January 2016: Battling Violent Extremism

Have We Done Enough to Counter Violent Extremism?

The recent mass shooting in San Bernardino was another tragic event that brought us together in unity while alerting us to the challenging realities of violent extremism in our multicultural society. Although the immediate natural reaction to fear from such tragic incidents prompts retaliation and/or political war on foreign policies, a more sustainable approach must be based on an assessment of the roots of the problem. While religion is a strong force driving the violent extremism, secular alternatives and ideologies can similarly force an extremist into violence and acts of mass destruction.

In today’s society, people from multitude of cultures, beliefs, ideologies, habits, skin colors, ethnicities, and economic classes coexist in neighborhoods and workplaces, each facing challenges, frustrations, and distresses often blaming others.  Without proper integration and interaction, the potentials for misunderstanding and risks of escalating conflict become inevitable. Unfortunately, too often, both religious and secular teachings contribute more to building barriers than to building harmonious relationships. Education, for example, can promote extremism when it does not promote a humanitarian components for creating a healthy self identity and self worth in a student seeking fundamental changes for a better world. Our Economic studies can promote extremism when the  youth study the existing economic models which reinforce income disparity of the rich and the hopeless struggle of the poor. The legal and philosophical studies, without offering healthy opportunities where students can be agents of change, can also contribute to extremist ideologies. Frustration and anger can turn into violence when the obvious social and legal deficiencies leave unquenched a desperate youth’s thirst for social justice.

Considering the depth and breadth of the problem of violent extremism, nothing short of a deliberate effort to facilitate peaceful interaction and harmonized relationships can offer a meaningful stepping stone for a sustainable solution. Together, we can support a grassroot movement towards salvation for all where resorting to violence extremism is not the only viable solution for curing the societal ills. Together, we can build a future that replaces fear with hope, despair with courage, and inequities with social justice. Together, we can encourage our leaders, religious and secular alike, to implement programs for integrating the isolated and disenfranchised members of our human family by facilitating a safe environment for dialogue and personal growth. Together, we can reclaim our role as a member of the human family by taking part in this movement by building new bridges of understanding with our neighbours and co-workers. Finally, together, we can empower our youth and adults to learn about non-violent alternatives for change, and become the agents of change they want to see.