Fighting violence with truth: undermining the narrative
February 5, 2013
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The struggle against world hunger is being lead by the World Food Programme, which not only provides tons of emergency food but also educates people on sustaining crops. The World Vision organization fights child slavery and child sex trafficking by establishing schools and safe child living centers. And leaders of the European Union are trying to keep countries like Spain and Greece financially afloat through loans. How does one fight against a violent ideology with a global impact though?
History may provide some answers for us. Domestically, the Ku Klux Klan had a stronghold on the minds of many racist Americans with an ideology of white supremacy. Through a sweeping civil rights campaign, a democratic nation turned its back on this violent and extreme ideology. Another example comes from abroad. In Germany, the Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were racially superior and that the Jews, deemed inferior, were an alien threat to the Aryan community. A distinctive difference between these two examples is that this latter ideology was rooted in the political regime of a totalitarian state. As the Nazi party was defeated, thus down went the violent Nazi beliefs of Aryan supremacy.
My thoughts now turn to the Middle East, where some violent jihadists plague the region with destruction. The Middle East is a region where the citizens cannot democratically change extremist ideology by passing a civil rights law. It is an area where this violent ideology cowardly fights in the shadows and cannot be taken down by force like the Nazi party. This extreme form of jihadism instructs Muslims to destroy the unbelievers. Islamic terrorism is justified by extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and Hamas in two ways: an extreme interpretation of jihadism, one that abandons the true nature of jihad as a defensive or even an internal struggle against oppression, and a following of an ideology called the Narrative.
Although finding an electronic version of this ideology was unsuccessful, some light can still be shed on the Narrative. It asserts that the West is at war to destroy Islam. Groups like Al-Qaeda have embraced this ideology and attempted to subvert others to achieve their end state of restoring the ancient caliphate, a religious state governed by the supreme caliph, over the Islamic world. The Narrative seeks to purge Islam of outside influence through violent means. Frustration over unwanted United States presence in the Middle East has only empowered the extremists’ message to other Muslims. The Narrative teaches that the United States’ government attacked its own citizens on 9/11 to justify invading the Middle East to fight Islam. It teaches that the West wants to exterminate all Muslims.
Countering the ideology of the Narrative is the single most important objective to defeat violent Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, the Narrative now enjoys a pervasive foothold in Islamic society. While eliminating key individual targets of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban organizations like Osama Bin Laden may help weaken the violent groups, simply using military means to destroy the various messengers of this ideology will continue to prove difficult and costly. As a long term approach, a couple measures can be taken to defeat the violent ideology of the Narrative: improving public diplomacy efforts, trying to correct the false teachings in Middle Eastern schools, and partnering with de-radicalized extremists to counter the Narrative.