The Salam Centre for Extremism Studies (SCES) last week held its first international annual conference called “Religious Extremism, the Intellectual Premises and Counter-Strategies”. The high-profile conference was attended by delegations of leading religious institutions from 42 countries.
“The conference was vital for institutes and think tanks working in this field to get together and reach common ground,” Ibrahim Negm, SCES chairman, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
SCES is an academic institution and a think tank affiliated to Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa, an Egyptian Islamic advisory governmental body, and works under the umbrella of the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide. “It represents the practical efforts exerted by Dar Al-Iftaa on the path of addressing extremist narratives and dismantling radical religious discourse,” Negm said.
The conference focused on refuting and dismantling extremist discourse and responding to it, establishing the values of peace, coexistence, understanding and tolerance among people. It also aims to enhance international counter-extremism cooperation and exchange expertise in counter-extremism strategies worldwide, and open channels of academic and research cooperation on counter-extremism and terrorism.
The conference covered issues related to extremism and ideological perspectives both past and present. It also analysed the ideas constituting the pillars of extremism and how to formulate integrated policies to confront the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism. This is in addition to discussing strategies of confrontation and prevention and promoting global and regional mutual cooperation in this regard, explained Negm.
As a result of the meetings and discussions during the conference, Negm said several recommendations were adopted, the most important agreeing on establishing an umbrella institution gathering research centres and think tanks specialised in combating extremism and terrorism. They would coordinate cooperation among religious institutions, decision-makers and regional and international research centres for the purpose of increasing influence and effectiveness. It works on combating extremism through prevention and treatment. The conference further suggested that Egypt be the headquarters of this permanent coordinating umbrella, Negm said.
The SCES was set up just six months ago as part of Egypt’s strategy to establish comprehensive mechanisms to eradicate extremism at all levels, said Negm. It is part of the state’s vision and is considered a remarkable addition to the list of effective tools adopted by Egypt to counter extremism and terrorism, he added.
Dar Al-Iftaa has been working on this project over the past few years through implementing “meticulous programmes” representing the recommendations of the international conferences held by the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, Negm said. The conferences addressed the core issues of renewing religious discourse, the role of fatwas (formal ruling or interpretations on a point of Islamic law given by a qualified legal scholar) in stabilising societies and providing muftis and scholars with the necessary knowledge and tools that allow them to issue fatwas “in order to limit the chaos that pseudo-scholars cause in this regard,” stressed Negm.
Negm said the centre uses modern technology and digital tools to reach its targeted audience.
The SCES is also playing a role in renewing religious discourse through its publications which address aspects of extremism and raising awareness especially among youths and social media users, Negm said.
He said the centre had launched a number of initiatives, representing “a remarkable step” in confronting extremism and eradicating the phenomenon.
The Egyptian Encyclopaedia for Counter-Extremism, a 30-volume Egyptian reference on counter-extremism dedicated to monitoring and dismantling extremism. The encyclopaedia addresses the concept of extremism and terminology used by extremists.
The Salam Academy is a training centre specialised in the studies of extremism and terrorism and aims to hold training courses. It provides diplomas specialised in the science of countering extremism in cooperation with universities and well-known academies.
It includes Manarat Digital Application for Countering Extremism, an application based on modern technology which puts together a network based on specific interactive factors that analyses extremism and all its details.
The Observational Memory of Extremism is a multilingual memory bank which includes all the publications of terrorist and excommunicating organisations — audio and visual releases — as well as studies, books, and research and reports related to extremism and terrorism.
Negm also referred to Al-Shaheed (the Martyr) Traveling Exhibition for Counter-Extremism held at universities, schools, shopping malls, and religious centres to promote moderation. The exhibition consists of many interactive and TV screens, graphics and animations that exhibit the most common inquiries related to coexistence, renouncing extremism and building culture peace, he said.
Negm stressed the centre’s cooperation with governments around the world to express the real image of Islam. He reasserted the conference call to establish an umbrella gathering research centres and think tanks in combating extremism and terrorism, which coordinates among religious institutions, decision-makers, and regional and international research centres for the purpose of increasing influence and effectiveness.
“The Salam Centre opens its doors to all entities and governments to start cooperation that services these goals and exchanges expertise on the ground,” Negm added.
A version of this article appears in print in the 16 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.