Can states be trusted to protect the public from radicalised extremists?

Yet police culture is not the only marker of state complicity in radicalisation. It can also be manifested by public officers playing down attacks on minorities. In Turkey, for example, the authorities’ failure to investigate attacks against non-Muslim minorities, secular groups or the Kurdish minority shows how the state takes sides within the country’s polarised political system and alienates some groups.

State agency in Poland also lacks impartiality, in this case by pursuing a constant national injustice narrative, in which real and imaginary injustices pervade Poland and Polish society on a permanent basis. The Polish government has assigned itself a role as the defender of Poland from its imaginary enemies. In this context, it has defined the terms of grievance against such ‘enemies’ as migrants, gender activists and the LGBTIQ community by condoning extremism in the shape of LGBTIQ-free zones in over 100 localities or violence against irregular migrants at Poland’s eastern borders.

In Iraq and Jordan, too, we find the complicity of the state in radicalisation. In the absence of state authority, or with state collapse, there may be no public body to mediate contesting injustice claims and resolve grievances. The resulting alienation of groups from each other in such cases can lead to violence, while the state remains a bystander or even a party to factionalism.

States can even become a party to radicalisation by failing to recognise it and by being too confident in their own consensual political cultures. Such is the case with Finland. Its political culture prevents the discussion of issues deemed to be difficult or controversial on the understanding that Finland is a safe country where bad things don’t happen.

These examples show how we need to move away from conceiving radicalisation simply from a perspective of how states, political authorities and societies are challenged by extremists.

A definition of deradicalisation that merely covers how state and public actors can build resilience against extremism by catering for certain vulnerabilities and feelings of injustice also fails to tackle the issue in a comprehensive way.

Considering the state as both a target of and a solution to radicalisation is not a very useful approach either. This ignores how the state itself condones and even triggers radicalisation with chauvinist discourses, compromised impartiality, institutional complicity and denial. In response to radicalisation, we need to first ask whether we can trust the state and its agents or not.

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