• Welcome to Training Module 1 On Discovering Community Vulnerability and Resilience Factors in Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism

    Welcome to Training Module 1 of the Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism (PAVE) project focused on providing you with findings regarding vulnerability and resilience factors discovered from the PAVE project. This site is offered to you by the PAVE (Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism through Community Resilience in the Western Balkans and the MENA) project in cooperation with the Finn Church Aid (FCA and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers).

    The PAVE project is a EU-funded Horizon 2020 research project that has conducted studies in the Western Balkans and the Middle East, with the selected municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia (NMK), Iraq, Lebanon and Tunisia. The project focuses on the community-level socio-political dynamics, providing insights on how local communities are impacting, and impacted by, violent extremism. This training combines the empirical insights and findings from a set of field-based studies carried out within the context of the PAVE project.

    In this course, participants will acquire knowledge of the basic vulnerability and community resilience factors, as well as of basic concepts and key practices/approaches of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) identified in the PAVE research to support their learning. This course will also provide a basis for your learning for all of the other PAVE training modules.

    After completing the course, you can download and print your course training certificate.

    Watch the welcome video below to get started with the training!

    Source: Eurice. ‘’PAVE Project: Investigating Root Causes and Driving Factors of Violent Extremism.’’ October 27, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mxcrg-Tc3I.

     PAVE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under Grant Agreement No. 870769.
    • PAVE Consortium

      PAVE Publications

      Published by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. April 2023.

      This publication is part of WP7 of the PAVE project, led by Finn Church Aid (FCA) / the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

      Authors: Jessica Roland and Sarah Tyler

      Design: Triss Yap, Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers

      A special thanks to those who helped to refine and support the development of this training module, including: Milla Perukangas, Veronique Dudouet, Isak Svenson, Desirée Nilsson, Marie Kortam, Dorjeta Rukiqi, Akis Karatrandos, Johanna-Maria Hülzer, Gillian Wylie, Juline Beaujouan, Bledar Feta, Safet Music, Ahmed Windi, Rexhep Lushta, Zlatko Apostoloski, Emina Frljak, Drkadar Abdilahi, Jovana Gjekanovikj, Seppo Karppinen, Jaime Flaquer, Fatima Saadan, and Siadou Diallo.

      The authors are solely responsible for its content, it does not represent the opinion of the European Commission and the Commission is not responsible for any use that might be made of data appearing therein.

      To cite: The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. Training Module 1: Discovering Community Vulnerability and Resilience Factors in Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism. 2023. PAVE Project Publications.


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        • An Overview on Why These Modules Were Created

          Photo: PAVE Validation Workshop held in February, 2022 to validate key-findings on capacity-building needs for PAVE training modules. PAVE. “Validation Workshop on Training Needs.” March 31, 2022. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/validation-workshop-on-training-needs.

          The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers as part of Finn Church Aid, was tasked as a PAVE partner to develop five training modules for both in-person and online use based on the capacity-building needs of policymakers, faith actors and institutions and civil society within the Western Balkans and MENA regions, specifically the countries in-focus of the PAVE project.

          Based on the research of PAVE partners, consultations conducted with the different stakeholder groups, and a validation workshop with PAVE partners and key stakeholders, five module topic areas were chosen:

          1. Discovering Community Vulnerability and Resilience Factors in Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism

          2. How to Recognize and Address Online Forms of Recruitment, Propaganda and Incitement to Violence

          3. How to Advance Inclusivity Within Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Community-based Initiatives

          4. Community Resilience and Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration to Support Reintegration to Society and Disengagement from Violent Extremism

          5. Bridging Partnerships with Faith-Based Actors and Institutions in Preventing and/or Countering Violent Extremism and Supporting Community Resilience

          Get to know more about the unique approach of the PAVE Project.

          Source: Eurice. ''PAVE interview series part 1: the unique approach of the project.'' PAVE Consortium. July 9, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJmyILQ36Lc&t=1s.

          • Sessions in Module 1

            Session 1: A Conceptual Overview of Radicalization and Violent Extremism

            Session 2: Factors of Vulnerability to Violent Extremism

            Session 3: The Many Faces of Extremism: Overview of the Interface Between Religious, Political and Ethnic and Sectarian Extremisms in the Western Balkans and MENA Regions

            Session 4: Factors of Community Resilience to Violent Extremism

            Amount of Time Anticipated for Total Training
            : 3 hours and 45 minutes

            • Session 1: Objectives and Expected Results

              Session 1 Objectives and Expected Results

              Objective: In this first session, our objective will be to explore the key concepts related to violent extremism, including understanding cumulative and overlapping extremisms.

              Expected Results: The expected results of this first session will be that participants have an introductory understanding of what violent extremism means and start to understand how various forms of extremism impact communities in the Western Balkans and MENA region.

              Amount of Time Anticipated for Session 1: 30 minutes

              Agenda for Session 1

              • Key Concepts: What is Extremism, Violent Extremism and Radicalization?
              • What are the Different Forms of Extremism?
              • Understanding Reciprocal Extremisms
              • Understanding Overlapping Extremisms

              • Key Concepts: What is Extremism, Violent Extremism and Radicalization?

                Hear from Veronique Dudouet, Programme Director and Senior Research at the Berghof Foundation on what radicalization and extremism mean in relation to the PAVE project.  

                Source. PAVE Project. ‘’Vero Dudouet Interview: What does radicalization and extremism mean to the PAVE Project.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wteRnrH4izQ.

                The PAVE project defines extremism in terms of any ideology that opposes a society’s core values and principles. It is, of course, a matter for debate what these core values and principles really are, but the emerging scholarly consensus tends to define extremism in terms of opposition to democratic values and institutions, pluralism, and human rights.

                A more general definition of extremism is therefore the following: Extremism is the advocacy of a system of belief that claims the superiority and dominance of one identity-based ‘in-group’ over all ‘out-groups’ and propagates a dehumanizing ‘othering’ mind-set that is antithetical to pluralism and the universal application of Human Rights. The phenomenon of violent extremism which we study here is broader than the use of violence. Violent extremism can also be extremist ideologies which provide moral, political, or ideological backing of the use of violence. Extremism here serves as the rationale behind violence. Extremism, however, can occur without necessarily being violent, it can be pursued for illiberal political aims – questioning core values of democracy and human rights, for example – without providing support or legitimacy for the use of violence for political and religious ends. 

                Extremism has predominantly been perceived as pertaining to non-state actors. Yet, governments can provide space for these non-state actors, allowing them to function, even playing into their narratives, thereby making these actors and narratives be perceived as a normal part of the society.

                Whereas extremism often denotes a particular ideological structure or status, the term radicalization is predominately used to describe the process towards extremism. Radicalization entails emotional, cognitive and behavioral dimensions and is the change in beliefs, feelings, and behaviors in directions that increasingly justify intergroup violence and demand sacrifice in defense of the ingroup. 

                For PAVE we adopted this distinction, although there is no complete scholarly consensus on this distinction.

              • What Are the Different Forms of Extremism

                Extremism varies significantly in terms of the goals pursued. One may ask whether it is reasonable to group so different phenomena under the same umbrella. In the PAVE project, however, we see this as a major benefit: to be able to detect the common threads across very different types of social conflicts, and to borrow insights regarding how community resilience can be maintained. The particular type of extremism that different countries and regions have experienced are often driven by long historical trajectories, with civilizational, cultural, or religious roots. Extremism does not occur at random, but it is part of a larger historical contingency. At the same time, as we shall see in the analysis below, there are also specific conditions and policies that have led extremism to get a grip and develop in certain places and at certain moments in time. While all of the countries studied have experienced extremism, there are also significant variations both within and across cases.

                Extremist ideologies develop a collective identity of ‘us’ against ‘them’ or othering to guide the mobilization and justification of violence by the in-group against the out-group. Although different forms of extremism overlap both conceptually and practically, they can be divided into three categories:

                The first type is political extremism, where violent extremisms can lean far left or far right. Components of far-left extremism center around overthrowing current capitalist systems and replacing them with communist or socialist societies. Far left-wing extremism can also occur within already socialist states as criminal action against the current ruling government.

                For the purposes of the PAVE project, far-right political extremism played a more dominant role. Components of far-right political extremism found within the PAVE project consisted of: authoritarianism, nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and anti-democracy.

                The second type is religious extremism, where violent extremisms rely on religious justifications for violence in all faith traditions. In the PAVE project, components of religious extremism found were religious fundamentalism, territory-related tensions, and religious competitiveness.

                The final type is ethnic and sectarian extremism, where violent extremists rely on components such as: ethnicity-based politics, victimization, territory-related tensions based on ethnic lines, and hatred of marginalized groups. Below are more components found specifically in the context of the Western Balkans.

                In the MENA region, sectarian extremism can also be found. In Lebanon for example, the situation created by the increasing hegemony of the Shiite militia-cum-political party Hezbollah has been a key driver for the development of identity-based tensions and extremism along sectarian lines in the country. Sectarian extremism in Lebanon has manifested itself in violent episodes and incidents.

              • This section

                Understanding Reciprocal Extremisms

                Hear From Professor Isak Svenson and Senior Lecturer Desirée Nilsson, Uppsala University, Department of Peace and Conflict Research on the findings of cumulative extremism.

                Source: PAVE Project. ‘’Professor Isak Svenson and Senior Lecturer Desirée Nilsson: Cumulative Extremism with Regional Examples.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TamisRYfLTI.

                For the PAVE project, the terms reciprocal extremism and cumulative extremism are used as synonyms. Reciprocal extremism is used to define situations where different forms of extremisms feed into - and react to each other. The antagonistic relationship between different forms of extremisms is manifested through the definition of the out-group (‘othering’) where extremists can play into each other’s narratives and activate and maintain stereotypes of the other side. This can reinforce the threat perceptions in the sense that one form of extremism can create increased levels of fear and insecurity, which will prove a point that another form of extremism may have been making about their particular group being under attack. This can enhance the sense of victimhood, which is often part and parcel of the extremists’ worldview. In addition, this will also help to legitimize violence, by providing credibility to arguments made for the justification of the use of violence. Reciprocal extremism can also lead to spiraling actions of revenge and counter-attack.

                There are three main types of actors that can stand in a reciprocal relationship: individuals, movements (or sometimes organizations), and communities. Thus, actions by one violent extremist social group may lead to increased participation on another fringe, it may lead to shifts towards (more) violent tactics on an organizational level, or it may lead to increased polarization on the community-level.

                Extremism does not occur in a vacuum. It may be affected by other developments, including the effect of other forms of extremism. Extremism on one end of the spectrum may increase the risk of extremism on the other end. Violent incidents by extremists in one community may be used as a rationale for further radicalization amongst other communities, which may then serve as an additional motivation for further escalating extremism. In this way, different forms of extremism can enter into a vicious circle where the extremist forces at the fringes of the political space can increase their strength, following, and capacity, by the reciprocal, antagonistic actions of each other.

