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Fri, 28 Jun

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Online

Webinar: Tackling Religious Radicalisation among Middle-Aged Adults in the Digital Era

Webinar: Tackling Religious Radicalisation among Middle-Aged Adults in the Digital Era
Webinar: Tackling Religious Radicalisation among Middle-Aged Adults in the Digital Era

Time & Location

28-Jun-2024, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Online

About the event

The Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS) hosted an insightful webinar as part of the Horizon Europe research project, SMIDGE (Social Media Narratives: Addressing Extremism in Middle-Age). The event, titled "Tackling Religious Radicalization among Middle-Aged Adults in the Digital Era," aimed to explore the susceptibility of individuals aged 45-65 to extremist narratives and strategies to counteract this trend. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the webinar, including detailed discussions, key insights, and speaker biographies.

Watch the full webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4HyZ0dOXaA

Event Overview

The webinar featured expert discussions from leading scholars and practitioners in security studies, religious radicalization, and conflict transformation. The panel included:

  • Dr. Line Nybro Petersen, University of Copenhagen: Co-coordinator of the SMIDGE project, Dr. Petersen is an expert in digital media and communication, with a focus on the intersection of media and radicalization.
  • Dr. James Fitzgerald, Dublin City University (DCU): Associate Professor in Security Studies and Founding Director of the Erasmus Mundus International Master in Intelligence and Strategic Studies (IMSISS). Dr. Fitzgerald's research focuses on conspiracy theories and violent extremism.
  • Dr. Maja Halilovic-Pastuovic, Trinity College Dublin (TCD): Research Assistant Professor at the School of Religion, Theology, and Peace Studies, with extensive research on the vulnerabilities and resilience of communities in the face of religious radicalization.
  • Dr. Moinuddin (Moign) Khawaja, Dublin City University (DCU): Government of Ireland-Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, specializing in the media strategies of terrorist organizations like ISIS.
  • Ms. Lejdi Dervishi, National Coordinator for Countering Violent Extremism, Albania: An experienced practitioner in policy development and multi-sectoral approaches to counter violent extremism.

Session Summaries

  1. Opening Remarks by Dr. Line Nybro Petersen: Dr. Petersen introduced the concept of "Spaces of Hybridized Prefatory Extremism (HYPE)," highlighting how extremist ideologies manifest and interact online. She emphasized the need for nuanced understanding and multi-faceted approaches to countering online extremism.
  2. Dr. James Fitzgerald: Conspiracy Theories and Violent Extremism: Dr. Fitzgerald discussed the proliferation of conspiracy theories during crises, such as the 2022 Brazilian Presidential elections, and how movements like QAnon have integrated into mainstream politics, resembling religious movements. He warned of the epistemic trap in radicalization research, where signs of radicalization may be found everywhere if looked for intensely.
  3. Dr. Maja Halilovic-Pastuovic: Religious Radicalization in Post-Conflict Societies: Drawing from her work in the Western Balkans, Dr. Halilovic-Pastuovic examined the intersection of ethnic, religious, and political extremism. She emphasized that radicalization evolves within societal frameworks and highlighted the role of parajamaat (religious congregations) in this process.
  4. Dr. Moinuddin (Moign) Khawaja: ISIS's Media Strategies: Dr. Khawaja explored how ISIS's visual media strategies create a state-like image and attract middle-aged individuals. He detailed the use of children in propaganda, particularly focusing on the portrayal of "cubs and pearls" (young boys and girls) in official IS videos for recruitment purposes.
  5. Ms. Lejdi Dervishi: Albania's Approach to Countering Violent Extremism: Ms. Dervishi discussed Albania's strategies for countering violent extremism, stressing the importance of national coordination and a multi-sectoral approach. She highlighted the role of civil society in reintegration and providing psychosocial support.

Key Takeaways

  • Middle-aged individuals (45-65) are particularly vulnerable to extremist narratives due to various social and psychological factors.
  • Social media platforms play a significant role in spreading extremist ideologies, necessitating robust digital literacy and critical thinking skills among users.
  • Effective counter-radicalization strategies require a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach that includes policy development, community resilience, and civil society involvement.
  • Continuous research and adaptive strategies are essential to address the evolving nature of religious radicalization.

Conclusion

The webinar provided valuable perspectives on combating religious radicalization among middle-aged adults, emphasizing the need for multi-sectoral strategies and community involvement. The insights shared by the distinguished speakers underscored the complexity of the issue and the importance of collaborative efforts in countering extremism.

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