Resources on Youth and Extremism

What are the links between youth and extremism? Much has happened and been discussed in the media over the last couple of years: the UK riots, the shootings in Finland and Norway, the rise of the extreme right in Central Europe are just some examples. But what do we really know? What is just supposition? And what can we do with what we know? These are questions that will be addressed during a two-day symposium in Budapest.

In preparation of the symposium, we have collected recent literature, from scholary articles and book to opinion papers and blog posts, which we introduce below, in reverse-chronological order (newest first), with an abstract and a link to the original text (opens in new tab). Our thanks to the attendees of the symposium for sending us texts and links, and to the team of youthpolicy.org for complementing these links through wide-ranging research.


  • A new politics of extremism (2011), a blog post by Uzair Choughtai for the Bold Creative Youth Project Blog, summarises a discussion on radicalism and extremism in the UK. The author captures his impressions and shares his thoughts, including a number of questions stimulated by the debate, such as ‘What does it even mean to be British nowadays?’ Link (html).
  • Believing in a Better Hungary. Radical right idealism among students in Budapest (2011), a bachelor thesis by Swaan van Iterson at the University of Amsterdam, zooms in on the popularity of radical right parties and ideologies in Eastern Europe. The author explores why students in Budapest, Hungary identify with the radical right Jobbik party and how this identification relates to different activities within a broader subculture. She argues that the image of ‘modernisierungs­ver­lierer’ who vote for the radical right often fails to grasp the actual mentality of the young people concerned. Thesis (pdf, in Dutch). Article (hmtl, in English).
  • The Building Community Resilience Youth Mentoring Grants Program (2011) is pilot project by the Australian Government that provides grants from $5,000 to $200,000 to help local communities take action to counter violent extremism within society and to promote an inclusive and safe environment. Starting from the belief that youth mentoring plays an important role in addressing and countering violent extremist ideologies, the aim of the Youth Mentoring Grants Program is to support projects that help young Australians develop skills to actively participate in society and democratic processes. The grant recipients of the first round are here – link (html).
  • The European Study of Youth Mobilisation. Listening to Radicals: Attitudes and Motivations of Young People Engaged in Political and Social Movements Outside of the Mainstream in Central and Nordic Europe is a report by the British Council and was commissioned by the British Council Active Citizens Programme. Starting from the role that young people play in their communities and that mobilisation around young people’s beliefs and values is a common feature of young people in many countries and continents, the report is one outcome of a multi-sited research project aiming to discover more about radicalisation and the perceptions of young people who see themselves as radicalised, including their perceptions on violence and violent activity. Among the conclusions:

    Young people will seek out means to address a sense of social isolation. To whom they turn and to whom they listen largely rests on who takes young people seriously. Ignoring young people, or treating them as nuisances will have profound long-term effects on their attachment to their local communities.

    Link to the report (pdf). Link to the project (html).