                Within the PAVE project, several instances of reciprocal extremism were found. In Serbia, while there is no reciprocal extremism between Islamist extremism and far-right extremism, there is a reciprocal extremism in the inter-ethnic relationships: the ethno-nationalistic extremism of Serbs and Bosniaks are interacting through a reciprocal dynamic – where extremist voices in the two communities enforce the perception, fear, and worldview of the other side. 

                Kosovo is an important case in point of how religiously inspired and ethno-political extremisms feed off and magnify each other. In Kosovo, religious extremism adds to ethno-political extremism in order to strengthen the demarcation along ethnic lines between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo (i.e., Albanians are Albanians and Muslims, Serbs are Serbs and Orthodox). 

                Reciprocal extremism could be visible in the Iraqi context. The US-led military invasion of Iraq, its following program of de-Baathification, and the overall mismanagement of the post-invasion occupation triggered both the development of further radicalization and formation of Shia militias, as well as Sunni-Jihadist groups. Several of the Sunni communities in post-Saddam Iraq felt marginalized and developed grievances not only against the American invaders, but also against the Shia-dominated governments. This paved the way for jihadist groups to establish themselves more firmly in Iraq. The establishment of these jihadist groups in Iraq, mobilizing on both a theological (Salafi-jihadist) and sectarian identity (drawing on Sunni grievances against Shias) basis, illustrates reciprocal extremism. Thus, sectarianism between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq can been seen as both a cause and a consequence of jihadist extremism.

                • Understanding Overlapping Extremisms

                  The term overlapping extremisms was coined by the PAVE project to describe the fact that violent extremist movements sometimes draw on several mutually-enforcing sources of mobilization, based on various forms of social group-identities, as well as ideological trajectories. Whereas reciprocal extremisms develop in antagonism with each other. The concept of overlapping extremisms describes a multi-layered extremist structure where different sources of extremist mobilization (religion, tribal ties, ethnicity, political affinity, etc.) serve to reinforce each other cumulatively, but within the same movement or community.

                  Within the PAVE project, several instances of overlapping extremism were also found. In North Macedonia, religious extremism among ethnic Albanians has not generated any opposite dynamics among Orthodox ethnic Macedonians. Here the political and religious dimensions have been seen to be connected. In both Lebanon and Iraq, violent extremist movements also sometimes draw on several overlapping and mutually reinforcing sources of mobilization at once, including socio-economic disparities, local political dynamics and sectarian polarization.

                • Session 2 Objectives and Expected Results

                  Objective: In this second session, our objective will be to learn about the factors of vulnerability to violent extremism found within the PAVE project.

                  Expected Results: Participants will gain knowledge and understanding of the factors of vulnerability to violent extremism found within the PAVE project within the countries specifically identified in the Western Balkans and MENA regions.

                  Amount of Time Anticipated for Session 2: 1 hour and 25 minutes

                  Agenda for Session 2

                  • Overview of Findings on Vulnerability Factors

                    • Economic Factors

                    • Legacies of Violence

                    • Religious Factors

                    • The Role of the State

                    • The Role of the Media

                    • Online Drivers and Narratives Fuelling Community Radicalization

                    • Transnational Factors of Vulnerability and the Role of the Diaspora Community in Radicalization

                    • Risk Map Assessment Tool

                    • Influence of Gender and Social Norms

                  • Overview of Findings on Vulnerability Factors

                    Before you read about the findings, think to yourself a moment on what you think the vulnerability factors for someone to become a violent extremist would be? Do you think it is the same for men, women, youth and marginalized groups?

                    There are a number of factors that have been found within the PAVE project to increase communities’ vulnerability to radicalization, including: economic, religious and transnational factors; legacies of violence; the role of the state, media and diaspora communities; online drivers and narratives fueling community radicalization; and the influence of gender and social norms. While there is a variation regarding how extremism has manifested itself in these particular cases, the PAVE project looked for commonalities, as well as differences between them.

                    Source: PAVE. “Second Stakeholder Meeting in North Macedonia.” March 15, 2022. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/second-stakeholder-meeting-in-north-macedonia.

                    • Economic Factors

                      The first factor found within the PAVE project were economic factors, including economic grievances, a lack of resources for key segments of a population, and unequal distribution of resources. The way in which these economic factors play out in order to create fertile ground for the growth of extremism is not identical across the different cases, however. In Kosovo, the economic deprivation of the Serbian and Albanian communities provides the backbone for extremism. Extremist ideologies were seen as more perceptible in situations where communities are unsatisfied with the status quo and feel that they are hindered to pursue their full potential. Extremist ideologies hold out the prospect for a radically different type of society, which can be appealing when economic situations are dire. In particular, the lack of employment opportunities was seen as an important driver of extremism. This pertains especially to the youth of the Serbian and Albanian communities, where lack of job experiences and the possibility to earn their own wages, create vulnerabilities among young people to become radicalized.

                      In Kosovo, the economic deprivation of the Serbian and Albanian communities provides the backbone for extremism. Extremist ideologies were seen as more perceptible in situations where communities are unsatisfied with the status quo and feel that they are hindered to pursue their full potential. Extremist ideologies hold out the prospect for a radically different type of society, which can be appealing when economic situations are dire. In particular, the lack of employment opportunities was seen as an important driver of extremism. This pertains especially to the youth of the Serbian and Albanian communities, where lack of job experiences and the possibility to earn their own wages, create vulnerabilities among young people to become radicalized.

                      In the case of Iraq, it is the lack of strong socio-economic policies that fosters corruption and nepotism while failing to meet the demands of citizens and tackle poverty, laying the ground for violent extremism. Taken together, one of the key factors behind violent extremism, which has been found in many of the field studies, is the lack of economic development. It is in situations where the economic development is underperforming that extremist ideologies can establish themselves – people are motivated to find alternatives to the current order. This is not to say that economic factors are sufficient as an explanation, but they are definitely part of the story of how violent extremism develops and flourish in societies.

                      • Factors Surrounding Legacies of Violence

                        Photo Source: PAVE. “Serbia Stakeholder Report.” March 2, 2021. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/serbia-stakeholder-report_.

                        The second factor found within the PAVE project was legacies of violence. Many of the PAVE countries emphasize their country’s violent histories as drivers of violent extremism. Dealing with the contentious trajectories of societies with a contemporary history of warfare and ethnic strife is observed as a key factor underlying extremism. Absent processes of setting the historical track record right as well as efforts to reconcile fundamentally different perspectives on what the wars were about, who was responsible for any atrocities committed, who were the main victims, and who was to blame, and so on, the societies remain stuck in rigid and polarized narratives that inhibit inter-ethnic collaboration and interaction. Extremist perspectives can fester on these open wounds of wars.

                        For example, the Serbian and Bosniak communities in Serbia have radically different narratives of the civil war in the 1990s and both communities cultivate perceptions centered around their own group’s sense of being the main victims of that war. This sense of victimization provides an underlying rationale behind extremist perspectives and serves as a main obstacle for inter-ethnic relationships. The memories of the war linger on and partly contaminate the possibilities for communication and collaboration across ethnic lines. Religious education is divided, and interreligious education is rare. Parties, organizations, and movements organized along ethnic lines keep the sense of victimhood alive in their communities. 

                        The legacy of the civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990) has also affected the development of extremism in the country. The sectarian tensions have remained unresolved and lie underneath the development of extremism and sectarianism. The legacy of war in Lebanon also takes on regional dimensions. The regional context and the shifting power dynamics at the regional level have also had repercussions for Shia-Sunni relations in Lebanon. Thus, in addition to an overall fragile situation coupled with socio- political dynamics, Lebanese politics have become a proxy battleground for regional powers. Hence, expressions of extremism and the overall risk of sectarian violence needs to be understood against the backdrop of this regional context.

                        • Religious Factors

                          The third factor found within the PAVE project stemmed around religious factors. Religious actors – organizations, clergy, and leaders – play a role in upholding group identities that oftentimes are defined in hostility to an opposite ‘Other’. Religion is often not seen as an inherent problem, but rather it is the way in which religious resources are instrumentalized for political purposes which is perceived to be the driving force behind violent extremism. Political actors use and exploit religious sentiments, frameworks, and images in order to mobilize support for their political programs.

                          For example, in Serbia, this is shown by how the Serbian Orthodox Church has not explicitly and credibly distanced itself from radical voices within the Serbian community, who have used religious symbols, language and imagery for political purposes. It is also shown in how external religious actors have been exploiting internal divisions. For example, the Islamic community in Serbia has been divided organizationally (between a Belgrade-centric and a Sarajevo-centric), and external Islamist actors have exploited this division in order to gain access and traction in the Sandžak region. At the same time, inter-religious collaboration, demonstrated in the malfunctioning Interfaith Council in Serbia, has not been developed. Inter-faith dialogue is not prioritized among religious communities.

                          Religions cut across state borders. Religious identities are fundamentally transnational identities that create ties between co-religionists of different faith traditions. These can, and have been, exploited to serve the purposes of those propagating religious extremism. For example, religious extremism, as seen from both the perspectives of Kosovo Albanians and Serbs, originate externally from Kosovo and have been externally imported to Kosovo, including from the Middle East. Religious civil society organizations, some of them funded by external actors, have been able to work underneath the radar in Kosovo and contributed to a radicalization of segments of the population.

                          Religious actors have a major influence in Lebanon. Lebanon’s main weakness to extremism lies within its very constitution that gives rights to religious institutions to practice without any oversight. This includes exemptions from tax obligations for religious institutions, the weakness of religious education, and the way religious leaders behave as supra-state actors and defend their positions in the sectarian system. The constitutional framework that provides privileges for religious institutions has created a fragmented country, lacking national cohesion. Religious actors have pursued their own group’s self-interest, rather than to contribute to the building of a functioning Lebanese society, and thereby laid the basis for growing sectarianism and openness for extremism.

                          Photo Source: Sjöblom-Fodor, Gabriel. ‘’The Role of Religion in Countering Extremism: Notes from the Nordic Countries.’’ European Eye on Radicalization. June 30, 2021. https://eeradicalization.com/the-role-of-religion-in-countering-extremism-notes-from-the-nordic-countries/.

                          • The Role of the State

                            The fourth factor found within the PAVE project was the role of the state. The state may be a factor behind extremism not only by neglect and underperformance, but also by more actively (even if indirectly) supporting the narratives and organizational basis for extremist movements. 

                            For example, the sectarian politics of Iraqi governments was a driver behind violent extremism in the form of the Islamic State (ISIS). ISIS was tolerated and even welcomed by some Sunni segments of the population, because of their frustration with the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and its sectarian politics. By the politization of sectarian identities, the Sunni minority of Iraq was alienated. Inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian tensions affected the national cohesion: the country has been unable to foster a common Iraqi identity that would bridge identity individualities.

                            In North Macedonia, it was observed that the mainstream political parties acted in a manner that helped to create conditions for extremism. Moreover, the absence of the state provided opportunities for external actors to disseminate violent extremism. The state weakness is identified as a factor behind the spread of Islamist extremism, where external actors were able to capitalize on periods of state instability and step into the vacuum when the state was largely absent.

