SALAM paper in side event #HRC31 “The role of media in racial and religious discrimination and incitement to hate ” presented by @msserkal

SALAM paper in side event #HRC31 “The role of media in racial and religious discrimination and incitement to hate ” presented by @msserkal

The mainstream media play a very important role in provoking religious extremism

For the purposes of this presentation, religious extremism is defined as rigid interpretations of religion that are forced upon others using social or economic coercion, laws, intolerance, or violence. It is accompanied by non-fluid definitions of culture, religion, nationalism, ethnicity or sect that move citizens into exclusionary, patriarchal and intolerant communities. Only a small percentage of religious conservatives are extremist in this sense.

It is undeniable that they present a serious threat to international peace and security. What is also undeniable is their effective use of social media to spread propaganda and to recruit vulnerable young women and men from all regions of the world to join their ranks as foreign terrorist fighters. In using social media efficiently, extremists attract sympathisersglobally and maximises its amplification. Unlike previously organisations who were only given a platform by mainstream media outlets and had to adhere to mainstream media’s narrative and political frameworks — ISIS now operate in an entirely unregulated social media platform that gives them sufficient room to manipulate potential sympathisers into believing that they are fighting for a justifiable religious purpose. The danger of this is not just the attraction of potential supporters but the fact that a terror organisation could use modern technology and strategically reveal information about their activities.

Between mid- 2014 and March 2015 there has been an estimated 70 per cent increase in FTFs worldwide. The 1267 Al-Qaida Sanctions Monitoring Team estimates that more than 25,000 FTFs from over 100 Member States have traveled to Syria and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.

There is no question that we are dealing with an issue of global concern. We can no longer stand by and watch as this phenomenon spreads. With their message of hate, violent extremists directly assault the legitimacy of the United Nations Charter and the values of peace, justice and human dignity on which that document and international relations are based. They assault global, universal values, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Arab Charter on Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

And there is a third aspect that is undeniable: the manipulative messages of violent extremists on Twitter, YouTube and other social media, are as attractive to young people in search of adventure as alternatives are not.

There are almost 50,000 Twitter accounts supporting ISIS, with an average of 1,000 followers each. They succeed by offering young people opportunities to engage with their peers while providing a space where people can bond over their grievances, their hopes and their deeply held desire for a world that is just and fair.

Governments are trying to keep up through disseminating more moderate counter-narratives. But young people are not looking for moderation – they are seeking visionary ideas that capture their imagination and offer tangible change.

We, in the international community, need to develop a clear vision and then communicate it. To do this, we need to revive the core values at the heart of our community of nations. We need a global, collective and genuine and realistic response that engages people to effectively counter and ultimately prevent these destructive, extremist messages that advocate and promote violence and destruction. And we need to show that our words and values also allow people to achieve their aspirations of dignity and prosperity.

For this reason, we need to present a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism to the council at the coming session. It is time for the international community to focus on preventing violent extremism by addressing the structural context and drivers of violent extremism through proactive and constructive approaches. At its core this will include a global communications strategy involving social media stakeholders, governments and civil society.

We can only prevent violent extremism if we engage the support of our entire society – we are calling this an “all of society” approach. Our efforts need to go beyond governments, UN and extend to religious, youth, women and other community leaders – they are the ones on the front-line, standing up to violent extremists. This includes leaders in such diverse fields as music, business, sports and other cultural pursuits that can spark the imagination of the world’s youth.

Of course, we also need the support of the world’s media. We need to further engage with them to enhance the credibility of our messages. We have to work closely with traditional and social media partners to get stories of courage out about returnees from violent extremist groups and victims of terrorism, who can turn their tragedy into a positive force to counter and prevent radicalization.

Full compliance with international law is central to our shared success. In dealing with traditional and social media, we need to respect and promote freedoms of speech and information. Short-term limits on press freedoms, deactivating social media sites or closing newspapers may appear to suppress the spread of hateful messages, but they can also end up making violent extremists and their forbidden messages all the more attractive to vulnerable groups. Such measures can also inadvertently silence activists and other community groups that hold the long-term solutions to preventing violent extremism.

Together we can and must reunite around our universal, shared values and commitments to offer the disenfranchised and disenchanted a real stake in shaping our global world. “We the peoples of the United Nations” need to stand together for peace not enmity, for justice not corruption, for dignity not despair.