Religious extremism? Countering radicalisation and religiously motivated extremism
From the early 2000s, the misleading term religious extremism began to be widely used as press and media coverage responded to the phenomenon of Islamist radicalisation. Alongside other forms of political extremism (right- and left-wing extremism/militantism), this form of radicalisation has since come to pose a significant challenge to society.
The National Committee on Religously Motivated Extremism or BAG RelEx (abbreviation of the German term “Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft religiös begründeter Extremismus”) was set up as a joint initiative of 25 different civil society organisations (CSO) in November 2016, and has since grown to encompass over thirty member organisations from across Germany. The founding principle behind this national association was and still is to work together to counter religiously motivated extremism.
Via projects and services in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, our member organisations cover the full spectrum of radicalisation prevention. Some of those projects focus on political education, aiming to promote tolerance, democracy and participation, while others run counselling centres for individuals and their families who have been involved with extremism and are seeking help in distancing themselves from those influences. Our member organisations’ practical work focuses on supporting individuals, professionals or institutions that are active in extremist prevention and deradicalisation.
BAG RelEx is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as part of its “Live Democracy!” scheme. In addition, we receive funding from Berlin’s State Commission against Violence and Hessen’s “Active for Democracy and against Extremism” scheme.
Extremism prevention: knowledge, awareness and integration
Via their primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies and activities, our member organisations work to support democracy, boost social participation and enhance integration. Accordingly, their work expresses and strengthens important basic principles of our society.
The services they provide in the field of extremism prevention are aimed at the following individuals and institutions:
- those seeking information about religiously motivated extremism, Islamism or Salafism and about extremism prevention
- those who reject constitutional, democratic and human rights-related norms
- those who ultimately see violence against individuals and institutions as a legitimate tool to reach their goals
Depending on the project, the target groups for these services can be children, adolescents and/or (young) adults, though parents and other family members can also receive advice and support. In addition, our member organisations offer a wide range of services aimed at schools and social workers as well as professionals from other institutions and professional fields. Some also offer online services or provide training on how to deal with and guard against extremist content online.
In our prevention work, we perform important societal functions, such as supporting democracy, providing political education and encouraging social participation, while also facilitating the exchange of expertise via symposia, panel discussions and (online) workshops. Our member organisations provide services at a local, municipal and national level.