Over the course of three webinars, the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) at RSIS brought together leading experts to discuss the issue of extremism in 2023 and beyond.
The first webinar on 18 January 2023 discussed “Global and Local Terrorism: Evolutions 2023 and Beyond”. Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow at FDD and editor of FDD’s Long War Journal; Dr Charlie Winter, Director of Research at ExTrac; and Dr Colin P. Clarke, Director of Research at The Soufan Group; examined the global terror landscape in contemporary times and lent insight to national security trends in 2023 and beyond. Bill Roggio and Dr Winter shared threat analyses of Afghanistan and the Islamic State (IS). In Afghanistan post-American withdrawal, the Taliban continues to re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with the support of Al-Qaeda and a host of regional and local Jihadist groups. Despite weakened capabilities of the IS in Iraq and Syria, these countries persist as the core ideological arena for the movement, while an explosion of Jihad through Africa can be observed. Taking the conversation beyond Islamic extremism, Dr Colin Clarke explored the rise of the violent Far Right, particularly in the United States, and discussed the impact of post-organisational violent terrorism and “Salad Bar Terrorism” on national security prediction capabilities.
The second webinar, held on 15 February 2023, expanded on the issue of right wing extremism, focusing on the topic of “Evolutions of Right-wing Extremism.” The speakers included Dr Charlie Winter, Dr Eviane Leidig, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at Tilburg University; Dr Kacper Rekawek, Fellow at the Centre for Research on Extremism (C-Rex), University of Oslo; and Dr Julia Ebner, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The speakers provided an in-depth analysis of the rise of new forms of extremism and the proliferation of online subcultures promoting hate and bigotry, among other topics. They discussed the various sophisticated methods, including the use of imagery and gamification, exploited by extremist movements to disseminate their messages and recruit new followers. The webinar also covered the similarities in strategic communication between far-right extremism and Jihadism, as highlighted by Dr Winter. Dr Leidig and Dr Ebner explored the role of women in promoting right wing extremism and the gamification of the movement. Speaking on the Russia-Ukraine war, Dr Rekawek focused on the increasing popularity of foreign fighters and their relationship with right wing extremism. Overall, the webinar provided valuable insights into the evolving nature of right wing extremism and the challenges that need to be addressed to prevent its further spread.
The final webinar of the series, held on 9 March 2023, was titled “Extremism and Hate in Indonesia and Malaysia”. Speakers included Dr Ahmad El-Muhammady, Assistant Professor, International Institute of Islamic Thought at Civilisation, International Islamic University of Malaysia; Aizat Shamsuddin, Founder, Initiative to Promote Tolerance and Prevent Violence; Siti Darojatul Aliah, Founder and Director, Society against Radicalism and Violent Extremism; and Dr Quinton Temby, Assistant Professor in Public Policy, Monash University Indonesia. The discussants for this webinar were Dr Shashi Jayakumar, Head, Centre of Excellence for National Security; and Cameron Sumpter, Adjunct Fellow, Centre of Excellence for National Security. Dr El-Muhammady and Mr Shamsuddin debated the emergence of extremism in Malaysia, including the recent proliferation of hateful content on social media, the susceptibility of Malaysian youths to radicalisation, as well as a framework for studying the far-right in a local, non-Western context. Ms Aliah and Dr Temby examined developments in Indonesian extremism, such as shifts in local extremists’ strategies and views, the reorganisation of terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Darul Islam, potential threats leading up to the 2024 General Election, and the efforts taken to deal with these threats. Notably, all four speakers placed emphasis on the increasing intertwining of extremism in their respective countries with domestic politics and affairs, as opposed to events from the wider world.