A genealogical study of terrorism and counter-terrorism discourses
This chapter traces the discursive origins of the term violent extremism and discusses the socio-political consequences of its specific discursive formation in Western countries. It argues that the mere utterance of ‘violent extremism’, in fact, reveals a discursive shift in contemporary terrorism and counterterrorism. Initially, the specific terminology was employed by the US government to interpret the threats mainly posed by foreign Islamic extremism, al Qaida in particular; however, with the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or ISIL) and the risk of lone-wolf attacks plotted by so-called ‘foreign fighters’ in many European countries, violent extremism was eventually conceptualised and understood by many as a severe threat to both national and international security. Accordingly, a series of policy practices were prompted and implemented by government authorities, such as the US-led war against violent extremism and Britain’s Prevent programme. Indeed, research shows that the discursive formation of ‘violent extremism’ led to severe political consequences, particularly racism, discrimination and the exclusion of Muslim minorities.
This chapter reflects on the subject of extremism from a poststructuralist perspective, addressing the question from a triple dimension: knowledge, power and subject. This way, it considers extremism as a discourse that produces political subjectivities and is constituted through its opposite: moderation. Thus, the text analyses the discourses on extremism as a way of exercising power through knowledge, asserting that they constitute both the extremist other and the moderate desirable self. This subjective constitution is contextualised within what is defined as the global liberal government and its particular way of intervention on the conditions of freedom. It concludes that discourses on extremism function to constitute a moderate liberal subject that actualises and reinforces this particular form of global governmentality.
This chapter investigates the standardisation and legitimisation of countering extremism at an international level. Based on Critical Discourse Analysis, this work examines the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) discourse on terrorism, specifically in its relation to extremism. Here, a significant shift took place and the concept of extremism became central to the UNSC’s counter-terrorism activity. It is therefore argued in this work that the concept has problematically been assigned discursively a wide range of meanings. These encompass phenomena that go from physical violence to behaviours and even narratives and ideas. The UNSC has reflected but also mutually constituted this shift in the global discourse on terrorism, broadening and legitimising states’, and its own, exceptional powers. Moreover, in virtue of its legal and political powers, the UNSC has not only produced a discourse on this menace but has also established international legal norms and bodies and enforced them on states of the international community. Describing and discussing these processes, the present chapter thus analyses what is better conceptualised as a Foucauldian dispositif of extremism. Through this, it will be argued, the international organisation enforced a global, standardised governmentality which encompassed the public and political realm but also the private and domestic sphere.
The ‘suspect community’ can be seen as the product of legal and security apparatuses – of a larger cultural ‘imaginary’ – rather than as an embodied community of Muslims, Irish etc. This re-conceptualised suspect community, created in the securitised imagination, is enacted in the security practices of counter-terrorism through processes of ‘othering’. The boundaries of this ‘community’ are permeable, shifting, and in the eye of the beholder. Based on this understanding of the ‘suspect community’, this paper asks why right-wing attacks and white right-wing extremists are rarely labelled as terrorists and why the salience of their violence has failed to produce a suspect community of white males; and why, in the light of this violence, the insecurity of the suspect community itself is not a security priority. The chapter concludes that ‘terrorism’ and the performance of counter-terrorism is rooted in the politics of colonialism and serves to subordinate particular ‘others’. In these ways, counter-terrorism deploys and reproduces a colonial world order both domestically and internationally.
Extremism and the ‘politics of mutual envy’ in Nigeria?
This chapter critically engages with the politics of extremism and radicalisation in Nigeria, from postcolonial and poststructuralist perspectives. Although ‘religious’ and sectarian intolerances have a long history in Nigeria, academic interest in countering violent extremism (CVE) is recent. However, despite the optimism that this ‘soft’ approach has generated, a perusal of contemporary literature on CVE in Nigeria shows a serious flaw; a cornucopia of taken-for-granted ‘truths’, recycled with gusto, without attention to their underlying politics, which forecloses the possibilities of a richly nuanced and critical understanding of terrorism and its relation to cognate phenomena. This chapter argues that extremism is an ideological tool that the Nigerian state adopts in practising its own version of politics of mutual envy, which is a manifestation of an uncritical perpetuation of (post-)colonial mimicry. Phenomena constructed as extremist are entrenched in the fabric of the history of Northern Nigeria, where Islam – based on varying inflections – has constituted the fulcrum for both hegemonic and counterhegemonic struggles for almost a millennium. Therefore, the historical antagonistic metaphorical binary of ‘Islam vs the West’, which ‘violent extremism’ (a move towards the former) is hinged upon, flounders when exposed to historical, political, social and cultural sensibilities of Northern Nigeria.
