Community-based counter-terrorism and anti-extremism policies and the ZDK’s ‚Community Coaching’

Julia Berczyk


Across Europe, authorities on various levels are increasingly pressured to develop strategies to counter terrorism and extremism. Particularly the local level is considered crucial and local communities are frequently formulated as the central site on which to reject the ideology and manifestations of extremism and terrorism. Recently, in order to counter violent Islamic extremism, the promotion of community cohesion and resilience are in the focus of many local counter-terrorism and anti-extremism policies as marginalization and isolation are often considered to foster the breeding ground for radicalization. Hence, citizens themselves become a substantial part of preventive security and constitute both, suspects as well as protagonists, in efforts against terrorism and extremism. Based on current scientific discourses, this paper will explore the role of local communities in current European counter-terrorism and anti-extremism policies. At the local level inBerlin, the ZDK’s ‘Community Coaching’ approach serves as a good example of a community-based practice that includes notions of prevention, community cohesion and resilience. The aim of the paper is to describe the theoretical underpinnings as well as practical utilization of ‚Community Coaching’, a methodology that has been developed to counter radicalization and extremism, particularly at a local level. The ‘Community Coaching’ approach attempts to raise awareness of anti-democratic ‘threats’ within a particular community and to establish local networks, comprising various practitioners and institutions, in order to promote and strengthen democratic structures. Though having been developed in the realm of right-wing extremism, this paper will use theBerlindistrict of Neukölln to exemplify how ‘Community Coaching’ has been launched to also target Islamic extremism. To research preventive, community-based approaches to Islamic extremism inGermanyseems to be a highly interesting, yet, under-studied research field. This is particularly striking as these newly developed concepts and developments that focus on local communities in countering Islamic extremism and terrorism cannot be considered ‘new’ in the German realm where in the last decades similar notions and theoretical lines in countering right-wing extremism have been applied.

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