Young Arab Voices: resisting radicalisation

Saturday 17 October, 16.00 until 17.15, Pit Theatre, Barbican Eye on the World

Perhaps understandably, the debate in Europe about radicalisation has focused on what attracts young Western Muslims to travel to Iraq and Syria to join groups such as ISIS. There is less debate about those young Arabs radicalised in the region itself, as if it is not surprising that thousands of young Sunni join ISIS. Is it any less shocking or more explicable than Hackney schoolgirls becoming Jihadi, when young Egyptians sign up for al-Qaeda? Can we be sanguine about those the two young Tunisian gunmen, age 19 and 27, who stormed the National Bardo Museum in March killing more than 20 people? Or 24-year-old engineering student Seifeddine Rezgui, who coolly gunned down 38 people at a beach resort in Sousse in June? The radicalisation of Arab youth is seemingly shrugged off with platitudes about poverty and alienation.

Polls over the past decade show nearly half of all young people in the poorer Arab states believe their own governments lack legitimacy, and are bitterly cynical about Western governments. But for most, this does not lead to enthusiasm for a new Islamic caliphate. While ISIS has as many as 10,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria and while tens of thousands of others seem implicitly to support ISIS, perhaps we need a sense of proportion. There are 100million young people in the Middle East and North Africa who have resisted the lure of becoming mujahideen. We know from the present migration crisis in Europe that huge numbers respond to the devastation of the region by getting away rather than raising the ISIS black flag. Indeed, many are explicitly fleeing ISIS. Others have even fought the Islamists, some physically taking up arms, others leading initiatives against radicalisation. But their voices are rarely the focus of world attention.

This session provides a unique opportunity to hear from a group of young adults from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, brought together by Young Arab Voices. What are their lives really like? How do they resist radicalisation and what drives their peers into the arms of the Islamists? What are the opportunities to win the Battle of Ideas with those young people who stay in the region? How might we bolster those at the forefront of taking on the theological extremists? What do they make of the West’s attempts to win hearts and minds, such as the vigorous promotion of British values running alongside illiberal laws to thwart radical recruiters?


Anas Darkaoui
programme manager, Asfari Foundation

Saja Elgredly
YAV Debater and Trainer (Egypt) Grad Student at City University London (UK) Culture Corner (Egypt)

Ahmed Hamad
YAV Debater and Trainer (Jordan) Secretary of International Relations at University of Vaasa (Finland)

Samar Samir Mezghanni
YAV Debater and Trainer (Tunisia) PhD Candidate at University of Cambridge (UK)

Bruno Waterfield
Brussels correspondent, The Times; co-author, No Means No
Recommended readings
Exodus of youth leaves Syria bereft

The mass displacement of young men poses great challenges to countries such as Syria, home to more than half of those fleeing: the exodus deprives them of a demographic vital to reconstruction and economic growth.

Ben Hubbard, Business Day, 12 October 2015

A conversation on terrorism, border security, ISIS, and youth radicalisation in the Maghreb

Imad Mesdoua, a political analyst specialising in the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, discusses the regional security situation.

Christine Petré, Your Middle East, 22 September 2015

Exploding the myth of radicalisation

Blaming some young Brits' attraction to ISIS on online grooming is a fudge.

Frank Furedi, spiked, 16 June 2015

EU provides €10 million to counter radicalisation in the Sahel-Maghreb

Under the new programme 'Countering radicalisation and Foreign Terrorist Fighters', the EU will allocate a first tranche of €5 million to fund technical assistance to enhance the capacities of criminal justice officials to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate cases of foreign fighters or would-be foreign fighters.

European Commission, 28 April 2015

Open Debate on the Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism

The open debate is being held at the initiative of Jordan, in an effort to address the root causes that fuel terrorism through the radicalisation and mobilisation of young recruits by terrorist groups.

What's in Blue, 16 April 2015

Book Review: Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East

Are today’s radicals tomorrow’s extremists? Most analyses of violence emanating from the Middle East or from Europe’s Muslim communities tend to assume that this is the case. This edited collection seeks to look beyond assumptions about violence in the Middle East.

Kenneth Martin, LSE, 6 March 2013

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