5. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS Compiled by Stephen Tankel
This report does not consider how to protect against acts extremist violence, but how to prevent them. Other EWI reports have already made and will continue to make substantive contributions to protecting people and infrastructure. As Henry A. Crumpton, the former U.S. Ambassador for CounterTerrorism (now a Distinguished Fellow at EWI), has observed on several occasions, the government must continue to protect against attacks and capture or kill the attackers, but until we are able to discredit these movements the problem will continue. Attacking the ideology, mindset, and the perversion of religion that leads to violence in the name of faith is ultimately essential to pursuing any approach that exists at the strategic rather than simply operational level. No single constituency can prevent this threat on its own; not government, not leading persons of faith, not civil society. In truth government, which is most responsible for our security, may be the least well equipped to take positive action. One point of widespread agreement at EWI’s conference was that any faith plagued by extremists must ultimately “get its own house in order,” that faith leaders do not want outsiders “meddling in their religion” and that government is especially ill suited for doing so. The recommendations for policymakers in this report are geared toward promoting government policy and actions that create the space where moderate faith leaders and civil society can operate. The consensus emerging from EWI’s conference was that the role government appears best suited to play is a more traditionally liberal one: to protect civilians against attacks, enforce existing laws, address the pertinent risk factors, and leave proactive interventions to the relevant faith communities and civil society. This report recommends that governments: avoid militarizing conflict with extremists, follow the rule of law, take a consistent approach toward extremism and extremists regardless of the faith in question, and
Note on Methodology: The recommendations compiled here represent multiple syntheses: first, by each of the individual researchers of their interview subjects; second, by EWI of the researchers’ reports in the discussion paper for the conference; and, finally, by EWI of the different opinions proffered at the conference. Because the conference was held under the Chatham House Rule, specific individuals are not cited unless they were already identified by name in the research reports submitted to EWI or agreed during subsequent discussions to be sourced directly.
address asymmetries of knowledge. These may appear simple recommendations but, to paraphrase Clauswitz’s famous observation about strategy, they may be simple but that does not mean that they are easy. Leading persons of faith and civil society must then play the more active and interventionist role. Faith leaders are the best equipped to challenge those within their particular religion. They must be encouraged to do so by those outside the faith, and pressured to do so by leaders within the faith. For leading persons of faith, this report recommends: an increased focus on intra-faith efforts based along the inter-faith dialogue model, increasing religious literacy within their own faith, and mobilizing moderates, especially to “name and shame” those who preach hate and violence. For civil society, this report recommends: providing alternative social movement structures for potential recruits, providing a framework for discussion and action, serving as an intermediary and mediator between communities and governments when tensions rise, and providing a framework for intervention. The recommendations following this report are organized around the main three stakeholders and the following rationale: government policies must create the space for moderate leading persons of faith to intervene within their own faiths; those moderate leading persons of faith must do so; and civil society must help facilitate this via both active and reactive means. There is, however, one over-arching recommendation made for all stakeholders, and this regards the appeal of a Manichean response to the extremist worldview.
RECOMMENDATION FOR ALL STAKEHOLDERS Reframing Our Own Manichean Worldview Trying to engage in a competition with religious extremists over who can offer a simpler answer to complex problems will be a losing proposition every time. Further, engaging in a war of words over who represents good and who evil situates the dialogue in the framework of the cosmic war in which extremists are engaged. Extremists—even as their criminal acts must be roundly condemned—should never be dismissed simply as evil. First, there is little chance of convincing them or their supporters that they are on
Published on Jul 23, 2010