Many efforts to provide counter-narratives for Salafi-jihadism are currently failing to address extremists’ abuse of religious scripture directly, according to analysts Rachel Bryson and Milo Comerford.
Efforts to combat extremism through religious counter-narratives are expanding across the Muslim-majority world. But while a new study of over three thousand diverse religious texts showcases the rich potential for mainstream Islam to rebut extremist interpretations of theology, it also finds that counter-narrative efforts are inadequately confronting extremists’ abuse of scripture and recourse to disputed religious concepts, they write for Carnegie’s Sada Journal:
In Western countries, diverse Muslim-led civil-society responses—such as the UK-sponsored Imams Online project—also provide credibility and community access for counter-narratives. And as more local actors refute extremist interpretations of Islamic scripture, governments can distance themselves from accusations that their efforts to counter destructive ideologies are an attempt to cultivate a state-sanctioned Islam, a perception that plays into extremists’ hands.
“As public debates about Islamist extremism grow, efforts to counter it may be more effective if they directly take on verses and hadith most cited by extremists, engaging with the concepts they most focus on, and offering alternative interpretations,” say Bryson and Comerford, analysts in the Co-Existence team at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.