Interreligious Dialogue and Scholarly Dialo-Praxis on Countering Violent Religious Extremism

Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR) successfully held a roundtable and a public forum on 4th April 2017 on countering violent religious extremism in Kenya. The theme of the round-table was "Interreligious Dialogue and Scholarly Dialo-Praxis on Countering Violent Extremism" and that of the public forum was "Religious Extremism, Holy Scriptures' Interpretations and Political Implications". The whole day affair drew from a pool of scholars, experts, religious leaders, both governmental and non-governmental organisations all working towards countering violent extremism.

A general voice echoed in the room that the past decade has seen a rise in radicalisation and religious extremism. Popular sentiments also were that religion is not the only instigator to violent extremism but rather one of the many in a miscellany of societal issues that include: perceived economic marginalization of some sections of the society, poverty, historical injustices, lack of identity, deteriorating family values, poor governmental counter-terrorism strategies and the abuse and misinterpretation of Holy Scriptures by religious notables.

The implication of violent extremism has resulted to the surge in numbers of young people joining extremist groups such al-Shabaab, terrorism and tension between different faiths. This has weakened progression of multiculturalism, thus resulting to Islamophobia due to association of terrorism with the religion of Islam. Even so, this has also been shaped by the delusion that terror is inherently Islamic, and that all Muslims are likely to become radicalised and pose security threat.

In countering religious extremism, a number of activities have been undertaken by both government and non-government organisations. These range from: promotion of inter-religious dialogues; establishment of institutions dealing with violent extremism; promotion of violent extremism counter-narratives; and building of community support and trust.

As a way forward in countering violent extremism, it is important to:

  1. Ensure collective responsibility in countering violent extremism with actors from government and non-governmental institutions.
  2. Develop and build counter narratives to ideas of extremism.
  3. Bolster interfaith dialogues to enhance pluralism and religious tolerance.
  4. Utilise academic content available from the countless research in policy formulation.

From left to right

 From left to right: Mr. Bernard O. Okok, Sheikh Athman Abdallah, Rev. Fred Nyabera, Dr. Reginald Nalugala

Participants during the round-table discussion

 Participants during the round-table discussion

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