Learner infected by religious I.S. fundamentalism?

⌚︎ 3 min.


Case study

Learner infected by religious I.S. fundamentalism?

Kind of education

Three years in a madrassa (religious private school) in his home country, two years of an evening school for basic education in his neighbouring country Iran, several language and literacy classes upon his arrival in Europe.

Definition of the learner

A migrant from Afghanistan, age 24, male, unmarried, living alone, Islamic religion, rather poor command of the language of the host country but able to express (with errors) almost everything that is important to him.

Description of the group

His 11 classmates are in a similar situation as he is. They generally cooperate fairly well.

Definition of starting situation

The trainer is worried that maybe one of the students has become a member of a radical religious community. The trainer heard that he is now frequenting a mosque which is alleged to host hatemongers, and the trainer has noticed minor changes in the student's behaviour. For example, he is suddenly more quiet, does not talk very much to his colleagues, and has grown a beard. Although not being extremely modern, he is wearing his trousers high ankle now (the trainer heard that this is somehow traditional in Muslim religion).

The trainer does not know if the signs are to be taken seriously or not, or how to react. She wants to find out what to do in such cases and what are indications of a possible radicalisation.

Description of the course

Language class in order to learn the language of his new homeland, level B1 in speaking, less in reading/writing/grammar.

Description of teaching team

One qualified language teacher.

Possible actions and impacts

Try to establish a deeper personal relationship with the student. In some educational institutions there are social workers who support the staff. If it is not possible to work with the student himself, try to work with his classmates and gain more information. In some situations it might be possible to work with the family. Try to maintain contact with them.

This helps the student to frankly express his opinions and personal circumstances. A good communication enables the revelation of unthought-of aspects of a story and amplifies understanding. Only knowledge enlightens the situation and the student himself is a main source. A stable relationship is also the essential base to avoid violent radicalisation. It might be convenient to talk to the student in private since sensitive issues are not meant to be displayed in class.

If it is not possible to work either with the person concerned or with his peers, the trainer can assign a collective task, so as to avoid arousing individual suspicion. Ask students to discuss whether they think everybody in our society should have equal rights to live according to their religious beliefs, or if they think a particular religious branch is superior to others and should reign. Should religious notions also determine the political life and organisation of the state and in which way? If so, what should be banned, which rules should be in force? How should people of differing faiths be treated? This discussion can be either done orally (make sure that everybody gets an opportunity to express their opinions and is not intimidated by others), or written in an essay.

You will get further information and be able to estimate whether the student in question is jeopardized or not.

If you want to avoid plenary discussion and writing, it is also possible to have everyone draw symbols of their vision and present their thoughts. Alternatively, photos, pictures, etc. could be cut out of printed media and pasted into a collage (if the language knowledge is not sufficient). For students who are not capable of writing an essay, there is also the possibility that they write only keywords which come to mind.

This also allows the retrieval of more information, because it offers the possibility for learners without sufficient writing skills to express themselves in a more confident way.

Advice, remarks, conclusions

Classroom activities for detecting radicalisation can be found on this website. If you want to avoid group activities and are looking for a tool for one-on-one-work, it might be fruitful to draw a network map of the personal contacts.

Possible indicators of contact with jihadism:
Trainers sometimes complain that they cannot recognize critical figures referred to by their endangered students, because they are totally unfamiliar with the jihadism scene. It is all the more difficult as the names are usually in a foreign language. Radical fundamentalists decline Zionists, US-imperialism, the Alevi Muslim community, and they speak of „Shiitic betrayers“, as well as denying other Muslims to be „real Muslims“. Being part of their community provides the new members, sometimes for the first time in life, a feeling of belonging, sense and perspective, security and orientation. The new members come from all walks of life and many times did not practice Islam before. Some new members give themselves new Arabic names after having converted.

The internet with social media plays a decisive role, and radical religious views are often portrayed in highly professional videos, so-called „pop jihadism“. By using a young, fashionable style and music, the video clips present fun, adventure and appeal to Western youth.

If you are sure of strong evidence of radicalisation, contact national supporting organisations.

Religious radicalisation