Folks, Authorities and Radicalism : between polarization and social construction (FAR)



Project funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO).

2017-04-01 --- 2021-03-31

Project # BR/175/A4/FAR

The main objective of this project is to provide a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the process of terrorism and radicalization in Belgium. More precisely, we propose an interdisciplinary agenda that interconnects three approaches that deal with different families of factors (political, sociological and criminological).

The first approach aims at describing precisely the various public policies initiatives (federal, regional and local) that are justified by the prevention or the sanction of “radicalization processes”. This overview would allow for an evaluation of how the various initiatives are articulated (or not)and would provide a clearer view of how public authorities define, through their action, what they qualify as terrorism and radicalism. In addition to the mapping of Belgian state authorities initiatives towards terrorism and radicalism, we will investigate the reception of those policies by the field workers. By a qualitative research analysis combined with a multi-sited ethnography, we will focus on how those policies result in new forms of collaborations which accord a new sense of agency to the different governmental levels and how they are being understood by the professionals on the ground and by the Belgian population in general. Indeed, rather than assuming a top-down approach, the studies on public policy have shown that the reception by “street-level-bureaucrats” is far from straightforward and complex translations often occur on the ground.

The second approach aims at situating the contemporary processes of (de) radicalization in their social context. Through a large population survey (N=1500), we will try to map contemporary attitudes of citizens residing in Belgium towards the use of violence either by radical groups or by the public authorities. The assumption is that we are observing a growing polarization within society on what is perceived as a legitimate use of violence and on what are the causes that can justify this use of violence by either radical groups or state authorities. Five clusters of dimensions ([a] socio-economic position, [b] political behaviours, [c] identity dimensions, [d] religious values, [e] social distance and polarization between groups) will be taken into consideration in order to determine which combination of characteristics encourages the support of violent ideas, actions or groups.

Finally the third work package will examine at the micro-sociological level the individual characteristics as well as the journeys and/or the penal episodes of the individuals identified as 'radicalized' (in the broad sense of the term) by the Belgian public authorities (law-enforcement,entities of the administration of the criminal justice system, security services). On top of a literature review specific to this subject and an examination of the way the system of administration of criminal justice records the 'radicalization' phenomenon , this third work package mainly relies on two complementary methods.

First, on the basis of a sample of persons labelled as 'radicalized' and the linkage of the available data originating from different databases of the system of administration of criminal justice, we will examine the trajectories and the potential penal incidents that have marked their life. The sample will be established on the basis of a federal database (e.g., federal police or OCAM).

Second, interviews of a qualitative nature will be conducted with a limited number of persons identified as 'radical'. The goal here is to offer a comprehensive analysis of the meaning that these people assign to their journey as well as their relationships to the public authorities, so as to apprehend the role and the effects of this experience on their future; in a broader sense, it also aims at initiating a reflection on the relevance and usefulness of the concepts and responses employed by the public authorities (terrorism, violent radicalization, etc.) with the issues that are encountered.

Ultimately, based on the results of the various analyses, the researchers will suggest public policies which could ameliorate the social climate in Belgium by preventing further polarization and, in this sense, avoid the emergence of extremism


Centre d’Étude de la Vie Politique (CEVIPOL) - Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)


Interculturalism, migration and minorities research centre (IMMRC) - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)



1. Revue des études empiriques concernant la radicalisation et la justice

Isabelle Detry, Benjamin Mine, & Patrick Jeuniaux (2019). Revue des études empiriques concernant la radicalisation et la justice. Revue internationale de criminologie et de police technique et scientifique, LXXII.3, 280–292.

Cet article propose une revue de la littérature consacrée aux études empiriques examinant les rapports entre Radicalisation et Justice. Il en ressort que la perception des institutions policières et judiciaires, l’expérience vécue de leur action ou encore la confrontation régulière à ses représentants affecte(nt) les processus d’engagement.

Mots-clés: radicalisation, procedural justice, crime-terror nexus, mouvements sociaux

This article presents a literature review of the empirical studies examining the relation between Radicalization and Justice. It appears that the perception of the police or the judicial authorities, the experience with their actions or also the regular confrontation with its members has an impact of the processes of engagement.

Keywords: radicalization, procedural justice, crime-terror nexus, social movements

2. Les Banques de Données Communes dans la lutte contre le terrorisme et l’extrémisme (potentiellement) violent

Isabelle Detry, Benjamin Mine, & Patrick Jeuniaux (2020). Les Banques de Données Communes dans la lutte contre le terrorisme et l’extrémisme (potentiellement) violent. Revue du Droit des Technologies de l'Information, 80, 47-75.

Plusieurs événements récents (par ex., attentats, djihadisme, amplification des extrémismes) ont conduit l’État belge à mettre en oeuvre un dispositif d’enregistrements et d’échanges d’informations dédié à la prévention de la radicalisation et du terrorisme dans la lignée de ce qui fut recommandé et initié à l’époque dans le cadre du Plan Radicalisme (Plan R). L’idée générale d’un tel dispositif est d’améliorer l’analyse et la gestion de ce type de phénomènes en partageant un maximum d’informations pertinentes entre les acteurs concernés et en permettant une coordination multidisciplinaire (par ex., police, justice, renseignement). Ce dispositif s’est concrétisé, notamment, par la création de « banques de données communes » (BDC). Un certain nombre de questions se posent. À quelles contraintes ce système doit-il obéir ? Comment s’est-il mis en place ? Quelles sont ses grandes caractéristiques ? Quelles problématiques l’examen du dispositif soulève-t-il ? C’est à ces questions que cet article se propose de répondre.

Several recent events (e.g., attacks, jihadism, amplification of extremism) have led the Belgian State to implement a system of recording and exchange of information dedicated to the prevention of radicalization and terrorism in line with what was recommended and initiated at the time within the Radicalism Plan (Plan R). The general idea of such a system is to improve the analysis and management of this type of phenomena by sharing a maximum of relevant information between the actors concerned and by allowing multidisciplinary coordination (e.g., police, justice, intelligence services). This mechanism has been materialized, in particular, by the creation of “common data banks” (BDC). A few questions arise. What constraints must this system obey? How was it set up? What are its main characteristics? What issues does the examination of the system raise? It is to these questions that this article proposes to answer.



Benjamin Mine NICC-INCC
Isabelle Detry NICC-INCC
Patrick Jeuniaux NICC-INCC