IYC AyoBy Ayo Oshunremi of Inspiration Youth Call

Radicalisation. This issue seemingly dominates the media in recent times and, too often, the finger of blame is pointed at religious fanatics. I take a completely different view on the current debate raging throughout our society.

My view:

There has understandably been a lot of focus on Islamic radicalisation, but the whole notion of radicalisation goes deeper and can take many forms. My conclusions are based on my experiences, working with the disrupted/disoriented, vulnerable, and those perceived to be problematic young people.  For many of these, I believe that the unfortunate situation they were brought up in, and faced daily without support, was responsible for negatively influencing and radicalising their mindset. I have discussed the genesis of radicalisation in my book Joy Comes Home – Triumphant Success Over Adversity (2014), page 297:

A person does not necessarily need to belong to an association or a group to become radicalised; situations beyond human control can easily radicalise a weary mind. Radicalisation can start for some within the home environment; a situation where children are faced with unspeakable circumstances from time to time, sometimes in the very hands of those who are supposed to care for them. When the children become bruised and broken by different kinds of issues and without an escape route, some of those children become traumatised and subsequently developed a callous attitude.

This for me is the start of radicalisation which soon manifests itself in the minds of many of those children as they become vulnerable and attract the attention of different groups which present themselves as the alternative to their encounters. Some of the young children are then indoctrinated into things they are less prepared for.

The unpleasant situations I found myself (no fault of mine) almost created a callous heart in me. I felt very hopeless indeed; and I know hopeless people can be very vulnerable and at times dangerous. They are capable of bringing a whole community, locality, and in fact a nation to a standstill.

I am sure many educational institutions can bear witness to that and the trail of disaster that follows; where scores of people become affected. The warning signs are always there but we choose to ignore them, until it is sadly too late…”

I work directly with young people affected by various challenges prevailing in their lives. I am not at all suggesting the situation is the same for every young person who may have gone through, or are going through trials and tribulations; but certainly I have seen sufficient evidence of the risk of radicalisation.

For me personally, from childhood into my adult life, the situation I confronted nearly radicalised me as I became emotionally unstable – and my situation had nothing to do with religious fundamentalism. The situation I was facing was very abnormal compared to other people’s normal life. As I couldn’t find a logical way out of my situation, I was callous outwardly to the detriment of many – call it attention seeking if you like! If not for the timely intervention of the new Labour government under the leadership of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, things might have gone badly wrong for me. I was just a timing bomb waiting to explode when the ideology of the new Labour government paved the way for my return to further education where I was fully liberated.

To prevent radicalisation in school age children, early intervention is required regardless of the backgrounds they come from. Proactive interventions are far more productive than reactive approaches. I accept the facts that we cannot achieve 100% success, but together we can drastically reduce radicalisation through a coordinated early-intervention approach.

Vulnerable young people who are radicalised through religion are only the tip of the iceberg. What do you say of those children who display extreme violence through their behaviour in schools, to the extent that they are excluded from mainstream education as they pose risk to themselves and others? Some of them will end up in alternative education, and even within that structure, struggle to function normally – in time they can end up on the streets.

Stop and ask yourselves – are these young people already radicalised inwardly by the prevailing situations going on in their lives and just waiting to identify with a well, highly organised or established gang? There are many of them out there, wishing to carry out their frustration and dissatisfaction on society.

I strongly call on, and advice all concerned government institutions around the globe, particularly in the regions affected by insurgencies, to look inwardly, particularly at their educational structures from elementary to university and within community settings where many of these insurgencies are formulated and deeply rooted in the first instance. Cultural and religious segregation are undoubtedly part of the problems we are seeing today across the globe.

I want to conclude by giving you a snapshot of the potential causes and origins of radicalisation from my personal point of view:

1. Within the Home

  • Instability within the home environment
    • Abuse, unemployment, single parent families, miscommunication between parents.
  • Lack of love from parents and unmet emotional needs
  • Impact of prolonged deprivation
    • Breeds jealousy, SOME not strong enough to resist short cuts.
  • Domestic violence
    • Abnormality becomes normality.  

2. Within Society

  • Identity related issues
    • Cultural segregation, growing up in a community which stifles integration. The age of social media means an artificial identity is built for you and you may choose to project that identity.
  • Cultural/Religious values
  • Misplacement, misconception, misunderstanding
    • Attractive things are told to young people who are easily swayed but don’t fully understand their decisions.

3. Within Schools

  • Expectations placed upon young people by both the education system and by themselves
  • Lack of timely intervention at appropriate levels
  • Inequality and hidden prejudice within education
    • … and in general
  • Failure to pick up mental health related issues, learning difficulties/disabilities
    • … resulting in problems being treated with punishment instead of treatment and help
    • Triggers, undiagnosed depression (ADHD in children).

4. Broken Individuals

  • Looking for a purpose in the wrong hands
  • Lacking a sense of belonging
  • Confusion….

What foundation are we building for our children and the coming generation should this problem continue to manifest out of control?

Frankly speaking, to a degree the kind of shambolic and traumatic upbringing I endured from my parents did affect my ability once I became a parent myself. The truth can be very bitter at times! I am one concerned man, father and husband – I rest my case.

Ayo Oshunremi
27 July 2016