80 without some form of rabbinical consent, and so such a tactic could also be effective in this instance. When addressing Protestant or Muslims audiences, statements from the pulpit countering violent activity will likely have the most resonance at the local congregational level. Cardinal O’Connor’s plea was likely effective because it was directed specifically at Malvasi and included no caveats. He did not condemn violence abstractly and then add a lengthy caveat condemning abortion. Nor did Cardinal O’Connor seek to disavow Malvasi as a member of the faith. Instead he dealt with him directly —or at least as directly as he could through the media—as a Catholic who had committed the crime of murder in the name of his faith. It is perfectly fine to say that a violent extremist does not represent Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, but it is also crucial to recognize that they committed the crime in the name of that faith. Simply disowning the perpetrator as “not a real Jew/Christian/Muslim” is exactly the type of Manichean rhetoric in which extremists engage. Leading persons of faith must acknowledge that the problem exists within the faith, and address the wider ideological distortions of theology that made such an act possible. It is not enough, however, for moderates to speak up only in response to violence. A number of the experts EWI interviewed suggested that violence followed the creation of an atmosphere in which murder appeared religiously acceptable and even encouraged. In a liberal democracy, governments cannot and should not censor the proclamation of ideology unless it presents a clear danger. Moderates can intercede and must act as the vanguard in any attempt to erect a moral barrier against extremist movements. According to one cleric, it is the role of every responsible leading person of faith to “name and shame” those constructing the ideological framework on which the commission of violence is based. When hate is preached and violence condoned, either in the media or from the pulpit, moderates must speak up. Where relevant, moderates should publicize hypocritical conduct or perceived moral failings of members and leaders of extremist movements.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CIVIL SOCIETY Eric Hoffer’s observation over fifty years ago that “‘to lose one’s life is but to lose the present; and clearly, to lose a defiled, worthless present is not to lose much” still holds true today.13 Even if an extremist cell or network is destroyed or a movement totally discredited, there must be something new to fill the vacuum created. The political, religious, and civil
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (New York: Harper Collins, 1951), 69.
society communities must work together to fill that void, otherwise another extremist group may well do so. Civil society constitutes everything that exists between the familial level and the state level. It permeates the civic and the religious worlds, and is the space in which all social activity transpires. The range of organizations within the space of true civil society should not be limited to non- governmental organizations (NGOs). The very nature of democratic life requires respect for differences. For this reason, civil society groups that are advancing vision of pluralism, civic tolerance, free speech, citizen participation, and engagement are all helping to foster alternatives to violent extremism. To defeat extremist movements, academia, business, community groups, faith organizations, media, think tanks, and sundry other entities within this space must be mobilized to promote these alternatives. The overarching goal must be two-fold: to provide people with a present that does not leave them desirous of civilization change and willing to sacrifice today for the promise of tomorrow, and to provide people with alternative social structures and movements to belong to. Toward these ends, this report does not have much to offer in the way of recommendations. This may appear at first counterintuitive, since EWI is after all an NGO and would not be expected to neglect its own role. However, it is precisely because of EWI’s intimate knowledge of the breadth of civil society activities that are already dedicated to the aforementioned goal that this report is silent on the matter. Instead, the approach here is to recommend ways to leverage the existing efforts of civil society to maximize their impact in the cause of countering the appeal of extremist movements. To this end, the following recommendations outline how to better utilize the framework of civil society to create a platform for discussion and action, the role civil society can play as an intermediary between governments and communities when tensions arise, and those situations when civil society should be prepared to mobilize its resources and actively intervene in the face of an extremist threat. This said, there is one area where EWI does believe more resources must be directed, and that is toward youth programs. While it is true that a multitude of youth-based civil society programs already exist, mainstream society is still being outspent, outmaneuvered, and outhustled by extremist recruiters when it comes to meeting young people. Though outside the scope of this report, it bears mentioning that gang recruitment is another indicator of failure in this area. EWI’s expertise is not in creation or maintenance of successful youth initiatives. There are plenty of organizations that exist solely for this purpose, and the purpose here is not to recommend to them how to do a better job. Rather, the reason for addressing this is to advocate for more funding for
Published on Jul 23, 2010
Published on Jul 23, 2010