Experts Say Extremism Can Be Fought by Involving Civil Societies

FILE - Officers from the New York Police Department's anti-terror unit patrol Times Square, Nov. 4, 2016.

Fighting terrorism starts with building relationships between communities and security forces, according to Miles Taylor, Counselor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The key to preventing terror attacks is to detect threats early, and the key to that "Is in our community,” Taylor said. And, that includes establishing a continuous connection with societies to dry up extremists’ bases of support worldwide.

Taylor spoke in Washington Friday at a meeting about violent extremism, where analysts discussed how the phenomenon is connected to other societal risks such as organized crime, social unrest and gang-related activities.

Comprehensive strategy?

The United States has taken a number of anti-terrorism initiatives in the past few years called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), which includes some funding for VOA to pursue content in several language, including Kurdish Kurmanji, Kurdish Sorani, Persian, Urdu, Pashtu, Turkish and Russian -- focused on IS and extremist activities of other groups.

The CVE initiatives emphasize empowering local communities by engaging them along with religious leaders with law enforcement, health professionals, teachers and social service employees.

In its 2016 CVE strategy, the Department of Homeland Security found that “Community partners understand the nature of the threat of violent extremism in their communities and can take action to intervene at the earliest opportunity.”

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2016 photo, a faded collage shows images of the 14 victims who were killed in the Dec. 2, 2015, San Bernardino, California, terror attack.

Their plan of action for fighting violent extremism was not limited to jihadist groups, a region or an ideology, and included groups like white supremacists, neo-Nazis and extreme leftist groups.

However, CVE faced a number of challenges like avoiding stigmatizing communities and changing state-centric policies for countering terrorism.

Organic approach

Experts agreed that solutions vary and each case must be dealt with differently. That includes applying creative measures such as providing positive alternatives for people who might otherwise join extremist groups, and identifying why certain social environments produce extremists.

The key point of the seminar was the need to engage local communities in fighting and preventing violent extremism. This involves increasing international cooperation, building resilience among societies and enhancing awareness.

Magnus Ranstrop, the Research Director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies (CATS) at the Swedish National Defense College, urged decision makers to implement what he called “a complex ecology” approach in dealing with different communities.