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Narratives and Counter Narratives from a Muslim Perspective

The session reflected on the concepts of narrative and counter – narratives: What they are, examples of al Shabab narratives, and examples of counter-narratives. Shk. Ramadhan began by defining radicalization as a process through which an individual or group of individuals are transformed by an ideology or belief system shifting mind-sets away from the mainstream. When the process leads to violence, then it is referred to as Radicalization into Violent Extremism (RVE) process.

In itself, radicalization is not harmful. It could actually be a useful process if it brings about positive change and destructive if it leads to loss of life and property. Furthermore, he defined extremism as the strict adherence to a set of narratives or belief systems (whether political or religious) that constitute assaults on the mainstream values, orientations and principles in the society. When extremists resort to acts of coercion in the pursuit of their objectives, it degenerates to violent extremism.He outlined the concept of a narrative as a system of stories that share themes, forms and archetypes.

Narratives are powerful resources that influence a targeted audience. A counter-narrative on the other hand means opposing a narrative by stating something else (often positive and factual). The use of counter-narrative provides effective and qualitative narration rather than quantitative. Counter-narratives are aimed at individuals, groups and networks that aide the path to radicalization, whether they are sympathizers, passive supporters or those more active within extremist movements. He further explained how al Shabaab and other extremist groups use this concept (narrative concepts) as a tool for creating divisions and categorizing people into friends and enemies; ‘us versus them’.He concluded that “only by spreading the real Islam will the humanity know what Islam stands for. Only when we address the menace would we reclaim and control positive information asymmetries while at the same time undermine negative.