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Migration and Home Affairs
Expert opinion

RAN Small-scale expert meeting – The underlying iceberg of Islamist extremism, Berlin 03 May 2022


Publication date
9 December 2022
Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
RAN Publications Topic
  • (Early) prevention


On 3 May 2022, a group of experts with experience in dealing with non-violent Islamist extremism met in Berlin to explore this sensitive topic and to develop first recommendations to support their practitioner colleagues.

Non-violent Islamist extremist actors often play an important role in the recruitment and radicalisation process of individuals into extremism and even extremist action, including violence. While most members of such movements do not engage in violence, many of these non-violent, overarching legalist movements have grown in Europe over decades and often encompass entire communities. As a result, many members do not necessarily make a conscious choice to become a member and did not follow an individual radicalisation pathway.

Of course, not all of these community members have closed extremist mindsets. Yet, some movements have become very capable of attracting and maintaining the attention of young European Muslims by addressing themes and topics closely linked to their lived realities (e.g. discrimination, double identities) in an attempt to slowly draw them into an increasingly narrow and anti-democratic mindset. In this context, practitioners are confronted with the substantial challenge of having to navigate between adequate prevention and countermeasures to extremist beliefs and mindsets contrary to pluralistic, democratic societal values, while simultaneously not infringing on legitimate religious action and expression, which should be protected.

All of this begs the question: How can and should such ideologies and movements be approached within the scope of prevention and countering of extremism? To tackle this question, RAN Practitioners took the unprecedented step of bringing experts from across Europe together to discuss non-stigmatising and non-marginalising approaches for dealing with non-violent Islamist extremism in Europe.

*The authors would like to stress non-violent expressions of extremist ideas and ideologies are common for every ‘type’ of extremism and not exclusive to forms of Islamist extremism. All types of ideas and ideologies that contradict and eventually counteract basic human rights and democratic values should be tackled within the scope of prevention and countering of extremism.

This paper summarises the main conclusions following the in-depth group discussions during the small-scale expert meeting. The highlights of the discussion provide preliminary answers to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ when addressing nonviolent Islamist extremism.

The underlying iceberg of Islamist extremism cover


RAN Small-scale expert meeting – The underlying iceberg of Islamist extremism