  • Response to Recent Disturbances (2011) is a policy paper by Leap Confronting Conflict which sets out key recommendations in response to the recent disturbances to support Government policies. Having worked with other organisations to identify factors that led to the recent violence, the recommendations in the policy paper aim to repair the damage to community relationships caused by the disturbances, and prevent future escalation of violence. Link (pdf). For context: Leap’s Strategic Plan 2011–2013 (pdf).
  • Lone wolves: myth or reality? (2011), a report by Gerry Gable for Searchlight, in which he examines whether extreme-right terrorists are isolated individuals – lone wolves – or are connected with and the inevitable consequence of the activities of the various far-right, often small, organisations that espouse a violent racist and fascist ideology. The report demonstrates conclusively that far-right terrorists are not lone wolves but are connected with a number of insidious organisations. Throughout the report it also becomes clear which role youth networks and organsations play. Link (pdf).
  • The Lure of Radicalism and Extremism Amongst Muslim Youth (2011) is an essay by Yasir Qadhi for muslimmatters.org. The author starts from the question “Why is it that a few militant clerics are so popular among some American Muslims?” and uses the case of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab – the now infamous ‘underwear bomber’ – for an analysis of how muslim youth are often lured into radicalism. Link (html).
  • Preventing Religio-Political Extremism Amongst Muslim Youth: A Study Exploring Police-Community Partnership (2011) is a report by Basia Spalek and Laura McDonald with Salwa El Awa for the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Social Studies. The study argues that building trust and accountability is crucial in developing successful strategies to tackle violent extremism. The report highlights that this can be a particular challenge in areas deemed at high risk of violent extremism. Link (pdf).
  • Riotous Assemblies (2011), a paper by John Pitts for Youth & Policy, analyses explanations of the 2011 UK Riots by the two major political camps in the country – the ‘conversatives’ who explained the riots in terms of a ‘moral breakdown’, and the ‘progressives’ who explained the riots in terms of the rage of socially marginalised and rejected people. Beyond the analysis of these political explanations, the paper endeavours to identify the specific factors which turned a ‘drama’ into a ‘crisis’ in August 2011. Link (pdf).
  • The Role Of Community In Dealing With Extremism (2011), an article by Bahukutumbi Raman for Eurasia Review, looking at extremism in India from two perspectives: one considering extremism as a threat to law and order and internal security, and a second considering extremism as a phenomenon with political, religious, social, economic, psychological and other aspects. Link (html).
  • Teaching approaches that help to build resilience to extremism among young people (2011), a research report by the Office for Public Management (OPM) and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), both based in the UK, presents the findings from a large-scale, in-depth research study into teaching methods – knowledge, skills, teaching practices and behaviours – that help to build resilience to extremism. The focus is on teaching methods to be used in a general classroom setting rather than as part of interventions targeted at those deemed at risk of extremism. The primary aim of the research was to provide a strong evidence base for schools and other education providers to help them adopt and commission the appropriate interventions to build resilience to extremism. Link (pdf).
  • Youth Violence. Theory, Prevention and Intervention (2011), a book by Kathryn Seifert, in which the author examines youth extremism and violence and their root causes and explores current prevention and treatment methods through a multidisciplinary lens. The book describes typologies as well as theoretical underpinnings of youth violence and summarises latest research on “what works” in prevention and treatment. Link (html). Review (html).
  • The challenge of extremism. Examples of deradicalisation and disengagement programmes in the EU (2010) is a report by the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs on a survey on deradicalisation and disengagement. The survey aimed to map the practical experiences in EU member states with policies and programmes on deradicalisation and disengagement, focusing on how to intervene when individuals have been attracted to extremism. It describes specific deradicalisation and/or disen- gagement programmes of five EU member states in more detail. Link (pdf).
  • Inventory of State Programmes (2010), the first report of the Working Group on Radicalisation and Extremism of the United Nations’ Counter-­Terrorism Implementation Task Force. The inventory spans across civil society and prison programmes to intercultural dialogue and inequality policies and more. Link (pdf).
  • Pathways to and From Violent Extremism: The Case for Science-Based Field Research (2010), a statement of Scott Atran before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats & Capabilities. In his statement, Atran argues that “of you want to be successful in the long run where it counts — in stopping the next and future generations of disaffected youth from finding their life’s meaning in the thrill and adventure of joining their friends in taking on the world’s mightiest power; […] then you have to understand these pathways that take young people to and from political and group violence.” Link (html).
  • Youth, Violence and Extremism: Debunking Conventional Wisdoms (2010), an event organised by the United States Institute of Peace, featured Marc Sommers and Matt Venhaus arguing that common understandings of why and how young men become violent or extremists is limited and often misguided. They demonstrate that, and how, many national and international policies and programs that attempt to deal with these two issues have little effect or – worse – are counterproductive. Link (audio recording).
  • Development Assistance and Counter-Extremism: A Guide to Programming (2009), a handbook by Guilain Denoeux and Lynn Carter for USAID, in which the author discuss the implications for practitioners pursuing development objectives in the context of counter-extremism. The handbook lays out twelve broad programming principles and a menu of development assistance interventions to facilitate responses to socioeconomic, political, and cultural drivers of violent extremism. Link (pdf).
  • Stronger Together: A new approach to preventing violent extremism (2009), a report by Anna Turley for the New Local Government Network, in which the author argues that the UK Government’s flagship scheme on tackling extremism is alienating Muslim communities and should be scrapped altogether. Instead, initiatives should focus on tackling all extremism – including far-right extremists – rather than just focusing on Islamic extremism. Link (pdf).
  • Youth work: An antidote to extremism (2009), an article by Jo Stephenson for Children & Young People Now, explores whether governmental efforts that try to prevent young people turning to violent extremism by funding community projects that help them air their views pay off or not. Will these projects tackle the root cause of radicalisation? Link (html).
  • Countering Violent Extremism: Videopower and Cyberspace (2008), a paper by Rami Mroz for the East West Institute, addresses the use of the internet and video formats in the context of extremism, and possible responses to it. It analyses’ cyberspace activities in the US, the Middle East and South Asia, reviews practices of governments and civil society, and offers recommendations. Link (pdf).
  • Educating Against Extremism (2008), a book by Lynn Davies, in which the author argues that schools can do much to prevent extremism of any kind by arming young people against radicalisation. Formal education does little to prevent people joining extremist groups; neither does it equip young people to analyse fundamentalism. The book proposes an entirely different educational strategy to the conventional tolerant multiculturalism that pertains in the west. The task – a challenging one – is to politicise young people without cementing uncritical acceptance of single truths. Link (html). Review (html).
  • Prevention of Violent Extremism (2008), a project report by Philip Smith for the Swindon Youth Offending Team, summarises research undertaken for a project with the aim to develop proposals that strengthen community cohesion and expand the capacity to reach young people at risk. Against the backdrop of young people in the criminal justice system being seen as especially vulnerable to extremist influences, the report summarises the strategic and political context, presents key definitions, analyses key issues, addresses relevant risk factors and explores how to strengthen protective factors. Link (pdf).
  • Young People and Extremism. Some reflections from our local case studies (2007) is a report by the Institute of Community Cohesion. The Institute uses applied research to constantly develop practice, and to build capacity locally, nationally and internationally to promote community cohesion. In this context, the report draws on interviews with more than 1,000 young people to develop a conceptual framework, which looks at the very wide range of pressures upon young people and especially the key influences. Link (pdf).
  • Bringing it Home: Community-based appoaches to counter-terrorism (2006), a publication by Hannah Lownsbrough, Rachel Briggs and Catherine Fieschi for Demos, argues that communities must be put at the heart of counter-terrorism, with a broader approach that spans social justice, community cohesion and security. The authors set out a six-pronged strategy, a part of which is to divert youth from extremism. Link (pdf).
  • Problems and Practical Solutions to Tackle Extremism (2006), a paper by Mehmood Naqshbandi for the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. The publication focuses on Muslim Youth and Community Issues, identifies key issues affecting Muslim communities in the UK, demonstrates the theological and ethnic diversity of these communities, presents an assessment of the situation and puts forward recommendations, centred around defusing extremism, improving community relations and building trust. Link (pdf).
  • Early Intervention with Violent and Racist Youth Groups (2005), a book by Tore Bjørgo and Yngve Carlsson for the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, provides a detailed description of several intervention methods and programs that have been developed to address problems of racist and violent youth groups, and that have been demonstrated to have some success in that respect. The authors also provide insights into the processes and motivations involved in group formation, group cohesiveness and group disintegration. Link (pdf).
  • Street Gangs and Interventions: Innovative Problem Solving with Network Analysis (2005), a paper by Jean McGloin for the US Department of Justice, reviews the range of prevention, intervention, suppression, and comprehensive strategies and provides examples of each type. It then offers a case study of problem analysis, discussing the unique utility of network analysis in the resultant problem analysis. Link (pdf).
  • Developing Local Democracy Against Right Wing Extremism. Examples of good practice in East Germany (2004) details the experiences of UNITED for Intercultural Action, the European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees, in its work against right-wing extremism. Link (html).
  • Humanization of Extremists (2004), an essay by Juan Gutierrez. In his essay for the Beyond Intractability Project, Gutierrez explores what extremists are, how enemy images are used as tools, what the ‘search for humanity’ approach can do and where it has limits and how civil society ties into these observations. Link (html).
  • Dealing with Extremists (2003), an essay by Andrea Bartoli and Peter Coleman. In their essay for the Beyond Intractability Project, Bartoli and Coleman attempt to define extremism, clarify where extremism comes from and what its consequences are, and explore approaches to addressing extremism. Link (html).
  • Extremism: Cults, Youth Gangs, and Terrorists (1995) is an article by Edward Tully for the National Executive Institute Associates. The article is written for law enforcement officers and starts from this premise: “In considering the large number of people who pose a threat to a law enforcement officer, there are three groups that bear an officer’s or police executive’s special consideration: cults, youth gangs and terrorists.” Link (html).

