Rethinking countering violent extremism: implementing the role of civil society
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The current state of countering violent extremism (CVE) in Australia and other Western nations is characterised by definitional dilemmas around its relationship to the concepts and practice of counterterrorism (CT) and security. While attempts have been made to engage the civil society sector in CVE through programmes that provide funding for community groups, these attempts have largely been focused on empowering Muslim communities in Australia and the promotion of social harmony between these communities and the broader Australian community. Such programmes certainly have a place within all multicultural, multifaith societies, but the conflation of social harmony with security and protection from terrorism has had a counter effect resulting in the securitisation of diaspora Muslim communities. In order to efficiently target the root causes of violent extremism (VE) a reconceptualisation of the paradigm constituting CVE is required. Such a paradigm should be detached from the traditional focus on CT and apply a multidisciplinary and multi-layered approach that engages the voices of unorthodox stakeholders such as formers and victims alongside those of policy-makers and law enforcement. Using a theoretical framework based on “smart power”, this article argues that one way to achieve a more diffuse and broader approach to CVE is by incorporating grassroots citizen driven initiatives in the formulation of policy-driven CVE.
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