Please see this one which was published by WEF.

How to stem the rise of Islamic extremism

BY AHMAD IRAVANI

June 9 2016

Inclusive Citizenship amid cultural and religious diversity

State-society relations are organized within a web of institutional and non-institutional channels in a particular historical and cultural context. There are rights and responsibilities built into these relations, as a result of which the state becomes responsive to the pubic demands and the public feels more engaged and part of a collective body. How states exercise their authority influence the citizenry, at the same time, the citizens’ actions and involvement in society have a defining influence in how the state and its exercise of power and authority are viewed by the public. One ought not to forget that the development of the modern nation-state in the west, although in a unique historical experience and probably not entirely and replicable, gave rise to the notion of civic engagement and citizenship and simultaneously the concept of state accountability. Thus, in the western world state-building and nationbuilding along with the relevant normative components including citizenship developed through long-term processes that often entailed violence and conflict. But what ultimately came about, despite its theoretical shortcomings and applicability difficulties across cultures and societies, seems to be the second best choice and one that must be studied and adjusted to local contexts given particularities of each society.

The task to build a state that is accountable to the public and values the notion of citizenship with all its legal and political aspects is a lot more difficult in Iraq. The country has suffered enormously over the last three decades from war and internal conflict. The sheer level of violence in Iraq due to the old regime’s brutal rule, multiple wars, foreign military intervention and terrorism has more or less torn the social fabric apart. A grave consequence of the war and violence has been the generation of ethnic and sectarian conflict, which further erodes social cohesion and public trust in government institutions. These are the prerequisites for building the state-society relations conducive to the formation of responsible citizenship and an accountable government. Iraqi society has had a history of national identity that was built beyond and regardless of sectarian, religious and ethnic divisions. Given that particular past, and if one wants to have an engaged public that enjoys the rights and a government that is responsive to its citizens regardless of their ethnic or religious identities, a few principles must be emphasized.
1. Social trust is an essential part of effective civic engagement and responsible citizenship. The government must build and earn that trust through concrete actions and step by step. This trust comes when the government treats its citizens equally regardless of their religious, and ethnic identities or economic class positions.
2. The role of effective and efficient governance cannot be underestimated in the process of building modern state-society relations. It is understandable that to say this is a lot easier than done, but people respond positively when they see gradual change and when they feel they are involved in the process.
3. Allocating resources to different segments of society regardless of geographical location or religious and political orientations. This is basically the material side of the pubic trust in government meeting the demands of citizens.
4. Power-sharing through both direct electoral participation and civil society involvement is an absolutely integral part of building a social and political trust. People must feel they are taking part, directly or indirectly, in deciding about their community and their country, and that they are not excluded form the political process. In all of the above-mentioned principles religion and religious institutions play a vital role in Iraq, and without them, I am certain that the desired progress cannot be made. The Howzeh and the institution of Marja’iyah, symbolized in the figure of Grand Ayatollah Sistani have managed to pursue an invaluable policy of waning the danger of sectarianism and promoting harmony among different religious groups and identities. Grand Ayatollah Hakim’s policy to promote inclusiveness and drive a non-sectarian message and agenda for all Iraqis has been recognized by many inside and outside Iraq. It is my belief that, given the strong presence of religion among most Iraqis, and given the importance of religious institutions, they will be the critical institutional and non-institutional channels through which the idea of citizenship and effective and accountable government can be promoted and practically implemented. For centuries the institution of religion and its community-based presence have functioned as civil society organizations. Now, that particular form of civil society engagement should be utilized to promote social harmony and religious pluralism within Iraq, and demand a government that is responsive to all citizens equally and regardless their religious or ethnic identities. Iraq is going through a very difficult time rift with violence and conflict. Building a harmonious social compact that include all Iraqi citizens is achievable perhaps only though the notion of citizenship. Although a modern concept, but one needs and can take into account particular cultural, religious and social sensitivities to frame the concept accordingly. But without it, and given the diversity and recent conflicts and insecurity in Iraq, it would be probably very difficult to build a harmonious social order based on trust and mutual state-society responsibility. Religious authority in Iraq today can perform a unique role in promoting diversity, accountability of the state and once again broadening its base in civil society. Presented at the Irbil Conference on Inclusive Citizenship, by :
Ahmad Iravani

The rise of religious radicalism and the spread of hate crime are not confined to particular geographical boundaries, and pose a truly global challenge. Extremist interpretations and narratives of Islam, though still representing a small minority of the faithful, cannot be written off as simply “un-Islamic”. It is a reading of Islam that strikes a chord with a disillusioned, angry, alienated but often educated cohort of Muslim youth. This brand of extremism includes a range of views, some resorting to violent means and others merely advocating hateful beliefs and value systems.

For many within this worldview, Islam is an “authentic” and self-defining narrative that can be used to justify extreme violence. All texts including religious ones are subject to interpretation and we need to offer the core peaceful narrative. Other factors have helped to fuel the spread of extremism. First, within the context of families, communities and the education systems, messages that extremists disseminate are not always effectively countered. Second are the economic issues and difficulties that many of these communities and individuals face, both in Europe and in the region. Third is the political context in many Muslim countries that generate extreme sense of antipathy to and exclusion from the political order and societal channels of self-expression. Lastly and by no means the least is foreign intervention in many Muslim lands, often resulting in extreme and everlasting violence which reverberates across many diaspora and immigrant communities in the Western world.

To combat this global phenomenon, universal and particular approaches must be pursued. First, the long-term solution must begin with reaching out to communities and families as partners, not as targets; as human beings and agencies, not as suspects. Law enforcement, counter-terrorism measures and penal and legal instruments are necessary but not sufficient for the long haul. The outreach should help families and communities hear authentic narratives of Islam which promote peace, mercy and the real practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To achieve this, honest working relations with local Imams and community leaders are necessary.

Secondly, and related to the first issue, is the need to bring together the highest authorities of Islam from different schools to articulate the competing narrative that is both “authentic” and indeed practiced by the vast majority of Muslims. Interfaith dialogues that bring together different religious leaders should be accompanied by grassroots interfaith interaction, not simply to facilitate assimilation but to enhance understanding and respect for particularities and correct the distorted image of Islam and Muslims. Thirdly, social services of religious institutions and life styles of community leaders can play a vital role in shaping youth’s perception and behaviour. This approach has been largely neglected in our efforts to build communities more resilient to messages of hatred and intolerance. At the same time, intra-faith dialogue must be pursued to respond to challenges of sectarianism and misunderstanding.

Fourth is to tackle the structural problem of economic exclusion, which does not lend itself to one-size-fits-all solutions and require government and private-sector coordination and contribution. Last is the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media and entertainment industry. The constructed and often distorted image of the religion over the last decade has led to increasing Islamophobia and the amplification of the already-felt sense of exclusion, discrimination and identity crisis by many young people.

We have to engage the industry without infringing the tenets of free speech and expression. A multifaceted approach must bring all these players – including states in the Middle East and North Africa – together to face the menace of radicalism and violent extremism.

Author: Dr Ahmad Iravani, President and Executive Director, Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME),Fellow at the Catholic University of America, and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.