Small Wars Journal

Experts to U.S. Lawmakers: Women Are Untapped Resource in Countering Extremism

Experts to U.S. Lawmakers: Women Are Untapped Resource in Countering Extremism

Nisan Ahmado - VOA News

WASHINGTON - The role of women and their potential in countering extremism around the world is often overlooked and underestimated, a group of experts told U.S. lawmakers this week.

“Recent research shows that antiterrorism messages are disseminated quite effectively throughout families and communities by women, who can counter extremist narratives in homes, schools and social environments,” Jamille Bigio, a senior fellow for women and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said at a House subcommittee hearing on the role of women in fighting terrorism around the world.

“Traditional efforts by governments and nongovernmental organizations to combat radicalization rarely include women,” Bigio told lawmakers.

The hearing was called by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade to discuss ways of overcoming what some lawmakers termed a “strategic blind spot” in the ongoing efforts to counter global extremism and terrorism.

“Counterterrorism efforts across the world have not given enough thought to the idea that women can also represent an untapped resource in the fight against extremism and radicalization,” Congressman Ted Poe, chairman of the subcommittee, said at the beginning of the hearing.

“Women are uniquely placed to effectively challenge extremist narratives in homes, schools and societies the world over,” Poe added.

Sense of Belonging

Haras Rafiq, chief executive of London-based Quilliam International, a think tank monitoring extremism, told lawmakers that the failure of societies to foster a shared sense of belonging is one of the biggest factors that contributes to the growth of extremism.

“Cultural insularity and extremism are products of the failures of wider society to foster a shared sense of belonging and to advance liberal democratic values,” Rafiq said.

“Challenging extremism is the duty of all responsible members of society,” he added.

Valerie Hudson, of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, told lawmakers that they have looked into several indicators that disempower women and thus prevent them from the role they could play in countering extremism and radicalization.

“What we have done is based on almost 20 years of research. We understood that cage that is right there at the household level and that is a cage that is created through marriage law, personal status law and property rights that disempowers the woman, specifically within her household so she can’t access the resources and she doesn’t have the say within her household,” Hudson said.

She added those factors make women less effective in terms of stopping their sons and, in some cases their daughters, from becoming terrorists.

Economic Opportunities

Another expert at the hearing, Farhat Popal, manager of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, said education and economic opportunities for women are vital to countering violent extremism.

“Education and economic opportunities are two ways that we can work towards sustainable development in Afghanistan and that in and of itself will help counter violent extremism,” said Popal, whose organization follows women rights and empowerment issues in several countries, including Afghanistan.

“CVE [countering violent extremism] is also about more than security. It’s about creating resilient communities that are built upon strong social connections, trust and inclusion,” she added.

Bigio, of the Council on Foreign Relations, stressed the need to bring women participation issue to the forefront of ongoing efforts.

“Right now, the White House has the pen in developing a new national counterterrorism strategy and a new national strategy in countering violent extremist groups,” Bigio said. “These should include attention to women as enablers and mitigaters of terrorism.”

Comments

Let us look at "extremism" -- and the traditional role of women --

First, within the context of our agenda during the Old Cold War (containing and rolling back communism) and:

Next, within the context of our post-Cold War agenda (advancing market-democracy).

In the first such instance (the Old Cold War), both extremism, and indeed the traditional role of women in the home; both of these worked FOR US -- this, given that both these such forces seemed to work to:

a. Preserve, protect and pass on traditional culture; this,

b. In the face of the threat to same which was posed by Soviet/communists efforts to advance -- alien and profane -- political, economic, social and value communism.

In the second such instance, however, (the current era) -- and now with the U.S./the West being the ones seeking to advance, in our case, alien and profane modern western political, economic, social and value ideas and norms -- both extremism, and indeed the traditional role of women in the home; both of these (a) seem to work AGAINST US and, this, (b) for much the same reason that they worked against the similarly expansionist Soviets/communists back-in-the-day. (See my "a" and "b" above.)

In this such light to consider -- and to question -- the following statements from our article above (these, found in the section therein entitled "Sense of Belong"):

BEGIN QUOTE

“Cultural insularity and extremism are products of the failures of wider society to foster a shared sense of belonging and to advance liberal democratic values,” Rafiq said.

“Challenging extremism is the duty of all responsible members of society,” he added.

END QUOTE

Bill C.

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:22am

"Women Are Untapped Resource in Countering Extremism"

With regard to the role of women, we must be careful, I believe, to not confuse the term "extremism" with, for example, the term "traditionalism."

This, given that one of the most important roles of women (in many/most cultures?) is to protect, to preserve and to pass on traditional values -- this, from one generation to another?

Thus:

If an outsider -- or an insider for that matter -- should either of these such folks desire to transform a state and/or society more along the alien and profane political, economic, social and/or value lines of a foreign expansionist power (for example, as described here in our article above -- look to the section entitled "Sense of Belonging")

BEGIN QUOTE

“Cultural insularity and extremism are products of the failures of wider society to foster a shared sense of belonging and to advance liberal democratic values,” Rafiq said."

END QUOTE

Then one should expect that the women of such local states and societies -- if they are worth their salt at all -- will:

a. Be on the side of the so-called "extremist;" to wit: the entity that is fighting to retain their traditional way of life, their traditional way of governance and their traditional values, attitudes and beliefs; this, in the face of the assault by the foreigner -- and/or his local adherent/agent. And that, accordingly,

b. These such women -- given their such traditional role (see my second paragraph above) -- these such women should be expected to be anything but "an untapped resource in countering extremism?"

(The apparent continuing belief in such things as "universal western values" not withstanding?)