The Pakistani government banned more than 200 groups as extremist or terrorist organizations last year in a significant move to stop the spread of ideological, religious and political extremism that can feed violent conflict. But many ideologically extreme groups still operate openly, with evidence suggesting there is consistent recruiting and engagement with university students. In Sri Lanka, Buddhist ideological extremism fuels negative attitudes about minority ethnic and religious groups. On November 28, U.S. Institute of Peace Jennings Randolph Fellow Rabia Chaudry and other experts discussed the findings of her research on these trends.

A youth displays his support for the Muslim League with a green flag on his bicycle, as seen through the window of a shop, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 8, 2013. General elections in Pakistan are scheduled to be held on Saturday to elect a new parliament.
Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Tyler Hicks

Ideological extremism, radicalization and militancy in Pakistan’s Southern Punjab has been the focus of concern for years. The Pew Research Center’s Social Hostilities Index, which measures acts of religious animosity by individuals, organizations and social groups, rated Pakistan the highest in such antagonism. In Sri Lanka, the Social Hostilities Index stands at 8.3 and has risen steadily since 2007. 

One factor in each case might be persistent efforts by extremist organizations to involve young people. Chaudry’s research project was designed to study whether and how contact across faiths and sectarian divides among college-age youth reduces participation in ideologically extreme groups or belief in negative narratives about people who are different. Continue the conversation on Twitter with #InterfaithCVE.


Rabia Chaudry, Presenter and Moderator
Jennings Randolph Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace

Ayub Ayubi, Panelist
Founder, Renaissance Foundation (Mashal-e-Rah), Pakistan

Georgia Holmer, Panelist
Director of Countering Violent Extremism, U.S. Institute of Peace

Susan Hayward, Panelist
Director of Religion and Inclusive Societies, U.S. Institute of Peace

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