Feel free to add further resources in the comments!


5 thoughts on “Resources on Youth and Extremism

  1. I think this page would be better if it were entitled “Youth and Extremism.” My sense is that while extremism amongst young people is a problem, it is extremism as a whole that’s the problem and that youth are more likely to prove a part of the solution than a major contributor to the problem itself. It would be good to see on youthpolicy,org not just resources on young extremists but also resources on how young people are working successfully to respond the extremism.

  2. Fair point about the title, we changed it to “Youth and Extremism” to avoid misleading people.

    While we would like to see the examples and evidence grow through and beyond the Budapest symposium, there are already a few resources included in this list that detail how young people and/or youth work respond to extremism – the youth mentoring grants program from Australia, the examples of deradicalisation and disengagement programmes in the EU, the youth work antidote article from the UK. Whether these responses are successful or not, is not always so clear…

    That is, in part, because some of the uprisings and riots that are commonly labelled as extremist are relatively new. But it also points at one of the bigger dilemmas of the youth field, where success is not (yet) generally measured beyond anecdotal evidence – and if success is measured the findings are not generally made public.

  3. GW Theatre Company specialises in work with young people. For the last four years we have been touring ‘One Extreme to the Other’, an award-winning play which tackles Islamic and far right extremism. The aim is to engage young people and provoke thinking, debate and learning. The play is supported by learning resources and has been perforrmed to over 50,000 young people in schools and colleges – and has had a proven impact on attitudes, percepion and understanding. The play has also been performed in prisons and has been used to train a range of profersionals. We seek European and World partners to take this work to other countries tackling these issues. Please contact us at gwtheatre@aol.com if you are interested in using or funding this work. See http://www.gwtheatre.com and http://www.gwextreme.com.

  4. Apologies: the company is based in Manchester in the UK but these issues are universal; identity, faith, family, extreme and radical views, community, racism and prejudice and class. We aim to use theatre as a creative and memorable catalyst for learning and change – we want to help young people to understand these issues more so they can make positive choices based and knowledge and facts rather than ignorance and vulnerability. We want to share our experience with other countries but we need funding to do this.

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