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Countering Violent Extremism

Different Cities, Shared Stories

A Five-Country Study Challenging Assumptions Around Muslim Women and CVE Interventions

Pages 54-65 | Published online: 05 Dec 2016

Abstract

In 2015, UN Security Council Resolution 2242 advocated deliberate outreach to women when devising counterterrorism projects. This is based on assumptions of the need to empower women, as well as their particular ability to exert benign influence over young people and stop radicalisation to violence. The approach has been particularly prevalent in Western Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) projects aimed at preventing homegrown Islamist radicalisation. On the basis of fieldwork with Muslim communities in five countries – Canada, the UK, Germany, France and The Netherlands – Emily Winterbotham and Elizabeth Pearson challenge the underlying assumptions of such an approach, and suggest aspects of women’s CVE projects may exacerbate existing community tensions, and do not reflect the changing norms of Muslim communities in the West. Alternative modes of engagement could improve the efficacy of CVE and enable it to better appeal to those it is intended to help.

Notes

1 For example, UN Security Council Resolution 1325, 31 October 2000, S/RES/1325. Vicky Karimi, ‘UNSCR 2242 and the Role of Women in Countering Violent Extremism’, GIWPS Blog, 18 November 2015, <http://blog.giwps.georgetown.edu/unscr-2242-the-role-of-women-in-countering-violent-extremism/>, accessed 1 November 2016.

2 Karimi, ‘UNSCR 2242 and the Role of Women in Countering Violent Extremism’.

3 James Khalil and Martine Zeuthen, ‘Countering Violent Extremism and Risk Reduction: A Guide to Programme Design and Evaluation’, Whitehall Report, 2-16 (June 2016); Peter Romaniuk, ‘Does CVE Work? Lessons Learned from the Global Effort to Counter Violent Extremism’, Global Center on Cooperative Security, September 2015, pp. 7–9.

4 Stephen Heydemann, ‘Countering Violent Extremism as a Field of Practice’, Insights, United States Institute of Peace, Spring 2014; J M Berger, ‘Making CVE Work: A Focused Approach Based on Process Disruption’, ICCT Research Paper (May 2016), p. 4.

5 Naureen Chowdhury Fink et al., ‘Introduction’, in Naureen Chowdhury Fink et al. (eds), ‘A Man’s World? Exploring the Roles of Women in Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism’, Hedayah and the Global Center on Cooperative Security, 2016.

6 Laura Sjoberg, Gendering Global Conflict: Toward a Feminist Theory of War (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2013), p. 5.

7 This report adopts the definition used in USAID, ‘Guide to the Drivers of Violent Extremism’, February 2009, p. 86, <http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnadt978.pdf>, accessed 1 November 2016.

8 Lorenzo Vidino and James Brandon, ‘Countering Radicalization in Europe’, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 2012.

9 Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, ‘The Dawn of the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham’, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology (Vol. 16, March 2014).

10 Soufan Group, ‘Foreign Fighters: An Updated Assessment of the Flow of Foreign Fighters into Syria and Iraq’, December 2015.

11 Richard Barrett, ‘Foreign Fighters in Syria’, Soufan Group, June 2014, p. 16.

12 Bart Schuurman et al., ‘Converts and Islamist Terrorism: An Introduction’, ICCT Policy Brief (June 2016), p. 15; Milena Uhlmann, ‘European Converts to Terrorism’, Middle East Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 3, Summer 2008). The term ‘revert’ is also used to describe those who have converted to Islam.

13 Kim Willsher, ‘I Went to Join Isis in Syria, Taking my Four-Year-Old. It was a Journey into Hell’, The Observer, 9 January 2016; Bundeskriminalamt, Germany, ‘Analyse der Radikalisierungshintergründe und -verläufe der Personen, die aus islamistischer Motivation aus Deutschland in Richtung Syrien oder Irak ausgereist sind’, p .3.

14 Erin Marie Saltman and Melanie Smith, ‘“Till Martyrdom Do Us Part”: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon’, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2015; Anita Peresin and Alberto Cervone, ‘The Western Muhajirat of ISIS’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (Vol. 38, No. 7, April 2015), pp. 1–15; Jytte Klausen, ‘Tweeting the Jihad: Social Media Networks of Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (Vol. 38, No. 1, January 2015), pp. 1–22.

15 Charlie Bayliss, ‘Islamic State Unveils First Ever Spokeswoman in Bid to Brainwash Girls to Join Death Cult’, Daily Express, 18 August 2016.

16 Chowdhury Fink et al., ‘Introduction’, p. 3.

17 Becky Carter, ‘Women and Violent Extremism’, GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report, 13 March 2013.

18 Mia Bloom, Bombshell: The Many Faces of Women Terrorists (London: Hurst, 2011).

19 US Institute of Peace, ‘What Is U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 and Why Is It so Critical Today?’, <http://www.usip.org/gender_peacebuilding/about_UNSCR_1325>, accessed 25 October 2016.

