ORGANIZATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS OF MUSLIM COMMUNITIES Along with engaging with the communities' leadership and institutions, it is important to ensure that as large a part of the Muslim populations as possible feel that their concerns are effectively voiced and listened to. Authorities need to monitor how representative proclaimed constituency organizations and institutions are and encourage both a greater degree of representation in existing community institutions as well as the effective positioning of new initiatives in the spectrum of established, accepted institutions. Existing organizations and institutions often fail to effectively represent youths’ needs and concern as many were designed to serve a different constituency—the first generation of Muslim immigrants. This thus creates a crucial 'authority gap' that can, and often has, been filled by radicals. This 'authority gap' has allowed radicals to remain practically unchallenged in promoting their own radical version of Islam, fueling existing grievances, and, most importantly, providing religious justifications for violence. In order to undermine this increased visibility and influence, community institutions, leadership, and organizations need to be able to address the younger generations' needs. Among them, the role of imams can be pivotal, as they are the first ones who might be able to offer an alternative religious voice to that of the radicals. Today, imams often struggle to meet the needs of young people, “since [the imams] themselves speak little or no English and are often strongly influenced by the cultural environment of the subcontinent and therefore unable to understand the children’s experience of British culture.”56 Therefore, imams who are familiar with the new environment, needs, and challenges that Britain’s Muslim youth face today can be instrumental in allowing communities to resist violent extremism. Finally, civil society initiatives are often better-positioned to understand and address needs of Muslim populations. Therefore, such initiatives can prove valuable in dealing with extremism and resulting violence.
FRAMEWORK AND TERMS OF DEBATE The terms, definitions, and framework used for the debate on extremism or related public debates need to be carefully chosen in order to avoid generalizations that may backfire and prove counterproductive or alienate target populations. Terms like 'Muslim,' 'Islamic,' 'terrorism,' 'Islamism,' etc., can have very powerful effects on the public mind, particularly on Muslim populations, depending on the framework and connotation. The way the public debate is conducted
can be crucial for preventing (or failing to prevent) violence, especially in times of crises or intercommunity tension. Also, given the inherent position of power of the government and state agencies and institutions, it matters how Muslim populations are addressed and who becomes an official interlocutor of the state on behalf of Muslims. The politics of recognition can be vital and can influence greatly the evolution of the situation. Whether choosing to engage with the Muslim populations on the basis of their faith, ethnic background, other proposed frameworks, or simply as citizens, the decision needs to be carefully weighed so that government strategies do not become self-fulfilling prophecies.
CONCLUSION This chapter has attempted to explore certain aspects of the phenomenon of violent extremism in an effort to draw some conclusions, when conclusions were possible, in order to be used in a comparative study of violent extremist across the three Abrahamic religions. As this chapter and the ones preceding it made clear, and as has been reiterated in the existing literature and research, the paths to extremism and violence are highly individualized with no universal norms or profiles. Although it is debatable whether it is possible to identify with certainty an individual's motivations at every part of the radicalization process or the exact tipping points to violence, there are nevertheless important factors that seem to influence the process to a greater or lesser degree in each case. By following the process from the initial stages of Islamic revivalism to extremism, and, eventually violence, it has been demonstrated that the message, the possible explanations why young Muslims find it convincing, and the needs it addresses, do not remain the same throughout the process. In the early stages, the Islamic message, which is not necessarily extremist, seems to be a very appealing response to an identity crisis that many young Muslims are facing today. Gradually, existing frustrations and grievances are fuelled and framed as part of a 'widespread war against Islam,’ thus pushing susceptible individuals closer to an extremist agenda.57 Therefore, we see that in these stages radical Islam utilizes the turn to religion and pre-existing frustrations to its benefit. Radical religious arguments seem to be instrumental when it comes to choosing violence. The religious justifications for violent action, when they come after a process of inciting perceptions of the aggressiveness of the West and the victimhood of Muslims around the world, have proven sufficient to push some toward committing violence.
Kepel, Allah in the West.
House of Commons, Report of the Official Account of the Bombings, 32.
Published on Jul 23, 2010