Between extremism and freedom of expression: Dealing with non-violent right-wing extremist actors

Over the course of the previous years, counterterrorism has focused more on anticipating the threat of terrorism. In this context, institutions such as the United Nations Security Council and the European Commission have increasingly emphasized that acts of terrorism cannot be prevented through repressive measures alone. Through countering violent extremism (CVE) and preventing violent extremism (PVE), the aim is to detect deviant attitudes in an early stage and promote social inclusion and cohesion at the same time.

In particular, CVE consists of the early detection of radicalisation towards violent extremism and includes various approaches to increase the resilience of communities and individuals to the use of extremist violence and other related unlawful acts.

In turn, the concept of PVE consists of systematic preventive measures which directly address the drivers of extremist environments. Both approaches emphasise tackling the context conducive to terrorism such as situational, social, cultural and individual factors.

The question remains: How can youth, family and community workers intervene in radicalisation processes without infringing on personal freedoms?

This overview paper focuses on right-wing extremism (RWE) and freedom of expression. It provides advice from first-line practitioners on how to deal with and respond to extremists publicly expressing their ideologies in a non-violent, but still potentially harmful, way. It also delves into the matter of how practitioners can protect themselves against potential backlash and threats of violence from extremist organisations or movements.

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