The growth of extremist/radical organisations post 9/11 has been exponential, and it is clear that the counter-radicalisation process requires more acceleration at global and local levels. Taking stock of the last 20 years since the September 11 attacks, it is evident that transnational organisations al-Qaida and the Islamic State group (IS) have reduced their worldwide positions due to effective counterterrorism mechanisms. However, the splinter groups that are locally and regionally oriented continue their operations and are ascendant. Efforts to combat extremism/radicalism in the previous 20 years were late in coming, and they were never as well-coordinated as the fight against terrorism. They were also incoherent and focused on a bottom-up strategy. The inclusion of citizens equipping them with education and coherent thinking to counter extremism is very vital. The formal education systems need to incorporate into the curriculum material on tolerance and countering extremist propaganda, teaching how to distinguish information credibility coming from different sources.
During the last 20 years, Muslims across the globe have been seen as the potential source of instability and extremism. The external interventions and imposed procedures of regime change and the subsequent state failures from Afganistan to Iraq have sourced the rise of extremism and radicalism among Muslim youth. To these complexities, rising unemployment and scarcity of resources have led to the inclination of Muslim youth towards extremism. Furthermore, a major credit goes to the media’s negative portrayal and casting of Muslims as a potential threat to peace and stability of the world.
What has the world witnessed over the past two decades is the categorisation of Muslims as the ideal type for and synonymous with radicalism. On the contrary, educated Muslim youth have shattered this narrative by highlighting that the root causes leading to radicalism and extremism must be addressed. Marginalisation, social othering, the constricted political structures and the imposition of western modalities are not the solutions to entrenching Muslim apathies. Instead, what should be acknowledged is that Muslim countries face similar challenges and difficulties as any other country.
The central point to highlight here is that the host of factors responsible for the exacerbation of extremism must be addressed by engaging the citizens in the socio-political processes. The Muslim countries in recent years, from the middle east and north Africa to south Asia, have shifted their approach to a more moderate face to address the imminent concern of extremism and radicalism. Working with education experts from around the world, UNESCO is also forging an international consensus on the importance of the education sector and human-rights-based engagement in the prevention of violent extremism and identifying and examining concrete and comprehensive education sector responses to the threats of violent extremism.
In the Muslim World, educated youth are showing a greater engagement in peace building processes. They clearly understand that extremism and radicalism are not helping the stabilisation and progress in their states. Therefore they are least attracted to extremist organisations, and there is a gradual decrease in attraction towards such organisations. They are well aware of the fact that these organisations are transitory and would destabilise the world and hamper progression. In order to prevent the spread of such organisations, Muslim youth have the responsibility to break their narratives and change people’s perceptions to a greater extent. Also, it is imperative to challenge the stereotyping and construction of narratives casting Muslims in the negative portrayal.