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Pro-integration: disengagement from and life after extremism


Behavioural Sciences of Terrorism & Political AggressionJournal abstract

This paper presents new findings about individual disengagement from violent extremism in a Western context. Despite enormous investment of the last two decades in responses to terrorism, the exit and reintegration processes of extremists back into the community are not well understood. Whilst most extremists struggle with the transition back into society, most eventually move on with their lives, becoming citizens again. Most do so unassisted. Therefore, studying the phenomenon of natural disengagement is a critical avenue to understanding why people choose to leave, how they leave, how they reconnect and what areas of their lives undergo change in doing so. Fifteen themes emerged directly from the transcripts of 22 interviews with former extremists from a range of different ideological backgrounds. These themes clustered into five domains which collectively represent the phenomenological essence of disengagement from extremism, including subsequent re-engagement with society. A key finding is that sustained disengagement is actually about the proactive, holistic and harmonious engagement the person has with wider society afterwards. Building on existing empirical research, this paper proposes a tentative five-domain, three-level model of disengagement called the Pro-Integration Model.

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