Belgium tackles radicalization in schools

December 30, 2010

Schools, sport clubs and other associations should intervene when young people threaten to turn radical, a government official said Wednesday.

According to a Belgian study in response to the European Union’s recent call on member states to set up action plans to prevent radicalism, young isolated people were more likely to turn radical.

“I call on teachers and other persons working with young people to pay attention to this phenomenon,” said Minister for Home Affairs Annemie Turtelboom.

Radicalization is “the root of terrorism,” but often is difficult to detect because it is a complex and variable process, the study showed.

Frustration, exclusion, discrimination, poverty and unemployment are among the major causes of the phenomenon, the study said.

Early warning signs of radicalization include changes in behavior and way of dressing, and often lead to deepening isolation, the study said.

“When they [teachers] notice a young person standing away from the others and saying things he or she would not have said before, this is a signal to have a talk with this young person. And if it gives no results, I ask them to call the police,” Turtelboom said.

Waves of violence and bomb attacks perpetrated by radical and anarchist groups have been seen recently in some European countries — Greece in particular, where people are dissatisfied with government austerity measures and high unemployment.

In the first half of December, protests against tuition increases in England turned violent when radical groups infiltrated student rallies.

Last week, package bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, badly wounding two people who opened them. An identical package addressed to the Greek embassy was defused.

Two other bombs exploded Wednesday in front of the headquarters of the Northern League, an Italian right-wing party and a member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Police believe anarchists were responsible.

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