Monday, September 5, 2016

Quotable: Hedayah on CVE counter-narratives for South East Asia

Donald M. Bishop, "Quotable: Hedayah on CVE counter-narratives for South East Asia,"

Sunday, September 4th 2016
A White House initiative.  A network of partners.  A regional conference.  A unique report. 

A lively and informative May, 2016, report issued by Hedayah, “Counter-Narratives for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in South East Asia,” uniquely blended applied principles of communication with national and community case studies.  Hedayah in Abu Dhabi “aims to be the premier international center for expertise and experience to counter violent extremism by promoting understanding and sharing of good practice.”  Sara Zeiger was the Contributing Editor of the report.

The report highlighted work by All Together Now (Australia), Muslim Community Radio 2MFM (Australia), Mothers’ Schools (Indonesia), Gusdurian Network (Indonesia), the movie “Latitude 6” (Thailand), and A Common Word (Jordan).  It discussed formal and informal channels of communication and the role of diasporas.

Here are some key quotes from the introduction:

  • One element of CVE includes developing effective communications strategies and counter-narratives against violent extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Daesh and their affiliates.

  • In order to identify existing counter-narratives relevant to the region, Hedayah and the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) hosted an expert workshop on “South East Asia Collection of Counter-Narratives for Countering Violent Extremism” in Semarang, Indonesia from 21-23 March 2016. The workshop invited twenty practitioners, academics and government experts, including representatives from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

  • The aim of the Workshop was to collect and collate existing counter-narratives for the region, share good practice, and identify gaps for future counter-narrative development.

  • The workshop in Semarang was part of a broader project to develop a Compendium of counter-narratives for the South East Asia region, which was one of the recommended outcomes of the regional Sydney CVE Summit held in June 2015, a follow-up to the White House CVE Summit in February 2015.

  • The Compendium will be a revisable and updatable point-in-time document that explains existing good practice approaches to counter-messaging informed by key bodies of research; reflects diverse regional practices; includes multiple best practice case studies of effective counter-narrative campaigns drawn predominantly from the region (and abroad); includes analysis of the key reasons for success; includes a list of commonly used terrorist narratives and corresponding counter-narratives; and includes links to online material (such as reference to video/audio files). The Compendium and the annex of counter-narratives referenced in the Compendium will be made available and accessible through Hedayah’s existing Counter-Narrative Library through a link on Hedayah’s website.


  • During the discussions, participants were asked to identify reasons why individuals follow down the path of radicalization and recruitment with respect to localized militant conflicts, transnational and local Al-Qaeda networks, as well as affiliation with Daesh.

  • Some of the main “push” factors, or socio-economic factors and general grievances include: • Islamophobia • Hate speech • Lack of democratization • Lack of education and critical thinking • Ethnic and religious marginalization and intolerance • Poverty • Military operations by Western governments in Afghanistan and Iraq • Feelings of victimhood and secondary trauma related to suffering of Muslims outside the region (Palestinians, refugees from Syria) • Poor justice system • Violence in the community

  • Some of the main “pull” factors, or psycho-social, individualized emotional factors include:  • Political identity • Cultural and religious identity • Influence of media • Feelings of victimhood • Monetary incentives • Idealization of former fighters from Afghanistan and other conflicts • Idea of achieving a “pure Islam” • Sense of adventure • Feelings of power • Opportunity of transformation and change for their communities.

  • Participants agreed that the following arguments should be the main focus of religious and ideological counter-narratives, drawing on work by religious scholars from the region:  1. The concept of jihad as necessarily associated with violence, fard al-ayn.  2. The concept of al-wala wa’l-bara, which polarizes the world between Muslims and non-Muslims.  3. The concept of the “Islamic State” (caliphate) as a political concept that should be achieved through violence.

  • Participants suggested that alternatives to these concepts can be argued based on Islamic scholarship. For example:  1. Reinforcing the concept of jihad as an internal struggle (“greater jihad” al-jihad al-akbar), not a physical or violent one.  2. Emphasizing that Islam is inclusive of all religions and ethnicities. These counter-narratives refute and dismantle the religious and ideological elements of the violent extremist narratives, utilizing religious texts and religious leaders to refute religious claims.

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