Souad Mekhennet speaks on the Radicalization of Young Adults at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Leading German journalist Souad Mekhennet has warned against complacency in attempts to combat radicalization in Europe, saying that much of the debate was still “missing” its underlying causes.

“If we want to find a solution for this whole question of radicalization,” Mekhennet told the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “I believe strongly we need to understand what’s going on in the hearts and minds of those people. The problems start when people don’t see themselves as part of a society, that’s what I believe we are still missing when we have debates about radicalization, about how to fight extremism, or ISIS, or Al-Qaeda.”

A Muslim raised in Germany, Mekhennet was talking about her book, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, which recounts her quest to get into the minds of young jihadis in the hope of understanding what leads them to violence.

“One of the reasons I decided to write this book,” she said, “is because I have the impression that some people believe that once Raqqa is gone and the so-called Caliphate is destroyed that this will be it. No, it’s not, it’s absolutely not going to be it, because we’re still not tackling the reasons for radicalization. There are still bombings in France, and there will still be bombings in France.

“There is nobody working there on the ground trying to prevent the recruiters from recruiting…and we don’t have any institutions that are really taking care of how can we stop them from actually turning against society and feeling they’re no longer part of society, and this is I think why we are still missing the point in Europe.”  Mekhennet also said it was “important for people to understand” that radicals “have a different side too”, that they could be capable of humanity and even humour.

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