There are several reasons why a person would choose the path of being a violent extremist. In the USAID’s published document in 2009 titled “Guide to the Drivers of Violent Extremism”, five main categories of motivations for individuals to join or support VE were pinpointed:


  1. Fairly circumscribed and specific political (especially territorial), economic and social grievances.
  2. Much broader ideological (especially religious) objectives.
  3. The search for economic gain.
  4. Motivations that relate to an individual’s personal background (e.g., the desire to avenge a loved one).
  5. Intimidation or coercion by peers or the community.


In the FBI’s article titled “Why do People Become Violent Extremists?”, seven major personal needs were mentioned namely power; achievement; affiliation; importance; purpose; morality; and excitement. If these needs remain unmet, it will most likely lead to radicalization and VE.


In the case of Southeast Asia, UNDP’s study titled “State of Violence: Government Responses to Violent Extremism in South-East Asia” argues that heavily securitized state responses to VE, exclusionary politics based on religious and ethnic identity, state action and inaction that reinforces hate speech and intolerance in society, and the use of violence against citizens are all ways governments can engender further violence.


In the Philippines, The NAP P/CVE clearly defines the push and pull factors to radicalization leading to VE. As defined in said document, push factors are the root causes such as poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, historical grievances, discrimination and political and/or economic marginalization while pull factors are the so-called “benefits” from an extremist organization that entice vulnerable individuals to join. These include the group’s ideology, strong bonds of brotherhood, reputation building, prospect of fame and glory, and other advantages gathered from socialization and belonging in a group. Additionally, the NAP P/CVE discussed that the identification of specific push and pull factors in a particular community or sector requires careful and detailed study which can be likened to a doctor assessing a patient’s condition prior to recommending treatment. Though doctor’s assessment is far from being infallible, the goal is to come up with the most appropriate intervention programs to address actual drivers and ultimately reduce vulnerability of sectors to VE.


Some other drivers of VE include the following:

  • Political deprivation leading to hopelessness or a sense of powerlessness.
  • Long festering political disputes.
  • Lack of education and poverty.
  • Ideological imperatives that may lead to extremism.
  • Socio-economic inequities, unemployment, despair about the future.
  • Corrupt and self-serving dominant elite.
  • Foreign occupations.
  • Sense of victimhood amongst Muslims.
  • Resurgence of Islam phobia in Europe.
  • Education and training in a narrow religious and cultural framework creates people with a narrow and bigoted worldview and breeds intolerance and extremism.
  • Children who are exposed to violence at an early age tend to adopt violence as a way of life unless de-linked from early experiences (Child Soldiers of Africa and Pakistani Children who experienced war in Afghanistan alongside Taliban).
  • The media regularly gives negative messages about people from minority groups/ people from other countries.
  • Extremism groups usually target susceptible young people. These young people might be lonely, bored or “lost”.
  • Extremist training for young people can be very ‘exciting’ and can provide strong friendships.
  • Unemployed young adults sometimes feel that extremism gives them a purpose to earn and fulfill their basic economic needs.
  • Young adults who did not achieve well at school sometimes use extremism as a way to feel that they are succeeding and henceforth important.
  • Some extremist groups believe that they are following God’s instructions. As such, they do not understand that what they are doing is wrong.
  • Family members sometimes encourage extremism.
  • Extremist websites/ videos have a big impact and are hard to regulate.
  • Social networking websites allow people all over the world to influence each other.
  • Some citizens feel that they have been treated unfairly throughout life, and want someone to blame or punish.
  • Some citizens who move to a different country find it hard to adapt to their new life. They look for someone to guide them and fall into the wrong hands.
  • Violence is increasingly glamorized by the media.
  • Teachers and police officers do not usually have enough training to recognize extremism or to deal with it.