The Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) held its annual workshop on countering extremism from 16 to 17 September, at the Marina Mandarin Singapore. Organised by CENS’ Radicalisation Studies Programme, this year’s iteration was titled “The Next Lap”, which recognised the progress made in recent years, while also highlighting emerging challenges and encouraging fresh innovative ideas.
A prominent theme at the workshop was how diverse the field has become, both in terms of the various extremist narratives mobilising people to violence, and the range of different nations now forced to deal with the outcomes and impact of extremism. Discussions included the evolution of the Salafi-Jihadi ideology; motivations driving foreign fighters from the Western Balkans; prison-based radicalisation in the Maldives; tactics used by the radical left-wing networks in the United Kingdom; Hindu nationalism in India; and current relational dynamics between hard-line Islamists and violent jihadis in Indonesia.
Particularly well-received was a panel outlining the UK government’s Prevent programme, which aims to steer people away from violent extremism through tailored social interventions. A former extremist turned Prevent mentor delivered an engaging account of his life’s trajectory; and senior representatives from the Home Office and Midlands Police provided a frank overview of Prevent’s success, shortcomings, and continuing development.
Two civil society activists from the devastated southern Philippines city of Marawi offered a poignant account of the ongoing challenges associated with recovery and rebuilding efforts following the 2017 siege, and the possibilities of more violence. Another panel covered similar themes by illustrating the multi-stakeholder response to the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand in March.
Beyond presentations and subsequent discussions, the annual workshop aims to connect people committed to preventing extremism in different contexts. Following informal conversations at this year’s event, representatives of the Christchurch City Council have held Skype meetings with their counterparts in Leicester City to discuss potential collaboration to build resilience in their respective communities.