                            Furthermore, in Serbia, far-right nationalism has gained from the “benevolence” of the Serbian state. Criminal networks overlap with far-right organizations, and sometimes political organizations or even football supporter clubs, provide a facade for smugglers and other forms of criminal activities. It may therefore be in the political and economic interest of the governments to maintain these organizations. Far-right nationalism has been normalized in Serbia, by the actions of the state. The government applies a one-sided approach to different forms of extremism: meaning, the P/CVE strategy in Serbia does not reflect the duality of extremism the country experiences, but rather focuses solely on preventing and countering Islamist violent extremism. The government strategy completely leaves out the issue of far-right extremism. A further example of this can be seen in how different types of foreign fighters have been treated. Muslim jihadist volunteers supported Bosniaks during the civil war, whilst Serbia received various types of Russian support. Muslim Bosniaks who have traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS, as well as Serbians who have travelled to Ukraine to fight for pro-Russian forces, have therefore done so with a sense of a moral obligation of “repayment of debt”. However, the returnees have been treated very differently. The pro-Russian Serbians in Ukraine have received far less attention (and also less judicial implications), compared to those who fought against Assad in Syria.

                            Photo: Ongoing "graffiti war" in Belgrade between far-right groups and civic activists. The main struggle is over the mural to Ratko Mladić painted in the Belgrade city center. PAVE. “Second Stakeholder Meeting in Serbia.” March 17, 2022. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/second-stakeholder-meeting-in-serbia.

                            • The Role of the Media

                              The fifth factor found within the PAVE project was the role of the media. Media are generally viewed as a factor and as actors that play a negative role in radicalization. Findings of PAVE fieldwork show that media incite radicalization through misinformation, poor editorial practices and sensational reporting

                              In Kosovo, the media have a detrimental impact on the spread of violent extremism. Due to journalists’ lack of specialization on security or terrorism-related topics, reporting is unprofessional: media often publish unconfirmed information and sometimes spread extremist propaganda inadvertently by wrongly using terms. In addition, they are often not authoritative and knowledgeable on nuances of religion. Respondents also claim that the media often give space to influence the public opinion to individuals who are non-experts, biased and even agitating on matters of ethnic relations and religion. There are even those in the Muslim community who feel that their religion is purposely misrepresented in the media.  

                              The media in North Macedonia is highly polarized along ethnic lines, with Macedonian-language outlets spreading content that fuels ethno-political radicalization. The situation has intensified in response to the Prespa Agreement, Tirana Platform and the ongoing political controversy with Bulgaria. The underlying narrative is a feeling among ethnic Macedonians of their identity being threatened, and sometimes these events are portrayed as mutually related and part of a “master plan” to destroy the Macedonian nation and divide the state territory among neighbouring countries. Such an ethno-national extremist narrative overlaps with political extremism labelling leadership of the SDSM party, the most active political stakeholder in these events, as courting Albanian voters, and even ‘traitors’ who are hostile to Macedonian patriots and willing to ‘sell’ the Macedonian identity and state. Moreover, traditional media in the country are not seen as being free or professional, but rather tasked with promoting particular narratives of different state and non-state actors, including in some cases far-right narratives. Media also further fuel ethno-political radicalization by spreading the statements of political and religious leaders. The latter contributes to eroding citizens’ trust in institutions and to a belief of the state acting selectively and not providing equal treatment. Ethnic Macedonians tend to believe that the system favours ethnic Albanians and vice versa.

                              In Serbia, the ties between the ruling party and the far-right organizations have meant that the state has allowed these radical organizations space in the media landscape, which in turn has led to the further normalization of their narratives in the public discourse and the establishment of new organizations of similar ideological affiliation.

                              On the other hand, several main points can be made about the role of the media in Tunisia and Lebanon in radicalization. First, they contribute virtually exclusively only to inciting religious radicalization instead of ethno-political radicalization. Second, by reporting on violence occurring throughout the MENA region such as the Arab Spring revolutions, the Iraq conflict, the Syrian war, terrorist attacks and the Israel-Palestine conflict, they have for a long time been contributing to fuelling religious radicalization, especially among young people. Thirdly, by amplifying a narrative of victimhood – especially through graphic images portraying violence and socio-economic marginalization and isolation caused by secular regimes ruling MENA countries prior to the Arab Spring – they have strengthened political Islam. Fourth, in Tunisia, increased media freedom and an unregulated media environment allows Islamist political forces to exploit media to come to power, thus bringing the highly-polarized political rhetoric from streets to institutional politics, and potentially amplifying a sense of resentment and the risk of political revenge between formerly-in-power secularists and Islamists in power. Fifth, the media have been contributing to amplifying the same kind of violent rhetoric and a strong sense of belonging across countries, in particular among the youth, thus increasing the risk of Islamic radicalization becoming a stronger transnational phenomenon. A trend largely aided by the widespread use of the Internet and increase in the number of online media, this could make it more difficult to prevent and combat extremist radicalization and its violent manifestations such as terrorism.

                              • Online Drivers and Narratives Fuelling Community Radicalization

                                Hear from Dorjeta Rukiqi, Research Assistant, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS) on the findings of online/offline drivers of vulnerability.

                                Source: PAVE Project. ‘’Dorjeta Rukiqi: Online/Offline Drivers of Vulnerability.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBfoGHzGL2M.

                                When it comes to the role of online channels in radicalization several patterns can be noted in the two PAVE research regions. One is that the role of such channels falls within the larger pattern, namely that they play a stronger role in ethno-political radicalization in the Balkans while the opposite is true in the MENA region. Another pattern is that inadequately regulated environments in which online media and social media in both regions operate increases societies’ vulnerability to radicalization by consolidating the path of sensation-driven reporting already paved by traditional media. This fuels and further spreads in public space radical political rhetoric, extremist ethno-political and religious narratives, hate speech and conspiracy theories. Thirdly, online channels in both regions play a much stronger role in radicalization than in deradicalization.

                                Findings of PAVE research in Kosovo suggest that the online domain is dominated by ethno-political radical communities and online channels present a more potent mechanism for the dissemination of information and community mobilization on a particular issue, including radicalization-related ones. They also indicate that root causes of online radicalization are the same as those of vulnerabilities to radicalization in general. On the other hand, online channels, such as Youtube videos showing atrocities against civilians in Syria disseminated as part of the moral-shock campaign, have fuelled radicalization in Kosovo more than preachers. This is also explained by association of such imagery of violence with Kosovans’ personal experiences from the last war. Yet a risk here is that it is very easy to disseminate fake information through social networks. This shows that ethno-political and religious radicalization reinforce each other also due to the legacy of unresolved past conflicts.

                                Easy access of radical content through social networks such as Facebook and TikTok, including lectures of radical imams, and difficulties institutions face to control online channels, especially with regard to credibility of their content, makes societies more vulnerable to online radicalization. Channels of dissemination and influence through online content in some social networks such as Facebook are more difficult to control given the availability of diverse tools, including video content, messaging, closed community group creation and networking. Yet PAVE research has found no cases of radicalization in Kosovo exclusively through online channels. Moreover, the global nature of religious affiliations and their use by ethno-political radical agents makes societies more vulnerable to online radicalization, whether ethno-political or religious, due to difficulties in controlling origins and channels of dissemination of radical online content.

                                The general perception in North Macedonia is that the online extremist propaganda represents a serious threat to citizens’ and communities’ security and to the public order in general. As the analysis of online content in this country conducted by PAVE found, the narratives of radical structures among the ethnic Macedonian community go beyond ethno-nationalism. Such content spreads far-right extremism, taking the form of anti-migrant and anti-vaccines rhetoric, support for right-wing politicians and condemnation of Western progressive values perceived by such ethno-political extremists as undermining traditional Orthodox and family values. The ethnic Albanian foreign fighter’s phenomenon shows that online presence of radical groups and Imams could contribute to radicalization of individuals and perpetuation of violence offline. It seems that radical communities have created a sophisticated mechanism combining online and offline practices to attract, radicalize, and recruit individuals. They have their own recruitment procedures: it starts with online attraction/fishing, continues with religious manipulation through teaching of radical interpretation of the Islamic doctrine by radical self-proclaimed imams in Madrasas, and ends with their recruitment. There is also a tendency for Facebook pages with the most extremist content to shut down their activities and continue elsewhere, in new pages or profiles with different names where extremist posts co-exist together with humanitarian messages and with imams’ sermons in an effort to evade detection by authorities.

                                On the other hand, PAVE field research carried out in the four sites in Tunisia and Lebanon confirms that the negative role of traditional media in radicalization extends into cyberspace. Over the last three decades online channels in Tunisia have been contributing to the spread of Salafist movements, including Wahabism. This research has also found strong instrumentalization of religion in Facebook pages and websites of some political parties and politicians in Tunisia aimed at spreading radical Salafist ideology. Despite nuances in the intensity of religious discourse from one political affiliation to another, they share a consensus on an Islamic societal model. In Lebanon, applications such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and particularly Telegram became widely popular when the Syrian war erupted in 2011. They played an important role in communicating violent events and were exploited by jihadist organizations, as proven by the increase in the number of online channels of violent radical Islamic organizations. The number of websites affiliated with such groups increased from 12 in 1997 to 150,000 in 2017. The number of official accounts of ISIS alone on Twitter reached 46,000 at the end of 2014. Other such organizations publish around 9 million short-videos in English, over 47,000 in French, over 20,000 in Russian and over 12,000 in Arabic. These numbers show such organizations’ ability to exploit online channels in order to spread ideological propaganda and demonstrate greatness and strength, thus attracting young people. The lack of critical thinking and inadequate media education make the youth particularly vulnerable to extremism as a result. Applications allowed people a direct line of communication with extremist organizations. Online media also represented a Godsend for people who desired revenge against the practices of the security services who dealt unjustly with Sunni detainees on issues related to the Syrian war.

                                Online misinformation and fake news can have dire consequences.  Are you able to identify fake news and misinformation when using online platforms? Test your knowledge: https://www.seriousgamemarket.com/2018/07/games-for-change-serious-game-to-test.html.

                                Photo Source: Alhadeff, Eliane. “Factitious: A Game That Tests Your News Sense.” July 1, 2018. https://www.seriousgamemarket.com/2018/07/games-for-change-serious-game-to-test.html.

                                • Transnational Factors of Vulnerability and the Role of the Diaspora Community in Radicalization

                                  Hear from Johanna-Maria Hülzer, Junior Project Manager, Berghof Foundation, on the impact of violent extremism on diaspora communities.

                                  Source: PAVE Project. ‘’Johanna-Maria Hülzer: Impact of Violent Extremism on Diaspora Communities.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oE6aQU6gcc.

                                  Transregional dynamics is another research cluster of the PAVE project. This cluster is based on the empirical study on transnational dynamics fueling cross-border manifestations of violent extremism between Europe, the Balkans and the MENA region, with a special emphasis on the role of Diaspora communities. Transnational dynamics are defined as processes of exchange that ‘transcend’ national and state borders. Transnational dynamics exist where developments and incidences in one place affect or interact with developments in another geographical space. Examples of transnational dynamics with regard to violent extremism include diasporas, foreign fighters, transnational mobility of humans, financial flows and economics activities, and organized crime, as well as other issues such as the failure of integration, marginalization and the perception of discrimination. Transnational factors are influenced by diaspora communities. Diasporas are defined through the connection to an original place of origin that through collective memory and mythology carries the notion of the homeland.

