Monday, September 27, 2010

Doha meet discusses rise of radicalism

27 September 2010 - The Peninsula 2010

DOHA: Researchers and experts from Europe, the US and the Arab world gathered here yesterday at a workshop to examine in depth the phenomena of terrorism and resistance.

The two-day workshop which opened yesterday is to explore several areas including terrorism, resistance and radicalisation, international policies and their relation to terrorism and extremism, the role of identity in political conflicts and the rise of terrorism in the 21st century as well as Islam and Muslims and relations with the west.

The event is organised by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council of UK and the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter, the University of Warwick and the New Security Challenges Programme.

Al Jazeera Centre for Studies says that since 9/11, the subject of 'Islamic terrorism' has dominated political and academic discourse, as well as the media across most western countries.

The issue has become the object of political exploitation and media sensationalism, particularly by rightwing forces on the rise in Europe and the US, wilfully mixing up terrorism with resistance to occupation, and Islam with violence.

The Centre says that on the other hand, Muslim minorities in Europe and America are experiencing a growth in radical tendencies, and violent elements among disillusioned angry Muslim youth.

This has served to undermine the bases of security and stability within the societies in question, as well as damaging the interests of Muslim minorities in the west, fuelling fear and suspicion of them by the majority.

Furthermore, escalating American military interventions during the neo-conservative era, with the occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003, and the rise to prominence of a language of confrontation and war, have generated a political and psychological climate conducive to the increase in radical and violent tendencies in the Muslim world, and within Muslim minorities in the west, says the Centre.

In her opening remarks at the workshop, Rosalind Hackett, Professor and Head of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee spoke of her work which focuses on Christian militancy and the rise of radical revivalists Christian groups and their role in conflict and communal tensions in Nigeria.

Hackett stressed the importance of international dialogue among researchers and of sharing research both historical and contemporary.

"It is very important despite the rhetoric on freedom of religion to be aware of the undercurrent of religious intolerance and the persecution of groups like the Mormons and Catholics in the US and Islamophobia needs to be seen in this context," she said.

She also noted that through her work she is trying to promote peace, tolerance and religious coexistence in her own locality.

Alsadiq El Faqih, writer, commentator and political analyst, who also addressed the opening session which was moderated by Rafik Abdelssalem covered a number of issues and pointed to the end of the cold war as the main international event which marked a turning point in the battle of concepts and definitions in international strategies.

Meanwhile, Ben O'Loughlin, reader in International Relations and Co-Director of the New Political Communication Unit at the University of London spoke on the issue of radicalisation trends among Muslim minorities in the UK and particularly among Muslim youth, he also covered the impact of the Internet and the coverage of the Muslim world and the conflicts in the region by mainstream media in the UK.