Countering Religious Extremism Through Education in Multicultural Canada

Religious extremism leading to violence and terrorism is an escalating threat to society and global security. Frequently, we hear of Canadian youth involved in terrorist plots and activities in Canada and abroad. The radicalization of young men and women socialized in Canada is an ignored problem of great risk to the security and peace of Canadian society and the world at large. Since youth spend the majority of their time in schools, education's role in the socialization process and in the construction of personal and group identities make it a major player in working towards a peaceful and resilient society. This study will do pioneering work in linking education to the development of extremist ideologies.

Although all extremists do not become terrorists, all terrorists are extremists. Our conceptual framework uses the metaphor of a staircase whereby the development of religious extremism passes several steps, while very few but increasing numbers of youth reach the top stage of terrorism (Moghaddam, 2005). Using a phenomenological research design the aim is to explore the concerns and perspectives of students, teachers and parents with regard to religious extremism, the initial step of the staircase. How do teachers deal with controversial topics? In general, do students have voice? Do they develop a positive identity or do some feel marginalized? Why do a few "tune out" even when they are not marginalized? How do parents deal with sudden or gradual changes in their children's attitudes and behaviours? We will discuss these questions with all the important players in the education system in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

Schools need to work with the community and parents to critically challenge religious extremism before beliefs become radicalized. However, once extremist positions have developed, countering terrorism is a long-term process that involves deconstructing complex ideologies.

The research team consists of Dr. Ratna Ghosh, Dr. Anila Asghar, Dr. Ingrid Sladeczek, Dr. Jocelyn Bélanger, Prof. Daniel Cere, Wing Yu Alice Chan, Maihemuti Dilimulati, and Laura Fontil. 

Contact:
Ratna Ghosh, CM, OQ, PhD., FRSC
(514) 398-4527 Ext. 094761
Department of Integrated Studies in Education
3700 McTavish, Room 322
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y2

[visit website: Preventing Extremism through Educational Research (PEER), www.mcgill.ca/peer]