                                  The main forms of transregional and transnational involvement that PAVE focused on were: i) identity crisis, disintegration, and discrimination; international geopolitics and military interventions/perceptions of a negative role for Western foreign policy; linkages with the home country and engagement with state and non-state organizations; role of the internet/social media and dissemination of radical propaganda; external influence from state and non-state actors; and linkages with foreign terrorist fighters or other radicalized persons.

                                  Islamist extremism has important transnational and transregional dynamics. Terrorist organizations, social movements and foreign states are among the main transregional actors that can affect the trends and factors of radicalization, such as in the case of the Western Balkans and the MENA regions The Western Balkans are among Europe’s top exporters of volunteers fighting for radical Islamic organizations such as IS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) estimates that over 300 fighters from Kosovo have travelled to warzones in Iraq and Syria, while 330 fighters have come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 110 from Albania, 100 from Macedonia, 50 from Serbia and 13 from Montenegro. This places Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina as the top two European countries by percentage of population who have joined terrorist organizations, while Albania is ranked in fourth place just behind Belgium.

                                  Radical interpretations of Islam were once alien to Muslim communities in the Balkans, which are traditionally oriented towards the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam. Furthermore, 50 years of communist rule in the region instilled a sense of secularism in Balkan Muslim communities and gave rise to an Islamic tradition that is markedly different in its interpretations and practices from its more conservative counterparts in the Arabian Peninsula. More conservative interpretations of Islam (such as the Salafist movement) and its militant form (Takfirism) first arrived in the Balkans in the early 1990s, when some 2,000 Arab mujahedeen fighters came to fight on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav wars.

                                  In the case of Muslim diaspora communities in Europe, there are several risk factors of violent extremism which emerge through identity crisis, disintegration and discrimination. This particularly is the case for second and third generation immigrants/refugees, who have fewer ties to their country of origin than their parents or grandparents. The Muslim diaspora can feel a cultural of marginalization or feeling alienated from their culture of origin and not fully integrated into the culture of their host country, which brings a feeling of non-belonging. The Muslim diaspora can feel an element of disintegration or a separation of religion from their culture of origin, in identifying as fire and foremost as members of the global Islamic community (Ummah). The Muslim diaspora can also feel real or perceived discrimination, which can lead to a source of frustration and increase vulnerability to violent extremism, such as women being discriminated for wearing a headscarf. International geopolitics and military interventions, notably Western military interventions in predominantly Muslim countries can also create further anger and a perception of Islam under a moral threat. 

                                  The linkages between diaspora organizations and congregations with their home countries and engagement with state and non-state organizations can influence funding, donations and teachings, including extremist narratives and dialogue, particularly for socially and economically marginalized diaspora communities. Salafists, mainly supported and funded by Saudi Arabia, have spread their interpretation of Islam and their ideas across the Balkans mainly through mosques, Islamic humanitarian centers and non-governmental organizations. It has also been estimated that of the $800 million of Saudi money to have entered Bosnia and Herzegovina since the end of the conflict in that country, $100 million is untraceable and lost in a maze of charity organizations and possibly used to fund Islamic extremism.

                                  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, ICIS receives donations from their diaspora communities, including in Sweden, Austria and the UK. The Sandžak Salafis has also received financial support from the Bosnian diaspora. Both Islamic communities are still very dependent on the support of the Bosnian diaspora, which plays a role in the recruitment of foreign fighters. Foreign Fighters are defined as individuals who travel to a state other than their state of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in acts of violent extremism or the provision or receiving of training, including in connection with armed conflict. The linkages with foreign fighters or other radicalized persons can be potential multipliers of violence upon their return to their homeland. The difference between the traditional "foreign fighters" and the "foreign fighters" of the younger generation is another important point. The first generation of Islamist "foreign fighters" focuses on the implications of their involvement in guerrilla warfare in the context of a particular conflict, while the second sees the destination of the battle as a mean of sacrifice and action, as tools for the violent transfer of political incentives. In this case, we can speak of a substantial shift from the battlefield as a final destination to the battlefield as part of a broader process of violent radicalization. However, the dependence on the support of the Bosnian diaspora could also be a factor of resilience, as the Bosnian population is generally well integrated into Western societies, which promotes social rapprochement between Sandžak and the West.

                                  Listen and Learn From Former Extremists On Their Experiences of Understanding Why They Became Foreign Fighters and Extremists:


                                  Source: ConnectFutures. ‘’Learning from the lived experiences of former extremists.’’ 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42xIsBwVg4I.

                                  In North Macedonia, most diaspora organizations seem to be concerned predominantly with ethnic and identity issues. They are mobilized by events affecting the national interests as defined through their lens and objectives. They are likely to organize and support peaceful protests (both in North Macedonia and in their respective countries) and publicity campaigns, such as the mobilization against the Prespa Agreement and the Tirana Platform. While they are certainly acting in sync with local organizations and initiatives, it is impossible to determine to what extent they follow or shape the agenda. At the same time, on social media there is occasional backlash from ethnic Macedonians who actually live in the country against some extremist positions and initiatives organized by the diaspora. Their main argument is that it is very easy for people from the diaspora to advocate for specific solutions and to preach what is right or wrong when they do not live in the country and will not face the potential consequences of such solutions. By contrast, some of the local extremist groups, usually involving the younger male population, have an agenda which includes but goes beyond ethno-nationalism and is more ideologically tainted with general far-right motives (anti-migration, homophobic, racist, neo-Nazi, etc.) Such groups tend to identify with, and strive to maintain relationships with, foreign groups and organizations which represent the same views (not the Macedonian diaspora, but home-grown organizations from other countries).

                                  The online space can further shape attitudes and thinking of the diaspora. In the case of NMK, the number of Albanian foreign fighters in the Middle East, some of them from the Tetovo and Kumanovo regions, provides a perfect example of how the online presence of radical groups and imams has led to the radicalization of individuals from local communities and the perpetuation of violence offline. The Albanian case gives the impression of a sophisticated mechanism that utilizes a combination of online and offline practices to attract, radicalize and recruit individuals. This mechanism has led to the establishment of a well-organized community that operates in all Albanian-inhabited areas of the Western Balkans and in the Albanian diaspora in Europe as well. This community has its own specific recruitment procedures which start with the online attraction/fishing of individuals (Islamist internet recruiting), continues with their religious manipulation through the teaching of the radical interpretation of the Islamic doctrine by radical self-proclaimed imams in madrasas, and ends with recruitment. Members of this online community can recognize each other on the basis of their activities, enabling them to expand their network through the inclusion of new followers and members. 

                                  Other examples of transnational dynamics that can be found in the Western Balkans include religious dynamics. For instance, Islamist preachers have appealed to religion but also to notions of nationalism among ethnic Albanians in the diaspora, recruiting individuals to fight along ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

                                  Representatives from the three sister projects PAVE, PREVEX, and CONNEKT met in Brussels for two in-person events where they shared insights from the three projects with Brussels-based civil society organizations and policy makers on cross-regional trends and implications for the European Union regarding radicalization and violent extremism. PAVE. “Policy Meetings in Brussel.” June 27, 2022. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/h2020-projects-pave-prevex-and-connekt-join-forces-for-two-events-in-brussels.

                                  • Risk Map

                                    Hear from Akis Karatrandos from ELIAMAP on how the risk map was developed and how it can be utilized within your work. 

                                    Source: Pave Project. ‘’Akis Karatrandos: Risk Map.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHs11FMqiKs.

                                    One important objective of PAVE was to analyze the impact on European security and map the risks and challenges. The risk map created visualizes in a dual way the transnational risk and resilience factors. The risk factors (i.e. disintegration, identity crisis, vulnerability to propaganda etc.) and the resilience factors (i.e. integration, the role of credible voices, social media, education, inter-cultural dialogue etc.) with a dedicated signal representing them are the main parts of the map. Furthemore, using connecting lines is representing the main transnational implications. The information of the map is based on the outcomes of the field research. The diaspora communities studied include: Greece (Pakistani and Afghani, Ireland (Pakistani, Iraqi, Sikhs, Nigerian and Kosovo), Germany (Bosnian and Palestinian), Spain (Amazigh), Denmark (Palestinian) and France (Palestinian). To view the map, go to:  https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/9991be9323f945ee968cd63a4bed7098.

                                    Photo Source: PAVE. “Risk Map.” 2022. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/9991be9323f945ee968cd63a4bed7098.

                                    Risk Factors:

                                    • Risk Factor 1: Identity crisis, disintegration, discrimination

                                    • Risk Factor 2: International geopolitics and military interventions/perceptions of a negative role for Western foreign policy

                                    • Risk Factor 3: Linkages with the home country and engagement with state and non-state organizations

                                    • Risk Factor 4: Role of internet/social media and dissemination of radical propaganda

                                    • Risk Factor 5: External Influence from State and non-state actors

                                    • Risk Factor 6: Linkages with Foreign Terrorist Fighters or other radicalized persons 

                                    Photo Source: PAVE. “Risk Factors.” 2022. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/9991be9323f945ee968cd63a4bed7098.

                                    Resilience Factors:

                                    • Resilience Factor 1: Successful integration, engagement and cooperation between the host country and the communities

                                    • Resilience Factor 2: Community Cohesion Programs linked with prevention of radicalization initiatives Resilience 

                                    • Resilience Factor 3: Pluralistic inter-religion dialogue and initiatives to avoid the stigmatization and separation of Islam from other religions

                                    • Resilience Factor 4: Cooperation with the communities and engagement of credible and moderate voices

                                    • Resilience Factor 5: Counter narratives, use of social media 

                                    Photo Source: PAVE. “Resilience Factors.” 2022. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/9991be9323f945ee968cd63a4bed7098.

                                    • Influence of Gender and Social Norms

                                      Hear from Gillian Wylie, Lecturer, Trinity College Dublin, on how gender plays a role in violent extremism and P/CVE efforts.

                                      Source: PAVE Project. ‘’Gillian Wylie: How Gender Plays a Role in Violent Extremism and P/CVE Efforts.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A18BhRnn_e4.

                                      It is essential to pay particular attention to the gender dimension when analyzing factors behind both extremism and resilience. Previous research demonstrates a close connection between gender inequality and political violence in different forms. Patriarchal values such as an ‘honor ideology’ has been shown to be important for explaining why men more frequently become engaged in political violence. Violent extremism within the countries studied has predominantly been carried out by men. Men dominate within the political, ethnic, sectarian, and religious organizations and networks that carry the ideological project of extremism. Women do also participate as active agents in violent extremism, although commonly in different ways than men, as well as preventers and broader peacebuilders within society. Women as a target of ideological radicalization has also been evident in the case of the Western Balkans. Unlike in the MENA region where radicalization has been found to be male-centred, radicalization trends in the Western Balkans point to a consistent targeting of women by ISIS. Two phases have been specifically identified in relation to the targeting of women. In the first, ISIS narratives have aimed to depict ISIS as an opportunity for empowerment of women, whereas the second, has focused on the role of women as defenders of Islam. 