20 Subsequent analysis will consider the gender dynamics of radicalisation to Daesh, the gender dynamics of radicalisation to the extreme right, and CVE.

21 OSCE, ‘Global Counterterrorism Forum Adopts Good Practices Prepared by the OSCE on Women and Countering Violent Extremism’, press release, 28 September 2015, <http://www.osce.org/secretariat/186226>, accessed 1 November 2016.

22 Chowdhury Fink et al., ‘Introduction’.

23 Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the UN and Georgetown University Institute for Women, Peace and Security, ‘Summary Document and Analysis: Women and Countering Violent Extremism’, 27 October 2014, <https://giwps.georgetown.edu/sites/giwps/files/Women%20and%20Countering%20Violent%20Extremism.pdf>, accessed 4 October 2016; UN Web TV, ‘The Role of Women in Countering Violent Extremism – Panel Discussion’, <http://webtv.un.org/watch/the-role-of-women-in-countering-violent-extremism-panel-discussion/3862565549001>, 6 September 2015.

24 D Elaine Pressman, Risk Assessment Decisions for Violent Political Extremism 2009-02 (Ottawa: Public Safety Canada, 2009).

25 US Institute of Peace, ‘What Is U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 and Why Is It so Critical Today?’; Katherine E Brown, ‘Gender and Counter-Radicalization: Women and Emerging Counter-Terror Measures’, in Jayne Huckerby and Margaret L Satterthwaite (eds), Gender, National Security, and Counter-Terrorism: Human Rights Perspectives (Abingdon and New York, NY: Routledge, 2013), p. 51.

26 Peter Waldmann, ‘The Radical Milieu: The Under-Investigated Relationship Between Terrorists and Sympathetic Communities’, Perspectives on Terrorism (Vol. 2, No. 9, 2008); Stefan Malthaner and Peter Waldmann, ‘The Radical Milieu: Conceptualizing the Supportive Social Environment of Terrorist Groups’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (Vol. 37, No. 12, September 2014), p. 16.

27 Bloom, Bombshell; Edwin Bakker, Jihadi Terrorists in Europe: Their Characteristics and the Circumstances in Which They Joined the Jihad: An Exploratory Study (The Hague: Clingendael Institute, 2006), p. 36; Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Laura Grossman, Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and U.K.: An Empirical Examination of the Radicalization Process (Washington, DC: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 2009), p. 63.

28 Chowdhury Fink et al., ‘Introduction’, p. 6.

29 Brown, ‘Gender and Counter-Radicalization’, p. 41.

30 Ibid., p. 42. Jayne Huckerby, ‘Women and Preventing Violent Extremism: The U.S. and U.K. Experiences’, Briefing Paper, New York University School of Law, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, 2011.

31 Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen, ‘Violent Radicalization in Europe: What We Know and What We Do Not Know’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (Vol. 33, No. 9, August 2010), pp. 797–814.

32 Communities and Local Government, Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps For Communities (Wetherby: Communities and Local Government Publications, 2008), p. 30.

33 Arun Kundnani, Spooked: How Not to Prevent Violent Extremism (London: Institute of Race Relations, 2009), p. 6; Shaista Gohir, ‘Submission from Muslim Women’s Network UK for the Inquiry into the Preventing Violent Extremism Programme’, Muslim Women’s Network, September 2009, p. 6, <http://www.mwnuk.co.uk//go_files/resources/629031-MWNUK%20submission%20for%20PVE%20Inquiry.pdf>, accessed 4 October 2016; HM Government, Prevent Strategy, Cm 8092 (London: The Stationery Office, 2011), p. 6.

34 Home of Commons Home Affairs Committee, ‘Radicalisation: The Counter-Narrative and Identifying the Tipping Point’, HC 135, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, August 2016.

35 European Commission, ‘Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace: Support to In-Country Civil Society Actors in Conflict Prevention, Peace-building, Crisis Preparedness: Peace-Building Partnership Annual Action Programme 2014: Guidelines for Grant Applicants’, EUROPAID/136-760/DD/ACT/PK, 2014.

36 Sarah Bracke, ‘Subjects of Debate: Secular and Sexual Exceptionalism, and Muslim Women in The Netherlands’, Feminist Review (No. 98, 2011).

37 Peter R Neumann, Die neuen Dschihadisten: ISIS, Europa und die nächste Welle des Terrorismus (Berlin: Econ, 2015), pp. 199–206.

38 Philip Oltermann, ‘Crackdown on British Jihadis to Include “Deradicalising” Scheme from Germany’, The Guardian, 27 August 2014.

39 The Local, ‘France Launches Shock Video to “Stop Jihadists’, 28 January 2015.

40 J Cameron, ‘Focussing on the Focus Group’, in Iain Hay (ed.), Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography, 2nd edition (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 156–74.

