Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi and Fatima Zaman, active members of the Extremely Together initiative, sum up some of the problems in challenging violent extremism, and list seven important recommendations for Commonwealth ministers.
After the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and the emergence of Daesh (so-called Islamic State) during the Syrian civil war, violent extremism and efforts to counter it have become subjects of global concern. Although governments, international organisations, internet specialists and academics have made repeated efforts to control this, extremist ideas and the violence they engender remain a threat in many parts of the world.
It is difficult to agree and implement effective, long-term and legitimate counter extremism policies partly because ‘violent extremism’ is a complex socio-political phenomenon. In addition, many of the measures that governments, intelligence agencies and transnational organisations have taken to counter violent extremism (CVE) could have been better planned, coordinated, researched or executed.
Governments now recognise that violent extremism poses a threat in the virtual and digital as well as the physical world; that lone terror attacks are increasingly coordinated via global networks; and that discontent continues to grow.
The role of civil society
It is also widely agreed that civil society must be involved in efforts to address the causes of violent extremism and terrorism. In particular, grassroots institutions and local organisations that are embedded in their communities are often in a position to counter violent extremism more directly and more effectively than official authorities…
Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi and Fatima Zaman
Members of the Extremely Together initiative