                                      The role of women and young women are many and varied across contexts within P/CVE efforts. However, one thing is clear: patriarchal values have been dominant in the various forms of extremism. In fact, it is one of the common denominators regardless of whether we discuss ethno-nationalism, far-right extremism, or Islamist extremism – they all build on core assumptions of patriarchy and of the importance to maintain male dominance over women.

                                      How drivers of extremism affect the likelihood of extremism are affected by gender-dimensions. For example, economic factors that are drivers of violent extremism are gendered through the dependence and unequal access to resources and opportunities making women more vulnerable, and often dependent on their spouses. Some women have therefore been forced to move to conflict zones, for example Syria, when their men have been recruited as foreign fighters. Fieldwork conducted in the MENA region shows that women face significant hurdles in the labor market, where they often receive less pay for the same jobs compared to men. A similar level of disenfranchisement and gendered alienation from active participation in the socio-economic sphere is evident in the Western Balkans. 

                                      Hear from Meral Musli Tajroska, Founder of Pleiades in North Macedonia, whose organization aims to show that women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution is not only meaningful but also necessary. “I get to be in a space where I can break religious barriers and gender stereotypes, which ultimately allows me to positively influence and empower the next generation of girls.” - Meral Musli Tajroska. Ms. Tajroska was integral in participating within PAVE’s consultative process: 

                                      Source: OSCE. ‘’Voices of LIVE - Meral Musli Tajroska.’’ January 24, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGRb1Aqkg3g.

                                      Another factor is around political participation and leadership. Despite relatively substantial legal frameworks on gender equality, women’s limited agency in public life and in politics persists across the MENA and Western Balkans region. A robust level of legislative initiatives has been noted in both Kosovo and Tunisia in relation to the institutionalization of protection mechanisms for women across public and political life. In the case of Kosovo for example, institutional checks in the form of international conventions and anti-discrimination, gender-equality primary legislation is evident, in addition to the existence of a centrally mandated gender-equality body. In the MENA region, specifically Tunisia, the same is evident through the transposition and effective ratification of major international conventions related to women’s rights, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The institutionalization of these legislative and legal checks however has not substantially impacted the role of women in these respective communities. In both cases, the effective implementation of international and national legal obligations on gender-equality remains scarce as women continue to face notable verbal and physical threats in relation to their participation in public and political life. Additionally, the misogynistic discourse targeting active participation in public and political life is similarly a common denominator shared between the MENA and Western Balkans region. As noted in the case of the MENA region, women who have assumed active roles in politics have been susceptible to verbal and physical violence directed at “female bodies”. While physical violence targeting women actively participating in politics has been limited in the Western Balkans, a high level of misogynistic verbal abuse is noted in the Kosovar and North Macedonian communities.

                                      Moreover, women’s leadership and participation disempowerment can also be seen in the sphere of the religious sector. While often forming the majority of active followers, women rarely play central roles in leadership within religious organizations. As pointed out in the case of Lebanon, the electoral system of religious representation is commonly restricted to the male-influenced elite, illustrating how gender inequalities play out in the institutional frameworks of the country.

                                      Trends in online deradicalization in the Western Balkans suggest a more active participation of women than in the MENA region. Similar to the differences in relation to women roles in community resilience, the participation and targeting of women in online deradicalization narratives is seen to be much more accentuated in the Western Balkans. While women in the Western Balkans are not actively engaged as vectors of radicalizing messages compared to men, fieldwork has shown that they actively participate in online platforms disseminating radical content. As noted in the case of North Macedonia, there are specific online platform groups/channels dedicated to exclusive content aimed at fostering radical ideologies among women. The analysis in NMK highlights that online platforms targeting women focus on two specific notions. The first, features online narratives that seek to present women as actors who have agency in shaping their societies. On the other hand, the second focuses on engaging women in behaving in accordance with strict moral codes which are predetermined and regulated by religious scripture. Additionally, the NMK fieldwork has found that women's roles go beyond offline perceptions of “good wives and mothers” and morph into active roles as “recruiters and propagandists” in online spaces.

                                      In the context of MENA region case studies, data on women’s participation in online deradicalization is absent. The fieldwork in Lebanon found a complete dismissal of women’s roles in community resilience and as agents of radicalization; the same is evident in online deradicalization. The lack of data in both Tunisia and Lebanon highlights that women are neither seen as active actors of radicalization, nor are they seen as agents who disseminate radical narratives online. 

                                      Watch the video about the Mothers Without Borders Peace Model and then take the quiz on the next page.

                                      Source: Women without Borders. ‘The MothersSchools Mission: Women Without Borders’ Parenting for Peace Model Explained.’’ May 11, 2018. 

                                    • Session 3 Objectives and Expected Results

                                      Objective: In this third session, our objective will be to unpack the interface between religious, political and ethnic and sectarian extremisms found within the Western Balkans and MENA regions.

                                      Expected Results: Participants will gain knowledge and understanding of the factors of vulnerability found in interactions between state and religious institutions.

                                      Amount of Time Anticipated for Session 3: 1.5 hours

                                      Agenda for Session 3

                                      • The Many Faces of Extremism: Overview of the Interface Between Religious, Political and Ethnic and Sectarian Extremisms in the Western Balkans and MENA Regions
                                      • The Dysfunction of Formal Institutions and the Impact of Informal Religious Institutions
                                      • The Relegation of Women’s Roles
                                      • Economy of the State and Religious Institutions
                                      • Deviation of the Political System
                                      • Mistrust Between Citizens, State Institutions and Civil Society Organizations
                                      • State Security Approach to C/PVE

                                      • The Many Faces of Extremism: Overview of the Interface Between Religious, Political and Ethnic and Sectarian Extremisms in the Western Balkans and MENA Regions

                                        Hear from Marie Kortam, Scientific Coordinator PVE, Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme (FMSH), on the findings of state and religious institutions.

                                        Source: PAVE Project. Marie Kortam: Findings of State and Religious Institutions.'' 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmkpcEt9dCM.

                                        Violent extremism is the result of the complex forms of interaction between the religious environment and the historical and political context of the state. Political parties can promote various forms of political extremist ideology, on one hand; and on the other hand, informal and formal religious institutions and leaders promote a rigorous and even violent vision of religion. These same religious players can also mobilize against the state and its political system or, per contra, play a role in disseminating these ideas. For their part, individuals who slide towards radicalization and join extremist organizations seize their faith to build a defying discourse and perpetrate violent acts against institutions, groups or individuals. They also use their faith to justify their violence as a means to defend their religious community against a repressive system that they consider unjust, incompetent and incapable to meet popular aspirations. These organizations frame world events and political developments to explain one’s personal life experience, driving people to turn to their religion where one can find refuge, regulation of social life, as well as answers to injustice. Religious and/or national collective identity failures can be used by violent extremist groups in targeting dissatisfied or alienated youth. Furthermore, religion or national affiliation can legitimize extremist acts, including violence. The study will take into consideration the influence of the collective identity, narratives, moral or legal behaviors, on vulnerability and resilience to violent extremism.

                                        State and religious institutions at both the formal and informal level can play a similar role, and the impact of this role can vary based on the state model. The relationship between both is complex and subject to change based on the political system, constitution and political context. It could be a form of collusion, co-optation, conflict or ‘gap-filling’. This could be measured by the influence of this relationship on the collective identity, narratives, or moral or legal behaviors.

                                        The religious sector is vast, deep, and complex. Although we traditionally associate religious influence and authority with public figures who have official titles (bishop, mufti, etc.) or with specific organized institutions (churches, madrasas, etc.), these are not always the most relevant religious interlocutors for a given community. When thinking about effective engagement with religion in any context, it is important to understand the role of religion in that context. Recalibrating the understanding of the religious sector to go beyond formal religious authorities and formal institutions allows one to discern a much more complex religious landscape, populated by a much more complex range of actors and voices.

                                        Within the PAVE project, there were also factors of vulnerability found in interactions between state and religious institutions.

                                        For example, in Serbia, factors of vulnerability were identified between far-right extremists and Islamist extremists. In Serbia, religion attracted various foreign fighters during the Bosnian war, for example from Greece and Russia or from Middle Eastern countries, who fought for the Serbian and Bosnian sides respectively. The recruitment of foreign fighters from Serbia by ISIS in Syria or pro-Russian forces in Ukraine could also be seen as an act of religious solidarity and debt repayment. Serbian extremists, whether Islamists or far right, link their ideological beliefs to religious and warrior narratives. The ideology of Islamist extremism first arrived in Serbia (Sandžak region) mainly due to the presence of jihadists during the Bosnian war, while almost all far-right nationalist organizations emphasize religious elements of Serbian identity in their political programs. As Orthodox Christianity is considered the cornerstone of Serbian national identity, almost all radical ethno-nationalist organizations, and some far-right organizations, emphasize religious elements and include the values defended by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in their programs and manifestos. There is little evidence of cooperation between SOC representatives and these organizations. However, they often display similar attitudes when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, the status of Kosovo, EU and NATO membership, the role of Russia, the unification of “Serbian territories”, “war heroes”, etc. Although the SOC does not officially support any political organization, its reluctance to distance itself from and condemn far-right organizations creates an impression of approval and support. The lack of transparency and democratic procedures within the SOC reinforces the image of a church that supports radical ethno-nationalism and the extreme right.

                                        Religion influenced the radicalization process indirectly as well, as it was fundamental to Serbian and Bosnian ethno-national identities. Therefore, state and religious institutions played a decisive role in both cases since their activity, or rather their passivity, produced the main drivers of radicalization and extremism in the country. They have facilitated the production of narratives adopted by radical and extremist organizations through their ‘normalization’ and ‘mainstreaming’ of extremist discourses and have participated in various political conflicts that have led to socio-economic underdevelopment and the spread of radical ideologies, inter-religious/inter-ethnic discrimination and hate speech. 

                                        The Muslim population in Serbia is also affected by the division of the Islamic community, which is represented by two rival organizations: Islamic Community of Serbia (ICoS) and the (Islamic Community in Serbia) ICiS. This division is primarily political and is a consequence of the ethnic regulation mechanism. The Law on Churches and Religious Communities adopted in 2006 recognizes the Belgrade-based ICoS as the only legal community. After some unsuccessful efforts to unite the two Islamic communities, the ICiS was officially founded in 2007, operating under the auspices of Sarajevo, while the ICoS operates under Turkish influence and is seen as an at- tempt to weaken the influence of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sandžak. The ICoS is affiliated with the PDA, while the ICiS shares leadership with the PJR, and this division persists despite various attempts to reconcile the two Islamic communities, including Turkish mediation between 2010 and 2014. This religious and political division has opened up the Sandžak space to outside fundamentalist influences. It is therefore seen as one of the drivers of the Muslim population’s vulnerability to radicalization and extremism.

