FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
A Counter-narrative
Posted:Jan 6, 2016
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Mohammed Ali Babakhel
 
For decades we have remained in a state of denial about terrorism and militancy, shielding ourselves behind a thick screen of ambiguity.
 
However, after a long spell of extremism, there is growing realisation that force alone cannot defeat violent extremism, therefore, the situation warrants the knitting of a natio­nal counter-narrative. Yet without understanding the radicalisation process — how and why individuals are converted to extremist causes — it would be difficult to counter the poisonous narrative of the radicals.
 
Extremist organisations like the militant Islamic State group focus on religion, or rather their version of it. Right from their motto, emblem and flag to their appearance, everything is wrapped in religious colours. Such organisations also try to convince their followers about the benefits of a ‘caliphate’ and envision waging a struggle for the revival of the system, as opposed to the existence of the modern nation-state system.
 
NAP’s formulation indicates we have abandoned our state of denial.
Countering extremism with a narrative falls within the ‘softer’ approaches. Before the APS attack there seemed to be little clarity about clamping down on the glorification of acts of terrorism.
 
But the formulation of the National Action Plan indicates that at last we have left our state of denial and opted for clarity. Point five of NAP categorically explains the resolve of the state to counter hate speeches and extremist material. Point 11 bans glorification of extremists on mass media. Prior to NAP, non-state actors captured significant airtime and space in the media. To reduce space on social media, point 14 determines that action shall be taken against those who lure youth towards extremism through social media.
 
As our electronic media is still in a nascent phase, it is unable to set an agenda that may promote de-radicalisation. Gone are the days when state-run PTV dedicatedly promoted ‘Pakistani’ values. To inform and educate are two universal functions of the media but our media hardly educates the audience regarding the national narrative.
 
By employing force, we may quell visible extremists, but prevention of the incubation process of violent extremism requires softer approaches. Undoubtedly, through the media the state can easily educate citizens and in response, citizens may volunteer to protect the state’s interests.
 
Ideally, who shall draft the narrative — the state, media or the intelligentsia? All three have a role. The national narrative should be drafted by the intelligentsia as desired by the state and should be amplified by the media. In the past, the intelligentsia, media and state-run institutions operated in isolation hence synergised efforts are required on the part of all stakeholders. While drafting a narrative an inclusive, holistic approach will pay dividends.
 
Groups like Al Qaeda promote a narrative of the Islamic world under threat, hence the obligatory need to defend it through ‘jihad’. The unbridled influence of such elements has increased militancy and sectarianism.
 
Extremists try to make issues related to health, education and democracy controversial. For example, the role of NGOs, polio vaccination, girls’ education and women’s right to vote are topics the extremists repeatedly raise. Militants term such issues as part of a foreign and ‘un-Islamic’ agenda, hence illiterate, poor folk are left with few options but to jump on the bandwagon.
 
In the counter-narrative, the messenger, message and target audience all are important constituents. An effective counter-narrative requires naming and shaming a terrorist leadership, highlighting the sufferings of victims and the fact that the extremists’ interpretation of religion is inaccurate.
 
A more logical interpretation of religion is the clergy’s domain. A few individuals in this domain, like Maulana Hassan Jan, Mufti Shamzai, Dr Farooq and Mufti Sarfaraz Naeemi, have been silenced forever. Hen­ce protecting the messengers should be the state’s responsibility.
 
A counter-narrative must be more creative, proactive, flexible and positive than reactive. An appealing, logical and viable narrative is not possible without reforming the curriculum and educational system.
 
Clarity should be the essence of the message; it should not only prevent violent extremism but also change the mindset that accepts violence. Extremist narratives are based on violence, hence the state should glorify the dividends of peace. The narrative should highlight how because of terrorism Muslims have suffered much and incurred major losses. Political parties should also discuss the counter-narrative in their manifestos. To convert NAP into reality is a collective responsibility. We are still looking to state institutions alone; why not incorporate teachers, parents, sportsmen and the youth?
 
The counter-narrative should also say that carrying guns is the prerogative of the state alone. If this happens it will synchronise with Article 256 of the Constitution that forbids the functioning or existence of armed militias.
 
The writer is a police officer.
 
Dawn, January 7, 2016
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
A Pakistani minister set the proverbial cat amongst India’s foreign policy establishment by announcing that Pakistan was thinking of constitutional changes to make Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province.
 
read-more
India is well on course to embracing the change brought in by the agent of change -- PM Modi, writes Sanjay Kumar Kar for South Asia Monitor.  
 
read-more
To build a better future for all, the government in Dhaka will have to think about how to ensure inclusive education for all in the country, writes Minhazur Rahman Rezvi for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
spotlight image 'Covert military actions or surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan have limited utility that won't change the mind of the Pakistan Army or the ISI  which sponsor cross-border terrorism
 
read-more
In Dutch politics, alliances are imperative to construct an administration. The post-election government formation is, therefore, a slightly time-consuming process. In due course, a coalition led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, will surface.  
 
read-more
Japan is a special country in several ways. For centuries, it remained isolated and disconnected with the outside world. But once it opened itself up to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 by the use of force by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States Navy, Japan has never looked back. Japan is a spe
 
read-more
Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and earlier under the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of women-friendly initiatives.  Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the
 
read-more
spotlight image Arun Jaitley, with his legal and political acumen, is the best bet for Narendra Modi after Manohar Parrikar, who could also understand technological as well as financial demands of the defence ministry.           
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive