This commentary discusses the importance of using grassroots perspectives in research, policy and praxis that prevents and intervenes into the addictive processes of youth radicalization and extremism. Local perspectives should include former extremists, as their knowledge may offer insights into how to prevent and intervene into youth radicalization. Grassroots perspectives should also include families and communities affected by radicalization and violence. Using autoethnographic and case study examples, the author will share personal and professional narratives about how youth were radicalized online or in person, and how they can be de-radicalized and recover from the addictive processes of radicalization and extremism. Case studies include gangs, and satanic and apocalyptic cults. Sharing from a former extremist perspective, the author will discuss the addictive power of radicalization and extremism processes. Similar to
other process addictions, when the pain of the addiction on self and others becomes too great a burden on the mind and relationships, a youth may be able to leave extremism or be persuaded to leave by loved ones, former members or professionals. Forms of extremism vary widely as do their processes of radicalization and de-radicalization. However, this behooves the research community to inquire into local perspectives of former extremists and their family members to help develop locally informed, research-based policy and programs that restore communities from the experiences of radicalization. Former extremists, families and communities should collaborate on how to design restorative justice policy and praxis in schools, health centres, correctional centres that prevent an intervene into the radicalization processes of extremism. Grassroots, restorative justice approaches to radicalization and extremism could bring more sustainable peace within communities. Locally informed, grassroots approaches driven by former extremists and their families are more meaningful and effective than top-down approaches that do not
address the local, cultural dynamics and addictive processes of radicalization and extremism.
Keywords: youth radicalization; grassroots approaches to radicalization; addictive process of extremism; autoethnography and extremism; case studies of extremism