                                        In addition to the lack of dialogue and cooperation between the SOC and the Islamic communities, another factor of vulnerability is the lack of contact between the two Islamic communities in Serbia. Although they teach the same version of Islam, ICiS considers ICoS to be a political construct of Belgrade and the PDA (at the time when the PDA was part of the central government), aiming to take control of the entire Islamic community in Serbia.

                                        In Lebanon, hate speech has also played a significant role. Since the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) became the first Christian party in Lebanon and its founder acceded to the office of President of the Republic, it adopted a strategy of rapprochement with Syria and began to adopt the same rhetoric as the other right-wing Maronite parties. The FPM which has a new leader since 2016, Gebran Bassil, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law, participates in the polarization of the Christian electoral base. When Gebran Bassil succeeded President Aoun as the head of the FPM, he started adopting a radical and sometimes racist speech for electoral ends targeting Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon. For instance, in January 2019, he published a tweet saying that the presence of Syrians in Lebanon is exhausting for the Lebanese economy. 

                                        Watch the UN's video on how hate speech can affect others positively or negatively.

                                        Source: UNIC Beirut. ''PR stunt by UN Lebanon on hate speech.'' June 17, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s20g3DaOVRI.

                                        • The Dysfunction of Formal Institutions and the Impact of Informal Religious Institutions

                                          The dysfunction of formal religious institutions is another vulnerability factor. For instance, some mosques participate in the dissemination of a rigorist and even violent vision of religion through the preaching of charismatic sheikhs and Koranic schools. There is a hardening of the religious discourse which does not only affect the cultural aspects. Thus, listening to these messages and preaching plays an important role in the way young people learn about the actions of extremist groups and becoming attracted to such groups. Violence is then seen as a means of pressure and affirmation in the face of a state perceived as a mere repressive entity, and religion as the only instrument of social regulation. Governmental religious institutions are sometimes seen as an extension of the government and therefore aligned with its competence to address the needs of the population in other areas. If the Tunisian government controls religious institutions but does not provide good programs in terms of infrastructure, education, training programs for imams, then believers look for “more legitimate” religious support from foreign organizations

                                          In the case of Lebanon, the government allows religious education in private and public schools but does not pay the teachers’ salaries, which come from donations. This lack of funding, coupled with educational curriculum that may be biased or not contextually relevant in relation to current politics, can affect the type and quality of the education system and the ways in which youth view the current dynamics within the country. e. This also leads to conflicting historical narratives, which can drive violent extremism, with a national narrative, which is being produced and taught in schools. Likewise in Tunisia, most imams and preachers are not trained at university level. In Iraq, the lack of cooperation between different endowments and the absence of a unified curriculum have led to precursors to violent extremism. Furthermore, the restitution of religious institutions as political actors, notably informal religious institutions, representatives and referents of the religious community places them in a ‘competition’ for legitimacy.

                                          For more information on the role and relationship between faith actors and institutions and governments on preventing violent extremism, watch this Berkley Center event:

                                          Source: Berkley Center. ''Religion, Governments and Preventing Violent Extremism: What Have We Learned?'' February 27, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAHpmd_XJpc&t=871s.

                                          • The Relegation of Women’s Roles

                                            Another vulnerability factor found for violent extremism is the lack of representation of women in the decision-making processes within formal religious institutions. In religious institutions, women are involved in affairs that concern primarily women. Given the traditional role of men in the highest religious positions across the spectrum – ranging from  all religions present in Iraq, Lebanon, Serbia, BiH and generally across the world – women naturally have a limited role in religious institutions as well as within the PVE work these institutions carry out. For instance, several in-depth studies conducted on the participation of women in peacebuilding state that women remain critically underrepresented in formal peace committees in Nineveh Province, but also in the Committee for Coexistence and Community Peace at the government level.

                                            Women’s political engagement is also limited. In Lebanon, for example, women’s participation in politics is not sufficient to bring about substantial change. Only six women won seats in the Lebanese Parliament in 2018, out of 128. Of these six, only one is Sunni. Nevertheless, women are more present in the administrative bodies of the official religious establishment and in the educational institutions affiliated with Dar al-Fatwa. In the education sector, women constitute the largest proportion of teaching staff in schools in the Central Bekaa, due to the traditional tendency of women in this region to work as teachers. For example, a woman heads the al-Manahil school owned by Sheikh Adnan Umama.

                                            The case of Tunisia is not much different. No women were reported to hold high positions in religious institutions. They are present in religious educational institutions, such as al-Zaytouna University, both as students and as teachers. In Iraq, the research team encountered two main challenges during the phase of data collection in relation to gender and patriarchal norms. On the one hand, Iraqi society is traditionally patriarchal, and women are not given the space, freedom, and safety to freely express their opinions in family circles as well as within broader society. On the other, there is limited space for women in Hamdaniyyah and Nineveh Province in general to express themselves, whether at the public or private level. 

                                            Watch the video about how violent extremists are recruiting women and then take the quiz on the next page.

                                            Source: The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. ‘’The Promises of ad-Dawlah to Women.’’ March 25, 2020.

                                          • Economy of the State and Religious Institutions

                                            Another vulnerability factor found is the relationship between the economy of the state and religious institutions. There were different models found within the PAVE project, from Tunisia having a highly centralized organization of political and religious affairs to Iraq having a decentralized system of financing and management of religious institutions, and Lebanon, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia representing a semi-centralized system in which the government finances and controls part of the religious organizations. The cross-cutting between the three models is relevant for studying the effects that more or less government intervention in religious life may have on the emergence of violent extremism.

                                            Regarding the economic factors in Tunisia, we note that the government is responsible for all religious institutions, either through the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Mufti or, indirectly, the Ministry of Higher Education. This means that all salaries of teachers, members of these public religious institutions and mosques are covered by the state. One of the vulnerabilities of this system is the lack of funds for programming. This is particularly relevant in Tunisia where there is a clear lack of resources, especially in the areas of education and religious education. The combination of centralized management of religious affairs with institutional neglect has become a vulnerability for violent extremism. On the one hand, it imposes a tightly controlled system by the government where certain manifestations are not allowed. On the other hand, government institutions do not provide good services. This has left a vacuum that private religious institutions (often sponsored by dubious foreign funds) have tried to fill. 

                                            In the Iraqi system, the three main endowments (communal, Shia and Sunni) organise and finance religious life in the country. These endowments are financed by a government budget and specific allocations (e.g. for the care of shrines by holy shrine organizations), as well as by private donations. Therefore, they are not formally or economically affiliated to the state and can manage their funds independently. The independence enjoyed by religious endowments in Iraq blurs the boundaries between what could be considered formal and informal institutions. On the one hand, it has extended the power of these endowments and sacred shrines to the point where they negotiate directly with the state as regional political actors, which can lead to sectarian tensions if they become too powerful. In this vain, the state’s lack of knowledge of the source of funding and its lack of involvement in programming has allowed external powers to fund and manage some of the programmes developed by these endowments (such as the expansion of the Imam Hussein holy shrine, which was funded by Iran and implemented by Iranian companies). This is seen as a vulnerability of the system, as it allows foreign interests to exercise soft power and play a political role in Iraq’s already complex arena, which can potentially foster the emergence of violent extremism.

                                            In terms of the economy and finance, Serbia is a perfect example of a failed economic transition, which has led to endemic unemployment, created a strong and deep division between the winners and losers of the transition ('haves' and 'have-nots') and induced a strong sense of deprivation among the latter. The feeling (or perception) of inequality is a powerful motivating factor for those who see themselves as being left behind in the current economic system. This is most often the case for members of extreme right-wing groups. The inability of the state to provide for the welfare of a significant part of its population is compensated by the parastatal system, which is based on illegal activities mainly linked to far-right extremism. Right-wing extremist organizations and football fan groups are often used as a cover for criminal activities, acting as 'mediators' between criminal and political groups. Illegal funds are also used to finance foreign fighters in Eastern Ukraine.

                                            • Deviation of the Political System

                                              The interaction between religious institutions, political authorities and state institutions could be a driver of community resilience or vulnerability, depending on the change of political era or the fluctuation of 'sectarian opinion'. The Lebanese example shows how the sectarian element also plays a key role in the legitimacy of state religious institutions. In the studied cases, community groups that are not represented in parliament or at the governmental level, that are outside the existing power-sharing system and do not benefit from it or are internally and financially linked to it are predisposed to be attracted to the discourse of informal religious institutions and leaders with more extreme tendencies.

                                              In the Western Balkans, there are several reasons for the weak interaction between religious and political/state institutions in the fight against religious and political extremism. First, there is a general apathy in society towards the issue of religious and political extremism. Furthermore, the permeation of ethno-political concepts within the religious matrix leaves room for misinterpretation of these types of cooperation in public discourse. If it occurs, the interaction is most often homogeneous as it occurs between the party or parties that belong predominantly to an ethnic group and a religious institution representing that ethnic group. This collaboration is sometimes more or less visible, and sometimes formal or informal. However, this kind of joint effort, although desirable, does not have a horizontal dimension that would include the interaction of political parties of one ethnic group with a religious institution representing another group. In this sense, there may even be a risk that these types of relationships (although certainly desirable) will have an opposite effect because of the interpenetration of religion in political life. In other words, the cooperation of a political party with a religious institution representing its ethnic group may create a potential fear among other ethnic groups or political representatives of their own groups, as it could be perceived as cooperation directed against them. 

                                              The devastating episodes of sectarian violence in Lebanon during the civil war and in recent Iraqi history have led both countries to devise power-sharing models for the state in order to avoid further sectarian tensions and violent extremism. However, the effectiveness of these models is questionable. In the case of Iraq, for example, the so-called Muhasasa system introduced proportionality provisions for all the different ethno-religious groups in the different government bodies. This system has been severely criticised and reformed several times since 2010, due to the disproportionate power of the Shias. The current situation is not much better. Each community holds on to its share of power. Among the respondents, the system is definitely perceived as an exclusionary factor. 

                                              The situation in Lebanon is quite similar with regard to the power-sharing system. Moreover, as in Iraq, Lebanese institutions are weak, which provides a perfect framework for religious institutions and their political counterparts to act as supra-state entities that provide security, livelihoods and political representation for their communities. Thus, the importance of these sectarian institutions for the different communities has made political and religious polarization the main driver of radicalization in Lebanon. In summary, the power-sharing system seems to be a kind of political continuation of the civil war in the political arena. Polarization based on identity, rather than on political positions, leads to clientelism, nepotism and corruption. This, undoubtedly, increases the vulnerability to violin extremism of young people facing sectarian barriers to employment and active citizenship.

                                              • Mistrust Between Citizens, State Institutions and Civil Society Organizations

                                                Public disappointment with government policies is also at the root of violent extremism. The lack of change that can be perceived by vulnerable populations discredits the role of government and prolongs a sense of neglect. This was observed in Iraq, where poverty and development failure are key factors in violent extremism, as they fuel the process of radicalization and engagement in illegal and violent activities. A similar view is drawn from Tunisia, where people expected great changes after the revolution and were hit by an unfair development model that prioritizes coastal areas over inland Tunisia. This sense of disappointment and neglect has spread throughout the political system and parties, allowing new marginal and extremist movements to enter the political arena.

