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Trends in Student Radicalization across University Campuses in Afghanistan

Zaman, Robert and Mohammadi, Abdul Ahad (2014) Trends in Student Radicalization across University Campuses in Afghanistan. Project report. Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, Kabul, Afghanistan (KAR id:47807)


This study aims to examine the trends in student radicalization across eight university campuses

in Afghanistan. We conclude from our survey of student and staff views and an analysis of the

character of protests across campuses that the extent of student radicalization varies. In

particular, we come to three noteworthy findings. First, most university students are more

concerned over prospects of post-graduation follow-on careers than ideological ambition.

Second, while we find that most students and lecturers denounce radical views and violence, a

relatively more aggressive response to both the policies of the Afghan government and the armed

international intervention exhibited by students from universities in Kabul, Qandahar and

Nangarhar suggests differentiated patterns across university campuses, with these campuses

suggestive of a stronger tendency toward radicalized views. Finally, as an institution, the

university does not play a strong role in the radicalization of its students. Rather, a charged

political climate and the readily available opportunity to mobilize quickly enable students to

stand in protest rather easily. However, findings also suggest that it is this same easy access to

mobilize in protest that seems to attract a number of external groups as evident by the black,

white and green flags representative of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the militant wing of Hezb-e-

Islami Hekmatyar. Moreover, it is these protests that seem to encourage polarization and

consequential division on campus which increasingly resemble the practice of takfir. Referring

to the practice of excommunication wherein one Muslim declares that another Muslim has

abandoned Islam, takfir is in direct competition with the more tolerant teachings common to the

characteristically liberal curriculum of public universities. While protest in and of itself is a

characteristic common to progressive democracies, evidence suggests that some student protests

do call for division along sectarian lines or the suppression of women’s rights, both of which

stand in contradiction to democratic principles and pose a threat to stability. With more than

sixty-three percent of the Afghan population under the age of twenty-four, left unchecked such

influence has the likelihood and potential to expand with substantial consequences for

development and security in Afghanistan. As Afghanistan moves into a new phase of its era of

state-building, a special focus on meeting the needs of its youth and in particular of Afghan

university students is indispensable in meeting and maintaining lasting stability and prosperity.

This study is the first part of an ongoing series of papers dedicated to examining the trends in

radicalization across the various sectors throughout Afghanistan. Launched in late 2013, we plan

follow-on studies to complement the series, including examinations of the trends in

radicalization in madrassas across Afghanistan and within the Afghan security forces.

Item Type: Reports and Papers (Project report)
Uncontrolled keywords: radicalization, Afghanistan, takfir, ideology, conflict
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahai Faith. Theosophy, etc
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Robert Zaman
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2015 09:25 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 21:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Zaman, Robert.

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