Solutions of Radicalism
Taspiner has offered the concept of ‘relative deprivation’:
Radicalization is too complex of a phenomenon and it has multiple causes. An ideal breeding ground for recruitment emerges when various social, cultural, economic, political, and psychological factors come together. Dismissing the economic and social roots of radicalization on the grounds that most terrorists have middle class backgrounds is simplistic and misleading. It is equally wrong, however, to argue that ideology, culture, and religion play no role in the radicalization process.
The key to understanding who joins violent movements is to go beyond social and economic factors or pure ideology. The challenge is to see the interaction between cultural and economic factors without focusing exclusively on ideology or development. In other words, instead of cultural or economic determinism, we have to avoid deterministic, mono-causal explanations and focus on how ideological and socioeconomic factors interact. Only by adopting such an inclusive methodology can the two camps find common ground and come up with more effective prescriptions for policymakers in the fight against radicalism.
The place to start is to accept that ideology becomes much more important when socioeconomic aspirations are on the rise. This is why the concept of relative deprivation—rather than absolute deprivation—deserves more attention. Unlike absolute socioeconomic deprivation, which looks at the consequences of abject poverty or absence of formal education, relative deprivation is all about aspirations and expectations relative to opportunities. Relative deprivation is a growing problem in a world where aspirations and expectations remain unfulfilled and therefore contribute to a process of individual or collective radicalization.
As a conceptual tool, relative deprivation is useful in bridging the gap between the diverging camps concerned about socioeconomic factors versus ideological ones in the radicalization process. As the gap between expectations, opportunities, and accomplishments widens so does the possibility for ideological radicalization. It is precisely when people develop high expectations, aspirations, and hopes for upward mobility that we have to pay more attention to the potential for frustration, humiliation, and ideological radicalization. In addition to studies focusing on how rising expectations may cause revolutions, there is a growing body of literature that looks at “frustrated achievers” with high ambitions and high levels of individual dissatisfaction.
Dismissing the importance of socioeconomic factors as potential drivers of radicalization can therefore be a faulty approach in the context of developing societies. Improving educational standards without increasing prospects for employment, or providing jobs and economic benefits without creating outlets for political and social participation, create a combustible environment where frustrated achievers are increasingly tempted by radicalism. Education without employment, or employment without a sense of political empowerment, fuel the dynamics of humiliation, alienation, and frustration. This is why the growing numbers of educated but unemployed youth are particularly alarming for those who are concerned about the rise of frustrated achievers in the Arab World—and among Muslim minorities in Europe, where there are additional identity issues exacerbating the problem.
It would be reductionist to look only at the Muslim World or at Muslim minorities in analyzing the problems of relative deprivation and frustrated achievers. We live in a global context and globalization itself further complicates the problem of relative deprivation. Poverty is no longer an absolute concept in the context of globalization. Globalization creates an acute awareness about opportunities available elsewhere. But the absence of opportunities relative to expectations is particularly acute in the Arab World and larger Islamic World. Socioeconomic decay in the Islamic World often creates considerably more frustration than in other parts of the developing world for historical and civilizational reasons.
Another solution is the form of ‘Kaffah’ management being initiated and practiced by Zulfikar MS in Medan. The ‘Kaffah’ system offers products and services at-cost, with the customer being given the opportunity to give ‘keuntungan seikhlas hati’. Examples of the success of this method is the Prophet Muhammad’s practice when selling his wife-to-be Khadijah’s merchandise and the Muslim traders practice in replacing the non-Muslims as the dominant force in the Madinah market. The Prophet and the early Muslims were in fact among the notable people in history who practiced being not a ‘good subject’ or a ‘bad subject’, but a ‘no subject’ to the prevailing capitalist economy. That is, they create their own subject which can attract a large number of people due to the relevance of their subject to those people. It is for us to study their examples and adapt it to our current context. (*)