Young people become radicalized for a wide array of complex reasons, but at the heart lies two main reasons: 1) Disillusionment of life and society, and 2) religious polarization.
Young people who become radicalized feel disillusionment because they lack hope for the future on society’s current trajectory. They look around and feel disempowered and helpless. They misguidedly come to the belief that the only way to make a difference is through violent opposition.
In the specific situation of ISIL radicalization, young people also perceive a deep polarization between religious views. This polarized perception often has its roots early on in their educational experiences at schools--schools designed to imprint this perception upon young people rather than to truly educate them.
How can we combat radicalization in our society?
First, we can prioritize the needs of young people. We can work to ensure that young people all over the world feel an abundance of hope and optimism because everywhere they look they see opportunities for a meaningful and rewarding life. As a society, we can work together to ensure that our young people have the kinds of opportunities they need (education, healthcare, employment, healthy social relationships, extracurricular activities, mentorships, etc.).
We can combat religious polarization through excellent educational opportunities. These educational opportunities need to be made available to the very young. Can we offer young mothers low cost (or free) early childhood experiences that foster a healthy and inclusive worldview? If so, we can teach our young children what the world religions have in common. We can underscore the dignity of all human life.
Fighting terrorism must include a comprehensive plan to supporting the world’s young people.