Perceptions of extremists and deradicalization programs among university students in Kuwait


  • Kyle A. Msall Assistant Professor of International Psychology, American University of Kuwait


perceptions toward deradicalization, extremists, radicalism


The increase of terrorism and terrorist organizations such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham throughout the Middle East over the past three years have led to an exponential increase in individuals living outside of the Middle East becoming radicalized. These individuals range from children to adults, both male and female. The current study focuses on the process of deradicalization. While a number of studies have begun exploring this issue with regards to the actual process, this study focuses on the perceptions of deradicalization from the public. The study is a mixed-method design with the quantitative portion being a questionnaire about what the students’ perceptions are toward consequences of convicted individuals in relation to extremists. Much research has been done on citizens’ perceptions toward convicted criminals in countries such as the US and the current study seeks to relate those findings, which suggest that there is a highly negative attitude toward convicted criminals, to the attitudes expressed by the university students in Kuwait toward extremists. The qualitative portion of the study involved an open-ended prompt which gave the participants the chance to discuss and describe their thoughts about whether or not a religious extremist could be rehabilitated and deradicalized. The qualitative portion of the study was the primary focus because it is important for program and policy developers associated with deradicalization to understand what the general public perceives regarding the process. The results for the qualitative portion were divided into two main themes: the first being “change is possible” for extremists and the second being “change is not possible” for extremists. However, an interesting find was the third theme that emerged from both of the first two themes, characterized as “all people should be given a second chance.” The current study aims to add to the research gap regarding the public’s perception of deradicalization in the hopes that future work will be conducted in this area.  


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