One of the unique challenges regarding extremism in the past few decades has been that of Islamist extremism, particularly understanding what it is and what it isn’t.
Movements stretching across the globe, including within Muslim communities in the West, have taken a noble religion – Islam – and appropriated it to form the basis of an ideology that seeks to divide Muslims from non-Muslims as well as from each other. The lure of Islamism has led to thousands of young Muslims across the world to either join extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and al-Shabaab or to commit terrorist attacks in the West on their behalf. The issues that surround Islamism are also exploited by the far-right and others to demonise Muslims living in the West to deny them their human and civil rights or to disrupt societies through the political process.
ISD’s subject matter experts understand Islamist extremism on a personal level, either having studied the ideology as former members of extremist groups or through their personal experiences as members of Western Muslim communities in North America and Europe. Understanding the nuances behind Islamist extremism and how it differs from the peaceful practice and heritage of Islam means that ISD can effectively guide civic policy and outreach through civil society partners that are from Muslim communities themselves. This includes online and offline projects seeded through ISD’s Online Civil Courage Initiative (with Facebook) and Innovation Fund projects (with Google.org), as well as global training workshops through ISD’s YouthCAN network that extend from Malaysia to India to Kenya and Europe. All are underpinned by ISD’s research and online trend mapping to ensure positive impact within affected communities and conducted in partnership with them.