Workshop on Radicalization in the Levant, North Africa and South Asia

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South Asia, North Africa and the Levant are some of the regions which have been and remain the most affected by violent extremism. These have been manifested in many ways, from full-blown insurgencies and terrorism to communal mob violence, targeted killings and routine intimidation. The scourge has spared no country in the region, for it is both transnational in nature and extends far beyond the scope of sole government action. What is needed therefore is a comprehensive, holistic assessment of and response to the issues raised.

Extremism can be defined as an adhesion to ideologies supporting the exclusion, subjugation or physical elimination of other people or groups of people. Religious fanaticism, jingoism, ethnic chauvinism, and Maoism are all examples of such ideologies. Above all, it is a state of mind that is very conducive to violence as extreme thoughts come to materialize into extreme actions. The question as to why people turn to violent extremism has been the subject of intense debate and generated a dense literature. Broadly, three approaches have been explored, namely resource deprivation, communal antagonism and international politics.

Resource deprivation: Much of these regions are made up of post-colonial countries that remain mostly poor and underdeveloped. The vast majority of the region’s population is struggling for basic human needs such as food, clean water and shelter. Economic growth, when it has occurred, has only benefited to small urban pockets and the privileged classes, leading to skyrocketing wealth inequalities. These conditions of both absolute and relative deprivation, combined with increasing popular awareness and the state’s incapacity to meet demands, generate a great deal of frustration that in turn is conducive to violent extremism. Resource deprivation can also be understood in political or social terms, as a lack of recognition or equal treatment which creates a feeling of humiliation for the individual or the group in question.

Communal antagonism: The regions are also a complex mosaic of religions and ethnicities which largely transcend the existing national boundaries. Driven by a feeling of insecurity, these multiple groups relentlessly compete for power and economic survival, which can lead to increasing polarization and radicalization. The state is supposed to play a key role as an impartial arbiter to keep in check communal antagonism. In practice however, these states both lack the capacity and legitimacy to do so, especially due to their failure to maintain autonomy vis-à-vis the dominant group. Worse than this, politicians at the head of the state have actively used their powers to enforce communal agendas which have triggered unending spirals of violence.

International politics: While most analyses focus on individual factors and domestic politics, many also point to the role of international politics in the spread of extremist ideologies. The Cold War thus created an environment that was favorable to the rise of communist or anti-communist militancy, which both superpowers supported to wage proxy wars in third countries. The wars in Afghanistan and the Levant is one example which is also significant in the fact it heralded a new era of global militancy, that of radical Islamism and jihadism. Such international developments can have a huge impact on domestic politics and radicalization.

Each of these perspectives covers one aspect of the complex question of the roots of extremism. To try for a more comprehensive understanding however, one will have to look at the interplay between these factors, while keeping in mind the specificities of each case.

Countering violent extremism

Violent extremism threatens the very existence of States and the lives and livelihoods of more than two billion people in these region. Although this danger is acknowledged, it has failed to receive proper consideration from state leaders and more often has been instrumentalised for political gains. Where the state has acted, it has usually only done so with heavy-handed methods and a disproportionate use of force to restore law and order – a short term solution that is more likely to aggravate rather than to address the root causes of violence.

Together with a comprehensive understanding, it is therefore needed to develop a comprehensive response to violent extremism. The recent emphasis on de-radicalisation programmes for instance is a step forward in this direction. To the old formula of disarmament-demobilisation-reintegration (DDR), the notion of de-radicalisation adds a psychological dimension as one strives to uproot extremist ideologies that may still pervade the mind of former fighters and hamper their reintegration in the society. Likewise, a more systematic targeting of hate speech and efforts at creating a more inclusive narrative will play an important role in easing communal tensions and mainstreaming minorities in all aspects of economic, political and social life.

Given the common and overlapping problems which these three regions face, it is therefore important to ensure that ongoing dialogues occur addressing the radicalization, de-radicalization and reintegration of returning fighters. These are already occurring within the sub-regions, however this project is proposed in order to commence the process of identifying and developing a joint agenda for combatting and preventing violent extremism.

Tentative Programme

Day One         Tuesday, February 14, 2017

0600-1000          Breakfast at Hotel Restaurant

Morning/           Arrivals and Registration Hotel Lobby


Networking at Leisure


Afternoon         Optional Networking Lunch (Vouchers for Hotel Restaurants or Room Service)

Evening             Reception hosted by RCSS (for foreign participants and local invitees)

Day Two           Wednesday, February 15, 2017

0600-0845          Breakfast/Networking at Hotel Restaurant

0900-0910          Welcome Remarks (ROOM TBD) RCSS

0910-0920          Introduction to Workshop Program

                                Professor Anne Moisan, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies

0920-0945          Participant/Staff Introductions

0945-1030          Session 1: What Is Attracting Them – The Pull-Push Factors and Security Implications from A Sub-Regional Perspective

                           Moderator: Professor Anne Moisan, NESA

  • Levant
  • North Africa
  • South Asia

                               Open Discussion

1030-1100          Coffee and Networking Break

1100-1230           Session 2: What Is Attracting Them – The Pull-Push Factors and Security Implications from A Sub-Regional Perspective (cont)

                                Moderator: Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, Executive Director, RCSS

  • Levant
  • North Africa
  • South Asia

                               Open Discussion

1230-1400          Buffet Lunch/Networking in the TBD

1400-1530          Session 3: National Programs and Initiatives: Government-Civil Partnership on Deradicalization

Moderator: Dr. Jennifer Jefferis, NESA

                                Open Discussion

  • Coffee and Networking Break

 1600-1730          Session 4: National Programs and Initiatives: Government-Civil Partnership on Deradicalization (cont.)

Moderator: TBD, RCSS

                                 Open Discussion

 1730-1900          At Leisure/Networking

 1900-2400         Dinner/Networking at Leisure (Vouchers for Hotel Restaurants or Room Service)

Day Three            Thursday, February 16, 2017

0600-0845          Breakfast/Networking at Hotel Restaurant

0900-1030          Session 5: Reintegration Efforts: Hard and Soft Approaches and How Do     They Fare

Moderator: Dr Jennifer Jefferis

                                Open Discussion

 1030-1100          Coffee and Networking Break

 1100-1230          Session 6: …One Last Round of Comments

Moderator: Professor Anne Moisan

                               Open Discussion

1230-1240          Session 7: The Way Ahead…

                               Moderator: Professor Anne Moisan

1240-1300          Closing Remarks

Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, Executive Director, RCSS

 1300-1430        Buffet Lunch/Networking in the TBD


Afternoon/        Participants Depart

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