Youth and Multiculturalism in Austria: “Preventing violent radicalisation of young people” (Austria)

On the 4th of December 2020 at 7 pm, IAYSP Austria organized a Zoom meeting on Youth and Multiculturalism in Austria: “Preventing violent radicalization of young people.” Due to the recent event in the shooting terrorist attack in Vienna, they thought it is also a crucial topic for IAYSP Austria to tackle.
Sixty-two people from different backgrounds and NGOs participated in the event. We had three speakers who shared their input and answered the questions of the audience afterward.

Mrs. Mag. Dür-Kwieder, a psychologist, an adult trainer, and a volunteer at the Documentation and Counseling Centre for Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Racism, mentioned that after the attacks, racism against Muslims, especially Muslim women, increased significantly.

Minorities often feel excluded and unwelcomed, which leads to isolation, and many exclude themselves from society. Mrs. Dür-Kwieder highlighted that solidarity is the key.

Südwind, an Austrian Association non-profit NGO focusing on education and campaign work in the international development field, did research on “rhizome against polarisation.” That states that young people who are facing racism and feel unwelcomed develop an insecure personality. They have difficulties connecting, and their identity becomes fragile. Extremist groups look for those who have such identity and are need support and orientation.

Mrs. Dür-Kwieder stated that we have been blind to the needs of young people. And as a society, we should include those young people more and give prospects to them, suggesting that there should be a subject in school curriculums to learn about racism and social media competence.

Mrs. Dr. Mohamed, a pharmacist and public health advocate originally from Somalia, who lived in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, and Austria, aims to spread awareness about refugee and migration issues, improve the healthcare and pharmaceutical systems in developing countries, and empower women and young people.

In her presentation, She highlighted that young people get radicalized because they do not have a sense of identity, and they are missing a sense of community. Also, because they do not have anything positive to believe in, they lose trust and often face violence at home. She stated that society could also cause radicalization that We can prevent by giving young people a sense of identity, providing dialogue in schools by talking to the students on migration, and learning about other cultures. She emphasized that we need to work together as a community to prevent it and help each other.

Mr. Bogdan Pammer, a teacher in Steyr, former school director, and IAYSP President of Europe and the Middle East, mentioned that the radicalization of young people is a broader social issue and stated that in his understanding, there are two extremes that young people face: On one hand, there is nihilism, which portrays hopelessness, rejection of great stories of how the world is and not finding one‘s place; on the other hand, in their search for the identity, they are confronted with totalitarianism, which provides them with simple answers: a sense of belonging and empowerment.
However, it is indispensable to supply young people with a narrative for their journey in life that prepares them to deal with those traps or temptations of the mentioned two. Moreover, he said that the family plays a crucial aspect in that. It gives us purpose and belonging and helps us to deal with contradictions in life.

He highlighted that schools and teachers are vital to providing a holding space for young people as young people have many things going on in their minds, bodies, and relationships. School is much more than a place that provides knowledge. Holding space means that there is a free space that teachers are there and that they believe in them and challenge their view in the world. Furthermore, he said that applying the Seven pillars against violence is also key in schools and in preventing the radicalization of young people. He highlighted that teachers have to start believing, again in themselves, that they have an essential role in society.

Another important aspect is the role of religious communities and NGOs. Mosques are central to build defenses against nihilism and totalitarianism.

He highlighted the four core values of IAYSP as crucial in fighting radicalization: RISE, which stands for Responsibility, Integrity, Service, and Empathy. The role of Peace Designer Projects will increasingly be more and more necessary.

Afterward, the speakers answered several questions from the audience.