One thing that we have become aware of is that a family member, loved one or even a carer sometimes might not always the best or appropriate person to challenge the opinions of an individual that is involved in Extremism.
Let me explain why................................................
During the radicalisation process, those involved are encouraged by the organisations and the people within it that they have aligned themselves with to keep their opinions and the information that is being fed to them to themselves. This is because they don’t want the person families/carers care for to come home and tell people about their new found friends and especially their new found opinions. The organisations that are radicalising our loved ones, know only too well that anyone close to them will challenge them and they certainly don't want that.
So they urge silence, they convince them that the brotherhood/sisterhood is the only place where they can openly discuss these things. They convince them that society is broken and won't understand them, they make them feel valued and an important part of their group.
They do this until they are sure that the one you love has been completely converted into their way of thinking, they want to know that they can debate and are armed with all the false information available so they can continue to spread their hateful falsehood.
Once that part of the process is complete then they will then encourage them to be vocal outside of the protected areas they reside in. Starting at home and this is where the battle and damage to relationships really starts.
What follows are lots of bitter arguments and disagreements between parents/loved ones and carers and the individual involved.
The people within these organisations will use this as leverage to convince your loved one that because you disagree with them that you don't respect or value them or their opinions.They will urge them to believe that you are the enemy, because you go against the narrative that they are pushing that you are compliant in the war that they believe they are fighting.
Relationships break down and the extreme organisations gain even more control.
They hope that in doing this they will then be able to lead your loved ones even further into extremism. They want the person that you care about to listen to them and only them.
This sadly is the reality that many of us face, and while we know that for most of us, our initial reaction would be to be horrified, even thinking that many of the opinions given are absurd, and therefore we challenge the person we love trying to protect them, but what we are in fact doing is shutting them down while they are voicing their opinions because we feel they are hateful, but what we have done is reinforced the extremist recruitment plan, further building the divide they want.
Building on this, these organisations are often one step ahead because they know this is likely to happen having done this for years, and unfortunately we can play right into their hands.
Today I will be using my own personal experience as a mom who had a son involved in the Extreme Right-Wing (ERW) and also the experience I have gained by supporting families with a loved one involved to give you some advice on keeping your loved one close and not allowing these organisations to create the division and the breakdown of your relationship that they require and rely on to build their movement.
So what should people do?
Never call them a racist/nazi or anything similar (this will just reinforce the narrative being fed to them by the extreme right wing)
Try not to get into debates. (You should never agree, simply ask people why they believe what they are showing you is true and where did they get their information from. This is because unfortunately no matter what factual evidence you present they are likely to disagree and state this is state or left-wing misinformation)
If a topic arises and things become heated then try to deflect the conversation by moving onto another less controversial topic .( letting it escalate will only damage your relationship further)
Make them and their opinions feel valued. (Ask their opinions on non-controversial subjects, so they see you value their opinions in general).
Include them in day to day activities even if they refuse to cooperate (this will go against the organisation's narrative that they are not a valued part of the family).
Take an interest in things that they enjoy doing outside of politics.
Look for fun activities that can be done together or as a family, however choose something that is active and will keep you all preoccupied, such as bowling, swimming etc. (by doing an activity like this, this will reduce the risk of conversations that may result in debates and arguments and you can concentrate on just having fun and keep people away from the online space).
Tell close family and friends what is going on, (that way there is less chance of them confronting the individual involved and also they will understand that they are not a horrible person but that they are a victim of radicalisation)
Talk to siblings about what is happening. (Many parents and loved ones fear that siblings may be radicalised by a family member and it's normal to want to protect them. By being honest and asking them to tell you about anything that might be said to them then you will not only be aware but you can address it immediately).
Communicate with your partner. You may not always be on the same page but you both want the same outcome.Extremism loves tension, If you're preoccupied because your relationship with each other is suffering that will only convince your loved one to spend more time with the individuals and organisations they have become involved in.You were a family before this happened and we want you to remain a family, radicalisation can put a strain on the strongest of relationships so it’s imperative that you work together.
Finally, I think the most important thing is to reach out for specialist support. This is very unlikely to be just a phase, nor is it likely that they will get bored and leave. I want to stress this right now, this is not your fault, so please don’t feel like you have failed in any way, don’t feel shame or embarrassment.
The ones to blame are the organisations and people within them that recruited your loved one, therefore it's important that you don't feel the need to fix it.
What you need to do is concentrate on keeping your bond with the individual strong and keeping your family together, let the specialists help with the de-radicalisation process.
They are the experts in this field and they understand the issues at hand and also how to offer counter narratives effectively in a non-confrontational way.
There are plenty of places to go and get support.
Please have a look at -
Or reach out to us here at Exit Hate UK for support from a lived experience perspective. Simply email - firstname.lastname@example.org to start your journey with us.