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2. Polarisation and radicalisation

Radical and anti-democratic trends in society can lead to violence, and in their most extreme expression, to terrorism. The prevention of these trends is essential for the security of (and to foster a sense of security in) the public. Various players with different resources and perspectives are involved.

These radical trends are aggravated or prompted by the emotional and social dynamics of polarisation. Polarisation is defined as “the strengthening of opposition between [persons or] groups in society that results or can result in (the exacerbation of) tensions between these [persons or] groups and create risks for the security of society”. Like a system of communicating vessels, polarisation can also be encouraged or nourished by entities propagating radical ideas.

In sociology radicalisation is broadly defined as a “process by which an individual or a group adopts a violent form of action, directly linked to an extremist political, social or religious ideology which challenges the established political, social or cultural order”. In this definition, the promotion of or recourse to violence constitutes a danger to democratic legal order, but it also constitutes a serious security challenge.

The Region understands this definition of radicalisation in the light of its manifestation in Brussels, where it takes a variety of forms (with origins on the extreme right, the extreme left, religion, etc.). The terrorist attacks on March 2016 only illustrate a part of this spasmodic phenomenon.

Radicalisation and polarisation are also transnational in character, extending far beyond the regional or even national level, and consequently demanding increased coordination between the different players engaged in combating and preventing them. Radicalism and jihadism strike a chord in the Brussels-Capital Region, and are a local expression of an international phenomenon.