                                                The reality of most civil society initiatives in the MENA region is that they are very often funded and organized by foreign organizations. This has been seen as a significant element of risk, as the development of these programs can be perceived as political interference and the use of PVE work as a means to promote other political agendas. 

                                                • State Security Approach to P/CVE

                                                  The complexities of the judicial system make it possible to detect vulnerability factors among the different studies examined. In this sense, a first risk factor detected relates to the corruption of legal affairs or the lack of separation between the three powers of the state. A good example of this is observed in Iraq, where during the government of Nuri al-Maliki (2006–2014), there was political interference in judicial affairs. In several cases, the judiciary was used to foster violent extremism by issuing warrant arrests against Sunni political figures based on terrorism charges. While Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (in office since May 2020) has managed to depoliticize the court to a good extent, the Iraqi judiciary system remains generally weak. In this regard, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has reported that while trial proceedings were efficient and well organized in IS-related hearings, basic fair trial criteria of terrorism-related cases were violated. As a result, the judiciary is weak and lacks authority in the eyes of the public, which has made it easy for detainees to escape prison sentences, while false charges are processed and innocent people go to prison.

                                                  This corruption of judicial affairs is also present in the Lebanese legal system. According to the interviewees, it is common for security forces, the army, political and religious leaders to exchange favors by releasing certain detainees, especially when judicial proceedings are conducted without legal safeguards. This general perception of a corrupt legal system where prison sentences are decided by political/religious leaders and used as bargaining chips in their negotiations, adds to the perception of non-legitimacy towards the state. 

                                                  A second factor is that the role that security institutions have played on violent extremism in the MENA region has been ambivalent. Wherever sectarianism has been a problem, public security actors have been seen by some groups as armed representatives of the other sect. This has led to security concerns among the different communities, which in the case of Lebanon and Iraq has led to each community having at least one armed branch. 

                                                  Due to a lack of resources, the state tries to counter violent extremism through a security strategy, without preventing it through a socio-political approach. However, sometimes the security forces are not strong enough to maintain stability. This may be the case in Lebanon, where extremist movements take advantage of the weak legitimacy of the army and use an atmosphere of political, social and economic unrest to establish their influence. These movements ultimately pose as the sole guarantors of their communities’ security in the face of sectarian violence, ignoring the rule of law and defying a state too weak to respond. Thus, this constant perception of instability and insecurity makes communities vulnerable to extremist discourses that justify the use of violence. 

                                                  The third risk factor concerns the spread of violent extremism in prisons. Indeed, the Tunisian gov- ernment has incarcerated approximately 7,000 people over the past decade, which has created an ideal environment for the spread of Salafism. The Tunisian authorities eventually realized their mistake and changed their security policy, which could lead to significant changes towards a more resilient security approach.

                                                  In the case of Lebanon, where mass imprisonment of Sunnis has taken place in some areas such as Saïda, prisons have also become hotbeds of radicalization. Bad reputation, shame and humiliation have generally followed detention and led to homelessness and poverty for their families, which in some cases has greatly increased the vulnerability of the detainees’ families to end up joining violent extremist groups. However, official and unofficial sheikhs are aware of the consequences of such abuse and are meeting on the need to address it to avoid pushing more young people into violent extremism. Some sheikhs know what they are talking about because they are former detainees.

                                                  Participants from Lebanon held a second stakeholder meeting to discuss the preliminary findings of the PAVE research. The participants present included representatives from religious state institutions, members of Lebanese civil society, prominent academics in the field and lawyers with experience in Islamist prisoners and violent extremism. PAVE. “Second Stakeholder Committee Meeting held in Lebanon.” December 17, 2021. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/second-pave-stakeholder-committee-meeting-held-in-beirut.

                                                  • Session 4 Objectives and Expected Results

                                                    Objective: In this fourth session, our objective will be to learn about the factors of community resilience found within the PAVE project.

                                                    Expected Results: Participants will gain knowledge and understanding of the drivers of community resilience found within the PAVE project within the countries specifically identified in the Western Balkans and MENA regions.

                                                    Amount of Time Anticipated for Session 4: 50 minutes

                                                    Agenda for Session 4

                                                    • Overview of Findings on Resilience Factors

                                                      • The Role of Civil Society

                                                      • The Role of the Educational Sector

                                                      • The Role of Religious Institutions

                                                      • The Role of the State

                                                      • The Role of the Diaspora Community and Resilience-Conducive Transnational Interactions

                                                      • Community Resilience Through Online and Offline De-Radicalization

                                                    • Co-optation Between State, Networks and Religious Formal/Informal Institutions and Leaders

                                                    Interreligious and Trans-Ethnic Dialogue

                                                    • Gender-Related Findings of Community Resilience

                                                    • Resources

                                                    • Module Certificate

                                                    • Overview of Findings on Community Resilience

                                                      Hear from Juline Beaujouan, Researcher, Open Think Tank, on what community resilience means in the MENA region. 

                                                      Source: PAVE Project. ‘’Juline Beaujouan: Findings on Community Resilience: What is Resilience.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApV6zc5V23c.

                                                      The PAVE project defines resilience as the ability of political systems and in-formal governance arrangements to adjust to changing socio-political circumstances, shocks and stressors, without breaking their structures. Resilience is the system’s ability to “bounce back” after a crisis. Community resilience refers to the communities’ ability and capacity to adjust to changing conditions, placing a particular emphasis on the role of social connections, social bridging and belonging. Community is a relational and regionally limited and/or shared interests-based group of people and institutions.

                                                      Locally-rooted PVE initiatives located at the community level appear to be best well-suited to address specifically cumulative extremisms. Examples include inter-group dialogue efforts increasing cohesion and tolerance across ethnic, sectarian and/or religious lines, while paying particular attention to addressing the drivers of reciprocal radicalization – such as cycles of revenge or dehumanizing narratives towards out-groups.

                                                      As part of building resilience, Preventing Violence Extremism is critical. Preventing Violence Extremism the use of non-coercive means to address the drivers and/or root causes of violent extremism. Preventing Violent Extremism was introduced in the policy sphere by the United Nations in its Action Plan to Prevent Violent Extremism in 2016, in reaction to the concept of Countering Violent Extremism, defined as the use of non-coercive means to dissuade individuals or groups from mobilizing towards violence and to mitigate recruitment, support, facilitation or engagement in ideologically motivated terrorism by non-state actors in furtherance of political objectives. While Countering Violent Extremism encompasses a mixed range of hard security and civil-society led initiatives dealing with the threat of violent extremism, Preventing Violent Extremism gives prominence to systematic preventive steps to address the underlying conditions that drive individuals to radicalize and join violent extremist groups. 

                                                      Brainstorming Exercise: Think to yourself – What is the best example of successfully turning someone away from violent extremism or radicalization that you have experienced or heard of? 

                                                      In the PAVE project, several sources of community resilience were discovered, including: the role of the civil society, educational sector, religious institutions, the state, and the diaspora community; resilience through online and offline de-radicalization; co-optation between state, networks and religious formal and informal institutions and leaders; interreligious and trans-ethnic dialogue; and broader factors in advancing gender equality.

                                                      Hear from Bledar Feta, International Relations Specialist and Researcher, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, on what community resilience means in the Western Balkans. 

                                                      Source: PAVE Project. ‘’Bledar Feta: What is Resilience with Example from Case Study.’’ 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAN_V1owLW4.

                                                      • The Role of Civil Society

                                                        Several of the country studies refer to the role played by civil society actors in enhancing resilience against extremism and violent extremism. In some cases different non-governmental organizations have under some conditions contributed to extremism. However, across the different field studies, civil society actors are found to play important roles in contributing to the resilience of communities against extremism. 

                                                        For example, in North Macedonia, civil society was unanimously recognized as having played a role in CVE efforts, particularly in the context of promoting good inter-ethnic relations and social inclusion. Similarly, in Kosovo civil society is perceived to have an important role in de-radicalization and reintegration efforts. In particular, NGOs and other grassroots organizations have been able to facilitate contact and dialogue between community groups and enhance social cohesion by challenging discourses that are based on dehumanizing the other. The organized activities have frequently involved youth actors, and sometimes involved women and girls.

                                                        In Serbia, civil society has taken on the role of “substitute service providers” and CSOs have been working both to empower youth and to build trust between youth and police. Women have also played a central role in this context. The civil society sphere has recognized the importance of women as agents of prevention since they are the majority of P/CVE activists. There are also other accounts that qualify or further nuance the role of civil society in community resilience. In the Lebanese context, “civil initiatives” have brought together actors from different sides in an effort to reduce tensions. However, these seem to be more effective at the local level than at the regional or national level. Moreover, while civil society – domestic as well as international actors – has been active in Bosnia and Herzegovina in various ways and contributed to community resilience, it is also emphasized that it remains unclear what its real reach is, given the lack of a systematic approach to strengthening resilience that would overcome vulnerability factors. There is an “untapped potential” in this regard, pointing to the need for a more systematic approach towards education as well as political and religious institutions.

                                                        Related, civil society, as well as other actors including families or various networks, can help to build social ties. Social bonding and bridging have been identified as important for community resilience in some of the countries studied. In Kosovo, such connections both within and across communities have been found to be of significance for resilience to extremism.  Likewise, the fieldwork in Serbia shows that processes of social bonding and bridging are important for resilience against Islamist extremism. In Serbia this has been especially relevant in the Sandžak area where the different communities – Bosniak as well as Serbian communities – have a long experience from living side by side and share a commitment against extremism.

                                                        Civil society organizations can thus be seen as critical in countering violent extremism. An important role for civil society organizations to assist in various types of bottom-up peacebuilding approaches, including to facilitate dialogue, and initiate processes of symbolic reconciliation or practical co-habitation. Civil society organizations were identified as important actors that serve to promote cooperation through various projects and provide spaces for interaction across inter-ethnic divides. This occurs, for example, through empowering relatively marginalized segments of society (including girls and women), raising community awareness, organizing debates, and initiating skill training programs.

                                                        For More Information, check out: ‘’The Role of Civil Society in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism.’’

                                                        Source: OSCE. ‘’The Role of Civil Society in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism.’’ August, 2018. https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/2/2/400241_1.pdf.

                                                        • The Role of the Educational Sector

                                                          Several country reports discuss education as one area that could feature as important in building community resilience against extremism, but it is also brought out as a factor where there is significant room for improvement. In North Macedonia, education was reported as indispensable in promoting critical thinking, respect and awareness of cultural differences, and fighting stereotypes. Local community councils, for example, working with the prevention of violent extremism, worked actively to educate people as a way to build a larger degree of resilience against extremism. Other country reports that highlighted education had an emphasis rather on the potential role that education could play. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the education is reported to be ethnically fragmented, which has resulted in the permeation of curricula with different ethno-political narratives. In Kosovo, education is seen as one of the factors that can help strengthen community resilience. 

