Violent extremism: Redefining the angle of attack PDF Print E-mail
Written by Moussa Mohamed Amar   
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 16:06



Whether in the Middle East, Europe, America or the Sahel, violent extremism has become a threat to the entire world. It continues to expand with more and more victims and physical destruction. Moreover, it now imposes itself as a deadly evil with which one has to adapt.


 A role for traditional religious leaders?


Despite huge military and financial resources committed globally over the past two decades to combat the scourge, violent extremism has continued to grow and spread to new geographical areas. Is it not time to question the ineffectiveness or at least the inadequacy of the approaches hitherto advocated? Are we not seriously mistaken about our understanding of this phenomenon which is much more political than religious?


In cooperation with the Fusion and Liaison Unit (a regional cooperation mechanism) and with the participation of the African Center for Studies and Research on Terrorism (CAERT), the League of Ulemas, Preachers and Imams of the Sahel countries has just convened a meeting on 6 and 7 July, in Nouakchott. The theme of the Symposium was "The textbooks for the teaching of religious education in schools and the role of religious leaders in the Sahel region".


Participants to this Symposium were from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger and Senegal.


 This workshop was a follow up of the activities undertaken by the League of Ulemas, Preachers and Imams of the Sahel countries, since a fifth workshop held in January 2017 in N'Djamena (Chad), and an Algiers meeting this past March. According to its organizers, it should enable it to undertake analysis and to make suggestions to help put in place a textbook to provide trainers with the tools and knowledge most appropriate to improving the teaching of religious education in schools.


Representatives of sub regional and regional organizations as well as academics and those actors in the cultural area also attended the meeting.


All agreed on the role that religious leaders should play in the fight against extremism and the effort that must now be entrusted to schools in detecting the signals of violent radicalism. It has even been suggested to set up a monitoring mechanism at school level in the region that could "detect young people with indicators that are the precursors of radical violence".


This workshop is part of the new approach to the fight against terrorism that is widely supported around the world and advocates the use of religious leaders, particularly Muslims, in the fight against this scourge. This is why there is a growing trend towards the introduction of religious education in public schools, the formation of Imams and the alliance with traditional religious leaders.


Terrorism is a mode of action.


The introduction of religious leaders, in the fight against extremism, may produce the opposite effect to the envisaged aim by contributing to maintaining and strengthening the roots of jihadism. For terrorism is a mode of action, not an entity in itself, an ideology or a religion.

Whether in the West, the Middle East or in Africa, it remains a movement of reaction to what is presented


or felt and experienced as an aggression. All over its bloody history, it has never acted ex nihilo. Whether in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or the Sahel, its essence is political and not religious. For it, religion is only a vector of identity where Islam is an endogenous societal reference. The best known leaders of the jihadist movements are not religious scholars but rather political or military chiefs. Even though they often issue religious opinions or Fatwas, that does not, in any way, confer them the status of religious scientists. Indeed, they have made their reputation primarily in armed action. Thus, frankly the desire to oppose them to traditional religious leaders, risks being either counterproductive or at the very least unproductive.


It is true that traditional religious leaders do not advocate armed violence. But do they not, more and more, develop a discourse that is at the very least regressive and particularly radical, leaving no room for women, human rights, religious freedom or for free expression? In essence, their discourse is not very different from that developed by the extremists. And even if they continue to exert a certain influence within Muslim opinions, they nevertheless keep losing ground against terrorists who carry a demagogic-populist discourse made of amalgams and slogans that are easily digested by the vast majority of the citizens in so far as it takes on a religious aspect.


At the risk of making mistakes in assessing approaches to combating violent extremism, it would be more appropriate to take all necessary precautions to monitor the activities of all the religious leaders. Indeed, as television operators used to say in a recent past, they have a great need to be tropicalized, in others words, to be adapted to today security climate.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 11 July 2017 20:36 )

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