This chapter critically evaluates strategies that counter extremism from a peace studies approach. Acknowledging recent calls for more non-violent approaches to counter-extremism and counter-terrorism more generally, it contributes by examining how peace studies can offer a critical framework to examine the impact of the increasing emphasis on extremism, as indicated by many chapters within this volume. This chapter develops a matrix of peace and violence to evaluate whether current approaches to countering extremism engender peace or violence. It argues that current counter-extremism approaches engender plural forms of violence: epistemic violence through promoting homogeneity and securitising diversity, cultural violence through conflating diversity with threat and legitimising the transformation of Islamic communities into an imagined suspect community, and direct violence in interrogating students thought to be at risk of radicalisation. Such high levels of violence indicate the counter-productive and damaging nature of contemporary counter-extremism. The chapter offers a possible solution for a peaceful counter-extremism, built on the framework of agonism and agonistic peace.
Feminist critiques of countering violent extremism
Following on the feminist assertion that the personal is political, this chapter uses the focus of countering violent extremism (CVE) programmes on the personal lives of individuals as an opening to offer critiques. It focuses on the way CVE instrumentalises the private realm as a realm of security politics. I argue that this takes the private activity of some and posits it as always potentially threatening precisely because it takes place in the home. I examine this by telling two stories: first, of the way women’s liberation exists as a subnarrative of the focus on the home lives of potential Islamic terrorists; and second, in the way CVE focuses on the community, it focuses on countering recruitment strategies, which in the case of female recruits, focuses on their vulnerability to potential exploitation. It uses these stories to explore the gendered logic of CVE in the way it renders the site of the home subject to security management.
This chapter focuses on non-violent extremism in counter-terrorism strategy, and looks at the wider implications and unintended consequences of pre-emptive approaches in counter-terrorism policy. It pays particular attention to those policies that aim to address extreme and radical ideas in education. It explains what an educational response, as distinct from a security response, to extreme and radical ideas involves and why it matters, and focuses on three primary issues that have significant implications for educational practice and policy: (1) developments in European law and policy to regulate and address extremism; (2) the privileging of pre-emptive and anticipatory risk logics in an expanding field of counter-terrorist strategy; and (3) the adoption of the language of safeguarding against the risk of radicalisation and extremism. It explains why developing educational responses to extreme and radical ideas is important, how such responses differ from both political and security responses, how to distinguish between the different norms governing educational, political and security spaces, and why the shift to pre-emptive logics in counter-terrorism policies and non-violent extremism is problematic for education. It explains why it is important to engage with a wide range of ideas, values, traditions and dispositions in educational spaces and how counter-terrorist policies risk undermining educational practice. Finally, it offers a description of the norms, practices and values that govern educational spaces and pedagogical practices.
Banning them, securing us offers a rich and expansive exploration of the politics
of proscribing – or banning – terrorist organisations in Britain. The book calls
attention to the remarkable, and overlooked, role of proscription debates and
decisions in contemporary UK politics. Using primary empirical research, the
book shows how parliamentary processes of proscribing ‘illegitimate’
organisations is as much a ritual performance as it is a technique for
countering political violence. This ritual, we argue, is a performance of
sovereignty and powerful framing of Britain as a liberal, democratic, moderate
space. Yet, it represents a paradox too. For proscription’s processes have
limited democratic or judicial oversight, and its outcomes pose significant
threats to democratic norms, human rights, political dissent and citizenship
more broadly. The book breaks important new ground on the politics of
terrorism, counter-terrorism, security and democracy. It will be widely read by
researchers and students across Security Studies, International Relations,
Political Science, History, Sociology and beyond.
This chapter reflects on the UK’s use of proscription, and the implications
of this for our knowledge of national security today. The historical and
relational contexts explored in the book demonstrate – we argue – the
ongoing relevance of proscription, and particularly the international
influence of the UK’s proscription traditions, in shaping state
administration. The multiple functions assigned to this power, moreover,
also exposes proscription as a versatile tool of political convenience for
regulating ideas and, in particular, political symbols. Here we suggest that
central to proscription is the British state’s preoccupation with symbolic
power, whether displayed through the flying of flags, the wearing of
uniforms, the performance of rituals or the recitations of oaths. On this
analysis, proscription is concerned with denying symbolism to illegitimate
entities even though, or perhaps because, citizenship itself is a
symbolically constituted status. This sensitivity to rituals, we argue, has
wider implications for security scholars insofar as it potentially renders
visible other security moves by state institutions, and for our
understanding of the political more broadly.