ATbar The Italian approach to de-radicalization

The Italian approach to de-radicalization

20/12/2018 | by Cominetti, Valentina  

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Following the Western intervention in the Middle East, the Islamic State (IS) has been subjected to repeated military defeats. The Western victories on the field paradoxically but inevitably increase the risk of terrorism in Europe, which in the last year has been the preferred target of the Caliphate’s propaganda apparatus. IS invites its Western supporters to attack in the West rather than trying to join the jihadi forces in Syria and Iraq. Addressees of this message are all the supporters and sympathizers of the jihadist ideology residing in the Old Continent, which in the last years has been increasingly shaken by episodes related to transnational terrorism[1]. In such a scenario, the ability of European states to fight radicalization becomes crucial, because it represents the only chance to win the war at home.

These days, among the European countries, Italy is considered exceptional for its low level of radicalization[2], and all the indicators estimating the phenomenon confirm it: the country has not yet suffered any attack[3], the number of foreign fighters is significantly lower than in other states, as well as the number of returnees[4]. Yet, some key factors determining “the Italian advantage” in terms of radicalization are about to fade away[5], especially because the second generation of Muslims in the country is coming of age; among this new generation, the few who will turn radical represent a serious threat. This awareness is leading the Italian authorities to discuss and develop “an Italian approach to prevent radicalization”[6].

The purpose of this research is to analyze in detail the elements that up to now have determined the success of the Italian model in the prevention of radicalization, and provide food for thought in order to preserve, or at least prolong, the “Italian exceptionalism”. Furthermore, the analysis of these factors can provide useful indications to other countries, as well as to the European cooperation strategies aimed at curbing the problem.

This paper focuses on all the measures, even those not strictly connected to counterterrorism law, concerning radicalization in Italy. After a first chapter devoted to the evaluation of all the aspects characterizing the radicalization phenomenon, the second will focus on the immigration management, concluding that tensions emerge between the measures aimed at repressing and those preventing radicalization; this conflict will inevitably lead the legislator to favor one of the two strategies. Subsequent chapters will deal respectively with the legal tools to repress jihadist extremism and those, elaborated and not yet adopted, to prevent it. This analysis will include the recently adopted counterterrorism laws, but also the constitutional laws concerning freedom of worship, the Immigration Law Code, the dialogue of Italian institutions with Islamic associations, the draft law for the fight against jihadist extremism and some de-radicalization projects implemented by civil society organizations.

The conclusions will reveal the imbalance of the Italian system in favor of repressive measures, but also the need to preserve the effectiveness of this system in the short term, in order to elaborate and test a strategy that guarantees to adequately contain extremism with a long-term social action. In particular, the analysis will focus on the "preventive expulsions" tool provisioned in the Consolidated Law on Immigration. This tool seems to have the potential to curb radicalization all over Europe if effectively implemented; yet, this potential effectiveness is currently undermined by an insufficient cooperation among the European member states. Finally, this paper will highlight that the Italian delay in defining a radicalization prevention approach represents an opportunity not to repeat those mistakes made by other European countries in the implementation of integration models and in the dialogue with the Islamic communities.

[1] Lorenzo Vidino, Francesco Marone and Eva Entenmann, Fear Thy Neighbor, Radicalization and Jihadist Attacks in the West, ISPI, 2017.

[2] Michele Groppi, The Terror Threat to Italy: How Italian Exceptionalism Is Rapidly Diminishing, CTC Sentinel, May the 4th 2017.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Alessandro Boncio, Defeat of ISIS and Returning Foreign Fighters: the Italian Case (Disfatta ISIS e Foreign Fighters di Ritorno: il Caso Italiano), ISPI, 2017.

[5] Michele Groppi, The Terror Threat to Italy.

[6] Research Committee on Radicalization and Jihadi Extremism Phenomenon, Summary Document for the Media: “Toward an Italian approach to radicalization prevention, 2017. (Commissione di studio su fenomeno della radicalizzazione e dell’estremismo jihadista, Documento di sintesi per i media: “Verso un approccio italiano alla prevenzione della radicalizzazione”, 2017).

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