As governments and societies grapple with violent extremism, experts in the field continue to consider how to counter extremists’ use of ideologies. For a world in which more than 80 percent of people identify themselves as religious, the role of religious leaders, ideas, and institutions is critical to countering the many strains of violent extremism. On January 17 USIP held a discussion of the latest trends in policy and practice around the intersection of religion and its role in preventing and countering violent extremism. A panel of experts presented and discussed practical guidelines around the role of religion in preventing and countering violent extremism. 

Both research and experience make clear that the spread of violent extremism is driven not by religion but by poor governance, injustices, and the radicalization of people who see no future for themselves. But extremists use religious ideas—whether from the traditions of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or other faiths—as tools to encourage radicalization and violence. How can policymakers and practitioners working to counter violent extremism best ally with religions, their institutions and their people? This forum offered recommendations from a recent USIP Special Report on this question. 

The effort to halt violent extremism has engaged the faith leaders and institutions in producing narratives to counter those that advocate violence. What are the next steps? Which practical approaches work best for avoiding undue governmental entanglement in the religious sphere? How can we design programs and policies against violent extremism to be more inclusive of the various sectors of civil society? What are some of the wide-ranging characteristics related to religion and religious identity that both drive and can prevent violent extremism? What are the sensitivities to keep in mind while doing so?

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #ReligionCVEUSIP.

Speakers

Melissa Nozell, Moderator
Senior Program Specialist, Religion & Inclusive Societies, U.S. Institute of Peace
@MelissaNozell

Peter Mandaville
Professor of International Affairs, Schar School of Policy & Government, George Mason University and former senior adviser, Office of Religion & Global Affairs, U.S. Department of State
@PMandaville 

Robin Simcox
Margaret Thatcher Fellow, Davis Institute for National Security & Foreign Policy, The Heritage Foundation
@RobinSimcox

Ann Wainscott
American Academy of Religion Senior Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace
@AnnMWainscott

Related Publications

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Thursday, October 22, 2020

By: Oge Onubogu

Nigeria’s protests against police brutality already were the largest in the country’s history before security forces opened fire on a crowd in Lagos on October 20. The protest and bloodshed have only heightened the need for the government in Africa’s most populous country to end the pattern of violence by security forces against civilians. Leaders must finally acknowledge that this brutality has fueled violent extremism. How the Nigerian government will respond to citizens’ insistent demand for accountable governance will influence similar struggles—for democracy, accountability, nonviolence and stability—across much of Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

Can Syrians Who Left ISIS Be Reintegrated into Their Communities?

Can Syrians Who Left ISIS Be Reintegrated into Their Communities?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

By: Mona Yacoubian ; Chris Bosley; Leanne Erdberg Steadman

More than a year since the territorial defeat of ISIS, the region is still reeling in the wake of the self-styled caliphate’s destruction. Kurdish authorities operate two dozen detention facilities in northeast Syria holding thousands of former ISIS fighters. On October 5, Kurdish authorities in charge of al-Hol said they would free the 24,000 Syrians in the camp, where conditions have become increasingly unsustainable. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian, Chris Bosley, and Leanne Erdberg Steadman look at what led to the decision to release these Syrians and the challenges ahead for reintegrating them into their communities.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Reconciliation; Violent Extremism

To End ISIS, We Must Find Futures for Its Survivors

To End ISIS, We Must Find Futures for Its Survivors

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

By: Chris Bosley

At age 15, Shamima Begum ran away from home in England and, with two girlfriends, ventured into Syria’s war to join ISIS. Within days, she was married to an ISIS fighter; she has since had three children, all of whom have died. Begum, one of 70,000 former residents of the ISIS-declared state now confined in a displacement camp in Syria’s desert, is asking a British court to overturn a government order that stripped her of her citizenship. As nations worldwide seek justice, accountability—and their own security from ISIS’ violent extremism—Begum’s story shows how a “peacebuilding” approach is needed.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Reconciliation

Preparing the Global Counterterrorism Forum for the Next Decade

Preparing the Global Counterterrorism Forum for the Next Decade

Monday, August 17, 2020

By: Eric Rosand

In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks, terrorist networks have become more global and interconnected even as they remain locally tethered. The transnational and localized nature of the threat underscores the continued importance of international cooperation in all aspects of a response. This report explores the work of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, launched in 2011 to energize such cooperation, and how best to position it for an effective and far-reaching future.

Type: Special Report

Violent Extremism

View All Publications