Ireland ‘should not be complacent’ about radicalisation

Academics say blaming internet is a cop out and urge State to introduce empathy classes

Saying that the internet and social media are to blame for the radicalisation of some Muslims around the world is “a cop-out”, two leading US academics have declared.

Radicalisation is more likely to happen in isolated, tightly-knit communities where there is little tolerance for different opinions , said Prof Pat Dolan of NUI Galway.

Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have increased the pressures on young women and men in societies across the world.

Such pressures are deepening their vulnerability to violent extremism, said Prof Dolan and his colleague, Prof Mark Brennan of Pennsylvania State University declared.


One in 10 of the world’s children today live in conflict zones, while 24 million of them do not got to school, the pair told a conference at the university yesterday.

"It comes back to community and family networks which, if strong enough, ensure young people are not drawn to negative influences," said the academics, who are both Unesco chairs.

Ireland "should not be complacent" about violent extremism and the dangers posed by youth radicalisation which now "knows no borders" in a globalised world.

For this reason, the Minister for Education should introduce empathy tuition in schools and should ensure it is “as important as mathematics” to help reduce the pressures faced by students.

If youth radicalisation was a pandemic illness, there would be compulsory vaccination programmes, argued Prof Dolan, the Unesco child and family research centre chair.

Meanwhile, the Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque which was damaged in a stoning incident during Ramadan prayers earlier this week is hosting an open day at the Masjid Maryam in Ballybrit on Saturday from 3pm to 6pm.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Ireland president Dr M Anwar Malik said that Muslims and non-Muslims are invited to the event which would "offer people a better understanding of Islam and the chance to ask questions about Islam".

“In the current ... climate, building bridges rather than walls among communities is more important than ever [and] needed,” the cleric said in a statement.

Leaders of five Christian churches in Galway have condemned Monday’s attack , where double-glazed window glass windows were broken during evening prayers.

Gardaí have examined CCTV footage, but, so far, they are regarding it as as criminal damage, and not politically or racially-motivated. Gardaí at Mill Street station have appealed for witnesses.

‘Subtle bullying’

Meanwhile, Prof Dolan said poverty and homelessness negatively affect young people, while countless students at secondary school were subjected to “subtle bullying”.

The Leaving Certificate is “far more stressful than completing a PhD”, he said, since there was no allowance for how a secondary student might be feeling on a particular day during the exams.

“If we cannot introduce empathy as a subject for moral or ethical reasons, we can at least argue that it improves academic performance,” Prof Brennan said.

If young people are the most affected by multiple and often interlinked forms of violence, they also “play vital roles as agents of positive change”,the academics said.

NUI Galway youth researcher Ciara Beth Ní Ghríofa, who is in school in Athenry, Co Galway, said that empathy in the classroom would help students to understand conditions such as autism.

“As an autistic person, I am meant to be able to understand and socialise, but fellow students without the condition are often not taught how to understand people like me,” she said.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times