1. Let’s start with a succinct introduction for the (undeserved) benefit of the clueless.
Countermessaging talks about countering terrorist (or extremist) narrative – a narrative that for all its senselessness has proven more persuasive than it should be.
2. Translate to easier terms please? Well, alright.
Simply put, there are too many new recruits being recruited into these radical organizations on an alarmingly frequent basis.
3. Now let’s walk through why you would think this could work by asking first, what the root of the problem is:
Well for one thing, Islam is largely becoming synonymous with radicalism – the result of a growing bias among non-Muslims that the religion is incompatible with today’s free society. Now, this means that any follower of Islam is vulnerable to the doctrine of these so called upholders of the faith into actually thinking that their devotion is exemplified in inhuman acts of violence against those who oppose the faith or rather, choose another faith. What feeds this is the overwhelming bias and prejudice against Muslims. It makes Muslims feel like outcasts, like renegades. Naturally, the next ‘logical’ step to them would then be to join the fight against the world when it so willingly welcomes it.
4. So how will this help?
What countermessaging aims to do is put Islam scholars, many of whom are devoted Muslims, on the platform to counter the narrative that every soul that practices Islam is an extremist and should be seen as an anti-social element, a dangerous and deranged rebel, that Islam is a dogmatic, imperial religion, a religion of zero tolerance. It hopes to foster and ingrain the idea that is believed by traditional Islamists to be the truth, that Islam is a religion of peace, a religion of love. The idea is quite obvious. By getting Muslims to realize that humanity has not lost faith in them or that the only way to stay true to their faith is not by carrying out inane acts of terrorism, spilling innocent blood, we should, technically, be able to turn them away from accepting those things as characteristics of being Muslim.
5. Wow, you’re right! But wait, there’s more.
Sadly, the world will not see this. A vast majority continue to unfairly disparage Muslims which has inevitably caused disrepute in the community. Having read till this point, most of you probably agree that effective countermessaging really is the answer.
6. Now for the problem.
What if recruits being recruited on social messaging and popular communications platforms constitute a measly one or two percent of the total count? What if the open hostility towards Muslims is only too rampant across all layers of society, in so many countries, so much so that it has made many members of the community passive and incorrigible?
7. Right. So that brings us back to effective countermessaging being the answer.
But, in poorer, less secure countries – countries where terrorists could quite easily make and harvest recruits and explosives – a category which most of the world’s countries belong to, societal factors like the lack of opportunity, shabby pay, among existing problems like bigotry and antagonism can immensely bolster the inveterate mentality that is so fast developing among so many in the community. A sophisticated, high-tech, countermessaging program could never have the outreach required to address the sheer gravity of the problem.
8. The only thing that could sufficiently tackle the problem is a sweeping reform across the scores of people that unnecessarily victimize Islam and all its followers.
Sounds magical doesn’t it? But, it’s true.
9. What does that mean? There’s no giving Muslims the benefit of the doubt. It’s about time they got over their insecurities, you say?
If every person realized that a Muslim is another person, of a chosen faith – the wild misinterpretation and mischaracterization of which have people now branding an entire community (and I really want you to think about how large this community really is) as intemperate and disposable; a community that practices peace and freedom alongside strong deference to a respected and loved central-figure in Prophet Muhammad or Allah, it might just spell the end of extremism.
10. What is the answer?
This is a formless issue making it difficult to zero in on a specific factor that may hold most weight in the problem’s composition. At the end of the day, it’s a social responsibility and one that cannot simply fall on governments. A reshaping needs to take place, one aimed at erasing the malcontent and propaganda surrounding Islam, or any other such religion or ideology that might come up in future. People like saying “free society” so much. Well, it’s time EVERYBODY felt that way.
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