts with the ideological framework. Violence becomes acceptable when it is enclosed in an ideological framework. The ideological framework plays three roles.

  • First, it gave you the way to act to achieve a significant goal. That act involves violence against your enemies or the target one.
  • Second, it gives you justifications that what are you doing is the right thing to do.
  • Third, once you entered in narrative stage and you used violence and got the significance.

After that, you will be motivated a bit more when you meet with the same-minded people that share the same belief. Once that person found his like-minded people, they will turn the blind eye to violence and will support their stance as significant. They start calling themselves heroes and martyrs. 

Difference between Extremism and Radicalization

Many people ask the question that how extremism and radicalization are different terms? The difference between them is obvious but needs the right eyes to point it out. From the above discussion, it is clear that extremism is a process when someone has such rigid and strict ideologies that are airtight. They left no space to bear someone else point of view.

On the other hand, radicalization is a term that is due to continued failure, humiliation, and rejection that they want to achieve leads to radicalization. So, extremism is the rigidness of thoughts and ideology while radicals are those that are fed up with the social, political, and religious ideologies. 

Final Thoughts

To summarize the above discussion, I can simply say extremism is a threat that needs to tackle down; otherwise, it will be disastrous if it continues the same way. The world has to take action to coup the basics of extremism.

Extremism is a worm that is spreading slowly and continuously. Today, it is a problem but tomorrow it will destroy world peace. In the real sense, radicalization is a big problem that is weakening our society.

Radicals are produced, not by self but by the people of high authorities when their due rights are misguided. Moreover, today these problems are just the center of discussion but who knows about tomorrow. So, we have to prepare before the water passes.

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