EUKN Interview with Mr Ahmad Mansour (psychologist and expert on radicalisation)
What role can local governments play in tackling radicalisation? Do you know of successful examples? AM: They need to reform school; teachers need to be able to talk about up-to-date political topics with their students. Also, teachers should have to be able to see radicalisation. And Politicians must be able to see who is part of the problem and who is part of the solution.
Considering the publication of the EUKN report on the Policy Lab on radicalisation, the EUKN has interviewed Mr Ahmad Mansour about his work and expertise.
Mr Mansour is a psychologist and author, living and working in Germany for twelve years, where he seeks to promote democracy, equality, and freedom of speech. He comes from Tira, a small Arab village in Israel.
He is Programme Director at the Brussels based European Foundation for Democracy, where he leads several projects and initiatives, which aim to prevent radicalisation, honour-related oppression, and anti-Semitism in Germany’s Muslim community.
Ahmad is a frequent contributor to debates in national and international media, research associate at the Centre for Democratic Culture (ZDK), and family counsellor at the HAYAT helpline. He also was a team leader at the HEROES project in Berlin until end of 2016.
The EUKN had the chance to interview Mr Mansour and asked him the following questions related to the topic of radicalisation, his personal experiences, and his work.
EUKN: In our conference on radicalisation that took place last September, we discussed that radicalisation is a phenomenon mainly occurring in cities. Do you agree, and if so, what is the main trigger for people in cities to radicalise according to your professional experience?
AM: No, I disagree. It is more about certain structures - Islamism is a global phenomenon. Young people radicalise where they find those structures, no matter of living in a small town or in a big city. It’s equal where that happens, if a contact person manages to create a bond the young people are excited about.
EUKN: Ms Bibi van Ginkel, senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute focusing on legal aspects of combating terrorism and preventing radicalisation, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference. She stated that the context and social circumstances can create a breeding ground of hopelessness that triggers radicalisation of young people seeing no alternative. Do you share this interpretation, and why?
AM: To try and identify radicalisation as only a product of social exclusion, other social aspects and lack of perspective is too short and wrong. Those reasons do play a role, but the psychological factors are important, too. Also, the ideology, the understanding of Islam, is crucial for causal research. Everyone who masks this fact, does this for political reasons, which do not help prevention and deradicalisation.
EUKN: Based on your own work: what is the role of psychology in the radicalisation process? Acknowledging this psychological aspect, how can young people at risk of radicalising be reached? How does the HEROES project try to address this?
AM: HEROES is working on the topic of equal rights, that’s not important in this context. The psychological factors are important – if we find conspicuity here, we maybe can reach young people at risk of radicalising earlier and before the radicals do.
EUKN: What role can local governments play in tackling radicalisation? Do you know of successful examples?
AM: They need to reform school; teachers need to be able to talk about up-to-date political topics with their students. Also, teachers should have to be able to see radicalisation. And Politicians must be able to see who is part of the problem and who is part of the solution.
EUKN: Do you feel the topic of radicalisation is being addressed adequately by policy-makers in Europe? If not, what aspects are most problematic?
AM: No, unfortunately I don’t. It’s chaos, naivety and helplessness. A national strategy on prevention is missing.
EUKN: What do you see as the biggest challenges that Europe will be facing the coming ten years concerning integration and radicalisation? How do you think these challenges can be addressed?
AM: The biggest challenges will be to enthuse young people for democracy and to reach them in social media. And the reformation of Islam.
EUKN: In the end, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the development of radicalisation in European countries?
AM: I am pessimistic.