Why radicalisation concerns us all

Speakers at the Fighting Extremism forum in the GCC say nations large and small have a role in the fight against terrorism.

ABU DHABI // The unprecedented challenge that radicalisation poses to the Arab world and international community requires nations to join forces and develop common strategies, experts said on Wednesday.

At The Future Security of the GCC forum in Abu Dhabi, former senior officials, renowned academic and political researchers from the US and Arab region came together to address the threat of growing extremism around the world.

The forum, Fighting Extremism, organised by Trends Research and Advisory, an independent research centre operating out of the UAE, was the first of its kind to be held in the GCC.

Government representatives, ambassadors and dignitaries with backgrounds in politics, security and diplomacy attended the forum.

Gen Peter Pace, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in the United States, told the audience no nation was too big to take part in the battle singlehandedly, nor was any too small not to play a positive role in the fight and make an impact.

Gen Pace stressed the importance of international partnerships and collective efforts in the fight against radicalisation and extremist violence.

Disenfranchised communities and individuals were the most vulnerable to developing vengeful, extremist ideologies, he said. Governments, therefore, were responsible for guaranteeing the security and welfare of their citizens and of giving them hope of a better future.

“My country has made mistakes in the past, but we have learnt from our mistakes and we are willing to sit with our partners and discuss ways to avoid making the same mistakes in the future,” said the general, when asked about certain views that US policies in the Middle East had led to the emergence of extremism.

Dr Ahmed Thani Al Hameli, chairman of Trends Research and Advisory, said that risks threatening GCC states were not solely restricted to ideological extremism, but also came from Iran’s nuclear programme.

In some instances a sense of injustice had given way to violent extremism in the Arab world, said Dr Al Hameli. “It isn’t justifiable, but it is a fact,” he said, making particular note of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“The Palestinian Authority addressed the UN Security Council today in a bid to push for the creation of an independent state amid fears of their motion being vetoed down by the US. This generates a sense of injustice in the Arab World and unless the Palestinian crisis is resolved, extremism will not abate.”

Talk also focused on the role the media plays, especially in the way hostile events are presented in different areas, said Dr Michael Stohl, professor of communication and director of the Orfalea Centre for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Media outlets usually convey the messages and views of their respective governments,” he said.

Some countries choose to downplay extremist assaults, he said, as was the case in Australia this week when the government, addressing the nation on the fatal siege that took place in Sydney, denounced the act as criminal. Elsewhere, as with the US, governments emphasise the terrorist nature of attacks.

Retired United States navy admiral James Stavridis underlined the need to “build bridges rather than walls”.

During his discussion he focused on the need for proper communication, education and cultural exchange among nations, all of which could help people better understand each other and the respective challenges and grievances they have to deal with.

Participants in the forum recommended the exploration, analysis and monitoring of threats and risks to the security of the Arabian Gulf, as well as the development of collaborative scenarios to address them.

newsdesk@thenational.ae

Published: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM

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