As part of their work in Norway, the Right to Participate team conducted a conference on radicalisation and extremism called “Randomly Radicalised?” to give young people an arena to talk about and discuss extremist environments.
At the conference, Jacob Ravndal, a researcher at C-REX was invited to present literature on radicalisation, to give an overview of terms and concepts – and how its current structures are changing in our society. “Norway does not have a lot of extremism compared to other countries. This is because we are known for having a social and open society. This is not to say extremism doesn’t exist in Norway. But either way, there are a limit to how many regulations you can introduce to prevent harmful practices. The difficult thing is to accept that it is going to happen anyways” he said.
After being presented with the most important literature on the topic, the audience was ready to start discussing related issues. Representatives from various organisations and Mwanamanga from Right to Participate opened a couch conversation to discuss push and pull factors.
Julie R. Owe from Minotenk said “Extremism is less organised in Norway. This also makes it more difficult to discover. Especially when it comes to single actors. This is the current picture in Norway”.
As a follow-up, Rode Hegstad, President of The Norwegian Children and Youth Council, pointed out an important dilemma that occurs if this statement is true. She said “The difficult thing then, is to decide who we want to be? Do we want open societies with more risks and attacks? Or do we want to have closed societies in total control?”.
Mwanamanga expressed that despite having less extremism in Norway, she could see similarities between Kenya and Norway. “Both countries have lost people to terror. We know that we need to do more preventive work and not wait until the damage is already done”. She also says that Kenya and Norway has many differences and therefore can learn from each other.
In her opinion - the most efficient and sustainable measures we can do to prevent extremism, is to include young people. After working in Norway for two months, she has concluded that Norwegians are highly involved compared to Kenyans. “Extremists are often young people who feel excluded from society. We need to work more on this issue in Kenya”.
In comparison, she says that the government in Kenya carries out various policies that prevents recruitment of people entering extremist environments. In Kenya, these people are given a consultant who provides help and advice on how to avoid getting more involved in extremist environments. In this way, they protect excluded people and help them in the right direction before it’s too late. “Key words are inclusions instead of exclusion for people who are on their way to be radicalised”. Mwanamanga believes Norway can learn from this.
After the break and entertainment, the stage was set for Yousef Al Nahi. Yousef is a former extremist who is now working for Just Unity. He shared his story from being engaged in a radical muslim community and what made him break out of it. When talking about what made him enter a radicalised community he said “I believe some of it was just a coincidence. I was often very lonely. I felt as no one cared. But out of the blue this guy came and talked to me and included me. And that was it”.
Caroline Nyambura from Right to Participate - who facilitated the conversation, asked Yousef to tell about what people should do if they see someone close become radicalised. “I wish my friends talked to me and said that they were worried, instead of telling teachers first. If they had done that, the trust wouldn’t have been broken and I would might have opened up more on what I was thinking about” Yousef said.
Today, the Right to Participate group are leaving Norway to go to Kenya. In Kenya, they will continue their work on preventing radicalisation and extremism. We are looking forward to seeing the great work they will be doing there too.