More than twenty years after the end of the fighting, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has continued to face the war’s aftermath. BiH’s post-war political and socio-economic conditions have shown little improvement, raising the real possibility of renewed armed conflict. BiH confronted a new challenge that exacerbated its stalled development and bleak future: foreign fighters joining wars in Syria and Iraq. Although ample research has been undertaken to ‘counter violent extremism’ (CVE), policymakers and academics still struggle to explain why Bosnian citizens took up arms in states they had never visited, alongside recruits they had never met, against enemies they had never encountered. Moreover, despite the bevy of research and recommendations, in general, the BiH government does not know how to mitigate future occurrences of violent extremism. Consequently, this chapter analyses the inapplicability of mainstream CVE logic in this multi-ethnic country, and in particular, its orthodox approach to Islamic fundamentalism. It argues that post-conflict states must do more to deliberately minimise romanticised notions of war in efforts aimed at younger generations, especially in countries like BiH, where the peacebuilding process never effectively took root.
Midway into the war on terror, in 2007, Pakistan witnessed the spectacular and bloody encounter between state forces and the resisting disciples of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the capital city of Islamabad. This event exposed the lack of national consensus about religious extremism and the place of religion in Pakistan. This chapter outlines CVE policy discussions about terrorism and counter-terrorism in Pakistan as exclusively steered by the military establishment. These have been masculine and imbricated in religio-nationalism and have excluded the voices of women, minorities, civilian or secular sensibilities. The radical role played by the women of the Lal Masjid defied the post-9/11 theories about Muslim women’s docile agency, or those that portrayed Islamist women as victims of ‘liberal-secular’ demonising and misunderstanding. Instead, the uprising of the women of the seminary of the Jamia Hafsa directly challenged the proposal that mosque women’s politics benignly and rationally pivots simply around their piety. It revealed the precarious nexus between piety, agency, and radical or extremist politics. The chapter argues that CVE is unlikely to progress unless this connectivity between piety and radical religious narratives is recognised and opposed, and women’s voices are included in CVE policymaking.
This chapter introduces the reader to the books. It contextualises the problematic discourses and practices related to extremism and underlines the importance and unique aspects of this book. It then describes the content of each chapter and links them together. Lastly, it provides an overview of ‘what can be learnt’ from the book as a whole.
Recent years have seen the proliferation of discourses surrounding extremism and related terms. Encountering Extremism offers readers the opportunity to interrogate extremism through a plethora of theoretical perspectives, and to explore counter-extremism as it has materialised in plural local contexts. Through offering a critical interrogation along these two planes – the theoretical and the local – Encountering Extremism presents a unique, in-depth and critical analysis of a profoundly important subject. This book seeks to understand, and expose the implications of, a fundamental problematic: how should scholars and strategists alike understand the contemporary shift from counter-terrorism to counter-extremism?
Starting with a genealogical reflection on the discourse and practices of extremism, the book brings together authors examining the topic of extremism, countering extremism and preventing extremism from different theoretical perspectives, such as critical terrorism studies, postcolonialism and gender studies. It then turns to analyses of the specific consequences of this new discourse in international and local contexts such as the United Nations, Nigeria, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Spain.
US far-right extremists have killed people and armed militias have occupied government lands. Despite these violent activities, these individuals – the majority of whom are white men – are not often described as extremists by the media and government. Instead, the main focus of US countering violent extremism (CVE) is on Muslim and Arab-Americans. This chapter considers this erasure of far-right and militia violence in US CVE and suggests that a race-based analysis of violent extremism in the US offers insights into various implications of who is (not) considered a threat. It uses concepts of Islamophobia and ‘suspect communities’ to analyse US CVE practices. Examining the cases of armed occupation of federal lands in 2014 and 2016 and comparing these with ‘extremism’ cases in Minneapolis, along with an extensive analysis of the Department of Homeland Security’s CVE programme grants, this chapter illustrates the racialised nature of who is considered ‘extremist’ in the US. Centralising race illustrates how ‘extremism’ is linked mainly with brown bodies, while erasing violence by white men from debates and policies on countering violent extremism.
This chapter aims at offering an overview of the discourse of international donors funding preventing violent extremism (PVE) programmes in Tunisia. Since 2016, a multitude of PVE initiatives have been funded by international donors in the field of cooperation for development. Tunisian youth, as well as women, have been the target and the first beneficiaries of these projects. However, the donors’ discourse contributes to the tendency of the securitisation of youth in the Southern Mediterranean, intersecting with the broader context of the securitisation of developmental aid. Moreover, the involvement of women in PVE programmes raises important questions about their instrumentalisation in PVE practices, aside from the fact that the donors’ discourse also reflects a general essentialisation of the female role within families and communities. Furthermore, the chapter will address the question of the donors’ problematic understanding of notions such as peace, social cohesion and inclusion that results in boosting the status quo and is aimed at maintaining the existing relations of power. Finally, the chapter will explore some of the implications of seeing the issue of violent extremism as a territorialised problem in marginalised and disenfranchised areas of the country.
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.