41 Anselim Strauss and Juliet Corbin (eds), Grounded Theory in Practice (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997).

42 David L Morgan and Margare t T Spanish, ‘Focus Groups: A New Tool for Qualitative Research’, in Qualitative Sociology (Vol. 7, No. 3, Fall 1984), p. 259.

43 Kundnani, Spooked; Lorenzo Vidino and James Brandon, ‘Countering Radicalization in Europe’, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), 2012, p. 17.

44 For a discussion of the CVE approach in The Netherlands, see Vidino and Brandon, ‘Countering Radicalization in Europe’, p. 27. For a comparison of the approaches in the UK and The Netherlands, see Jamie Bartlett et al., The Edge of Violence: A Radical Approach to Extremism (London: Demos, 2010), p. 22. For a description of the approach to CVE in Germany, see Neumann, Die neuen Dschihadisten, pp. 200–02. For a critique of the approach to CVE in France, see Nicholas Vinocur, ‘Where is the French Plan to Halt Radicalization?’, Politico, 31 March 2016. For a description of Canada’s approach, see Government of Canada, ‘Countering Violent Extremism’, <https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/cntrng-vlnt-xtrmsm/index-en.aspx>, accessed 18 October 2016.

45 Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko, ‘Mechanisms of Political Radicalization: Pathways Toward Terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence (Vol. 20, No. 3, July 2008), pp. 415–33; Peter Waldmann, ‘The Radical Milieu: The Under-Investigated Relationship Between Terrorists and Sympathetic Communities’, Perspectives on Terrorism (Vol. 2, No. 9, 2008); Stefan Malthaner and Peter Waldmann, ‘The Radical Milieu: Conceptualizing the Supportive Social Environment of Terrorist Groups’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (Vol. 37, No. 12, September 2014), p. 16.

46 Tom Clark, ‘“We’re Over-Researched Here!’ Exploring Accounts of Research Fatigue within Qualitative Research Engagements’, Sociology (Vol. 42, No. 5, October 2008), pp. 955–59.

47 A Silke, ‘The Devil You Know: Continuing Problems with Research on Terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence (Vol. 13, No. 4, December 2001), pp. 1–14; AlexP Schmid, ‘Frameworks for Conceptualising Terrorism’, Terrorism and Political Violence (Vol. 16, No. 2, August 2004), pp. 197–221; Magnus Ranstorp, ‘Introduction: Mapping Terrorism Research – Challenges and Priorities’, in Magnus Ranstorp (ed.), Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the Art, Gaps and Future Direction, 1st edition (London and New York, NY: Routledge, 2006).

48 Brown, ‘Gender and Counter-Radicalization’, p. 41.

49 Rowena Mason and Harriet Sherwood, ‘Migrant Spouses Who Fail English Test May Have to Leave UK, Says Cameron’, The Guardian, 18 January 2016.

50 The research question was: ‘How wanted and needed are CVE programmes targeting women in the communities they are intended to help?’

51 David Barnett, ‘Worshipping as Equals: Plans to Build Britain’s First Women-Led Mosque’, The Independent, 15 March 2016.

52 Oliver Roy, cited in Isaac Chotiner, ‘The Islamization of Radicalism’, Slate, 22 June 2016; Schuurman, Grol and Flower, ‘Converts and Islamist Terrorism’, p. 15.

53 The July 2016 issue of Dabiq, the Daesh magazine, is called ‘Break the Cross’ and is aimed at converts. See Dabiq, No. 15, July 2016.

54 Bundeskriminalamt, Germany, ‘Analyse der Radikalisierungshintergründe und -verläufe der Personen, die aus islamistischer Motivation aus Deutschland’, p. 35.

55 Sébastien Pietrasanta, ‘La déradicalisation, outil de lutte contre le terrorisme’, June 2015, p. 10.

56 Sadeq Rahimi and Raissa Graumans, ‘Reconsidering the Relationship Between Integration and Radicalization’, Journal for Deradicalization (No. 5, Winter 2015/16), pp. 28–62.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Emily Winterbotham

Emily Winterbotham is a research fellow at RUSI focusing on extremism, radicalisation and peacebuilding. She has over eight years’ experience in an international policymaking environment. From 2009–15 she worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan, most recently as a political adviser to the European Union Special Representative, focusing on the Afghan peace process.

Elizabeth Pearson

Elizabeth Pearson is a RUSI associate fellow and a PhD candidate in War Studies at King’s College London, where she researches gender as a factor in ‘cumulative extremism’ in the UK. She has also worked on gender and the impact of suspension in ISIS-supporting Twitter communities, and on female violence among Salafi jihadists. Elizabeth also analyses Boko Haram and has written on female suicide bombing.

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