Governments advised about ‘antidotes to radicalization’ at World Government Summit breakout session

Sunday 12 February 2017
Scott Atran

Dubai – MENA Herald: Leading anthropologist Scott Atran attempted to explain the minds of radicals and offer suggestions on how to combat the situation at the World Government Summit Breakout Session today.

Atran holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University, and is currently Research Director at ARTIS International, and Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Psychology at the University of Michigan.

His talk, entitled Antidotes to Radicalization, offered governments real insight into the minds of terrorists and potential radicals, with recent studies showing how extremism stems from a lack of ambition, combined with the thirst for creating a purpose in life.

Highlighting the current war against ISIS, he said: “Just seven percent of wars in history have been religiously motivated. But these wars are known to last a long time.”

Atran highlighted a quote by former US President Barack Obama who said that the biggest mistake had been ‘underestimating the willingness of ISIS to fight, and overestimating the Iraq army’s willingness to fight’.

He then explained why individuals might choose to fight for a cause. Talking about ‘sacred values’, he explained: “Sacred values act in ways different to standard decisions. To most of us, things such as family and the immediate are much more valuable. With sacred values, there is no exit strategy, and it is perceived as the right thing.”

Altran highlighted studies carried out on a number of different individuals, representing the ISIS, the left-wing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Al Qaeda, which showed how sacred values are ‘real beliefs’, with evidence that feelings such as revenge and joy come from the same centers.

Explaining the advantage that the extremists have over regular forces, he said: “Standard police or armies operate on a material basis but those with sacred values operate on beliefs.”
Atran highlighted how IS is currently works on the classic ‘revolution’ model, with well-educated leaders that can attract the masses, followed by a state-building period in which women become very important.

He added: “It is not about brain washing. It is not just criminals or marginal, these are people. ISIS is offering something, however misguided, and so is the populist wave of Europe.”
Offering a suggestion on how to target potential recruits he said: “We find them clustered in towns and neighborhoods and three out of every four is recruited because of a friend, not a recruiter.”

He said that problem was that: “ISIS will talk for thousands of hours to recruit one individual and we have to engage like that on a global scale.”

The World Government Summit (WGS) 2017 has drawn the participation of more than 4,000 personalities from 139 countries around the world, reflecting the leading stature of the summit on regional and international levels and the high interest from governments, global organizations, private and public sector entities, decision makers, entrepreneurs, academics and university students as well as scientists and innovators. WGS 2017 features 150 speakers across 114 sessions that highlight the world’s most pressing challenges and showcase best practices and cutting-edge solutions to deal with them.

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