What is Violent Extremism?

Chances are, you've probably heard the term "violent extremism". However, the term itself can be a bit misleading. So, before a discussion can be started on violent extremism, the term itself needs to be defined. In case you are feeling a bit confused on what it actually is, and what an act of violent extremism actually constitutes, we're going to clarify things. 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), violent extremism is, "condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals." 

The FBI also states that violent extremists often have twisted ideals, lack Western fundamental values, often feel their views are being attacked or their way of life is threatened, and typically hold hateful or prejudicial views against other races, religions, or governments. 

So, you might be wondering...why do people really turn to violent extremism? Well, the FBI details that most of the time it is to fill a personal need that is not currently being met. This may mean that the person does not feel valued, that they are very stressed by something currently going on in their life, or perhaps they are upset with current governmental policies. 

So now that we know what violent extremism is, what can cause it, and some of the reasons why someone might become an extremist, we can now discuss current groups of violent extremists as examples to help define the term. The FBI notes that violent extremist groups vary in terms of their ideologies and goals, and that they are located all around the globe. They are able to enlist new recruits due to the help of social media and the internet, which allows them to reach a larger base. Here are some recognized groups and ideologies of violent extremists as listed by the FBI: 

International Violent Extremist Groups include

Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Hizballah, ISIL/ISIS, Kahane Chai, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia

Domestic Violent Extremist Ideologies include: 

Animal Rights and Environmental Extremists, Abortion Extremists, White Supremacy Extremists, Militia Extremists, Anarchist Extremists, and Sovereign Citizen Extremists

Additional information on violent extremism can be found here


Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.) Don't Be A Puppet: Pull Back The Curtain On Violent Extremism. Retrieved from https://cve.fbi.gov/home.html