                                                          Thus, the lack of critical thinking, inadequate media education, and lack of religious knowledge, make communities, and particularly the youth in the communities, vulnerable to extremism.

                                                          In Serbia, education is identified as a vulnerability, but the different religious communities have also cooperated on religious education. For example, the religious communities held a common position toward the Ministry of Education with the request to formally equalize the status of religious education. In Lebanon, religious education is mentioned as a potential weakness, rather than being discussed as important for community resilience. Overall, education is seen as important for resilience, but some contexts see significant room for improvement in this area.

                                                          Watch the video about how to prevent violent extremism through education and then take the quiz on the next page. 

                                                          Source: UNESCO. ‘’Preventing violent extremism through education.’’ September 19, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79MTkVumCcQ.

                                                        • The Role of Religious Institutions

                                                          Religious actors are in unique positions to increase the resilience of local communities and build deeper connections within and between communities. Actors of faith can serve to appeal to a wider sense of moral consciousness and call individuals and groups to act with restraint. Therefore, religious actors have particularly important resources to decrease the vulnerability of communities to attempts by extremist movements to radicalize them. By its wide and deep institutions, often present at the local level and throughout societies, as well as with commitments to core values of peace, dignity and respect (as present in all faith traditions), the religious actors can reach out to the wider population and act as a way to counter attempts to radicalization.

                                                          In North Macedonia, the inter-faith dialogue between Orthodox and Muslim religious leaders, clergy, and communities, in order to create better understanding, and acceptance of each other is an interesting example of this. Indeed, both religious communities – the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Religious Community have been engaged in activities promoting inter-faith tolerance and co-existence.

                                                          In Serbia, religious leaders increased the resilience by pushing back against attempts of radicalization, condemning openly intolerance and acts of violence. Multi-ethnic societies have not only experienced episodes of violence, but also longer periods of peaceful interaction, living side-by- side with a working tolerance towards each other. In Serbia, religious communities traditionally express tolerance and respect toward each other. Even absent formal institutions form collaboration across religious lines, religious communities have expressed messages of tolerance and co-existence, and sometimes found common cause in making demands against the state. Unfortunately, not all contexts served as factors of resilience. In Lebanon, the religious institutions have to some extent served as a constraining factor when inter-religious ties have been strained. 

                                                          For More Information on the Important Role of Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism, read the Special Report from the United States Institute of Peace below:

                                                          Source: USIP. ‘’Special Report: Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism.’’ August 30, 2017. https://www.usip.org/publications/2017/08/engaging-religion-and-religious-actors-countering-violent-extremism.

                                                          • The Role of the State

                                                            The state and its various government structures, at the national and local level, have across the cases made efforts to work for community resilience to varying degrees. These efforts have not necessarily been successful. In Iraq, prior to 2003, when there were instances of preachers being involved in sectarian discourse, it is believed that only the state could have acted against the preacher; the state being the only actor of resilience at that time. At the same time, the Iraq case suggests that it is the absence of the State that is in part responsible for the rise of cumulative extremism. In Iraq, the state did not fulfil its potential for resilience against violent extremism. Even if local communities sometimes tried to reject and question sectarian discourses, they were unable to do so, partly because of the lack of political leadership, to contain the spread of violent extremism.

                                                            Moreover, when governments support (directly or indirectly) extremist movements, those governments also have a potential leverage which they could use to prevent violence. Governments can utilize their ties with extremist movements and contain their worst excesses. In Serbia, with regards to far-right movements, the government can influence their course of action and prevent them from committing violent acts. 

                                                            It has been observed in the case of North Macedonia that the actions and rhetoric of political institutions can serve to slow the development of violent extremism. For example, when some parties sought to incite ethnic hostility, ethnic Albanian political parties avoided responding to the provocations, which thereby served to diffuse the tensions. In terms of governance, North Macedonia has moved in the direction of consociationalism since the signing of the Ohrid framework agreement. Inclusive party politics and power sharing among ethnic communities, at the national and local level, serve to strengthen principles of democracy. In North Macedonia, the local authorities have also been involved in efforts that seek to mitigate violent extremism, for example through the establishment of local prevention councils.

                                                            • The Role of the Diaspora Community and Resilience-Conducive Transnational Interactions

                                                              Another factor that was identified as important for community resilience was the role of diaspora groups and resilience-conducive transnational interactions. Several factors were found by the PAVE project among the Muslim diasporas in Europe.

                                                              Social connection was found to be at the heart of resilient communities and the need to increase community resilience to both harness and enhance existing social connections while endeavoring to not damage or diminish them. Furthermore, successful integration was highlighted as the primary condition for a resilient community, in both cooperating with other initiatives and organizations, including state institutions; as well as the role of education in general as very important for integration, with a specific focus on the principles of Human Rights and the cultural and religious respect.

                                                              Another factor of resilience was increasing social cohesion programs linked with violent prevention radicalization efforts. The Bosnian Diaspora community in Germany is a good example of this. During the war, the Bosniak communities’ main activities were focused on supporting its community members in coping with the difficult circumstances in Germany and back in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The congregations were active in additional fields apart from the organization of common religious practice. These consisted in practically supporting people who arrived as war refugees in Germany, providing spiritual welfare to process trauma, and to provide economic support and helped to organize administrative processes in the new country. Community members gathered on the weekends to spend time together, receive Islamic religious education and tutoring as well as supplementary Bosnian school education. While challenges and needs of community members changed since the 1990s and 2000s, many members of the Bosniak communities who experienced this kind of support during this time are now engaged in the community and working to pass on this positive experience to the next generations. The experience of affirmation and providing positive role models especially for young people is carried on for the next generation. By now, the third and fourth generations of Bosniak individuals growing up are much better educated and integrated in German society than the older generations.

                                                              Photo Source: Oruc, Nermin. “Emigration from the Western Balkans.” April 4, 2022. https://www.bpb.de/themen/migration-integration/laenderprofile/english-version-country-profiles/505179/emigration-from-the-western-balkans/.

                                                              The factors of promoting pluralistic inter-religious dialogue to avoid the stigmatization and separation of Islam from other religions, as well as promoting cooperation with the communities and engagement of credible and moderate voices, were also contributors of resilience, as well as the role of media. The role of media has been seen as a very important resilience factor in Ireland as media reporting has been perceived as responsible. Counter narratives in Ireland have greatly challenged stereotypes and prejudice that people might have about different people within society, particularly when there is ignorance or a lack of understanding. One example is the Hijab on Hatricks, a programme for young Muslim women who play football. It was set up in 2014 “to encourage young Muslim women to play football after FIFA had lifted the ban on the hijab”. This counter narrative also got a lot of media attention and inspired RTE to create a radio drama about “Being Muslim in Ireland”. 

                                                              Photo Source: Beyond Sport. “Network Hijabs on Hat Tricks.” https://beyondsport.org/project/h/hijabs-and-hat-tricks/.

                                                              Also, counter narratives play a crucial role for the resilience in the lives of people who are cognitively vulnerable towards radicalization. One example in the Irish context was the “Muslim sisters of Eire” who sends the message that “if you are young and want to fight in Syria, come feed the homeless and there is no need to take a gun to help”.

                                                              Photo Source: Muslim Sisters of Eire. https://dlrppn.ie/covid-19/muslim-sisters-of-eire-1/.

                                                              In both risk and resilience factors, the PAVE fieldwork research with Diaspora communities in European countries shows that communities recognize that women play an essential role in the development of resilience initiatives and prevention and de-radicalization initiatives. A community that promotes tolerance and inclusivity, and reflects norms of gender equality, is stronger and less vulnerable to violent extremism. Not only does women’s active participation in a Diaspora community – formally or informally – strengthen its fabric, women themselves are among the most powerful voices of prevention. Women can, uniquely, help build the social cohesion, sense of belonging, and self-esteem that youth might need to resist the appeal of a violent group. Community engagement in countering violent extremism requires the participation of women to be successful.

                                                              • Community Resilience Through Online and Offline De-Radicalization

                                                                Photo Source: PAVE. “Second PAVE focus-group on offline and online (de) radicalization organized in Kosovo.” July 23, 2021. https://www.pave-project.eu/news/second-pave-focus-group-on-offline-and-online-%28de%29-radicalization-organized-in-kosovo.

                                                                Featured above is PAVE’s second focus group on online and offline deradicalization organized in Kosovo.

                                                                The media and online community can both serve as sources of resilience. For example, online channels can provide an opportunity for dissemination of information and mobilization of communities in the context of prevention and de-radicalization efforts. The PAVE project defines de-radicalization as efforts to counter and oppose a radical doctrine, ideological positions or interpretations that are utilized to justify radical views as well as violence in their pursuit. De-radicalization is the social, psychological or ideological de-commitment from extremism and violence, which can be divided into three sub-dimensions:

                                                                • Disruption: efforts to stop the radicalization processes from advancing, primarily on the cognitive/ideological dimensions but also in prevention of adopting violent behavior;

                                                                • Disengagement: behavioral change, attempts at convincing the radicalized individual to disengage from the violent behavior associated with their radical beliefs; and

                                                                • Rehabilitation: encompassing both dimensions, attempts and programs of reintegration that combine different forms of support that facilitate the individual’s return to society or community.

                                                                De-radicalization requires effective tools to counter radicalization starting from counter-narratives, hence public institutions have yet to formulate an effective policy concerning online de-radicalization; simply shutting down social network with radical content or removing such content does not solve the problem because authors of such content can simply create alternative online presence. In the PAVE project, it was also found that most community actors lack the capacities and funding to deal with the online space, especially with chat rooms, gaming platforms and other open and dark online spaces which assist extremist groups to radicalize individuals. The social media landscape of violent extremist messaging and propaganda is fast-paced and ever-changing. This reality, in combination with the limited capacities of state institutions and civil society to design and implement relevant and highly reactive content, makes these kinds of projects more necessary than ever.

                                                                Some positive examples of deradicalization found implemented in Kosovo are those of moderate imams disseminating knowledge through lectures published on YouTube, that tackle issues like nation, religious tolerance and patriotism as components of Albanian identity. Such examples include the case of Imam Idriz Bilalli, the FolTash online portal and the ‘Real Jihad’ platform. Also, in the case of Kosovo, other resilience factors found related to youth were the role of education and media literacy, as well as online peer-group socialization through social media.

                                                                • Co-optation Between State, Networks and Religious Formal/Informal Institutions and Leaders and Interreligious and Trans-ethnic Dialogue

                                                                  Another key factor in community resilience is the role of political, parastatal and religious leaders in condemning acts of violence and intolerance. 

                                                                  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, interreligious councils play an important role in promoting cooperation and basic human values and the education sector utilizes universal preventive interventions as part of regular school activities, including promoting the values of cooperation, tolerance and co-existence. 

                                                                  • In Serbia, parastatal control of right-wing extremist activities also serves as a resilience factor because the government can influence their activities and prevent groups from committing violence. The use of clientelist networks also provides political and religious leaders with the means to control radicalized individuals and groups. 

                                                                  • In Lebanon, the relationship between Dar al-Fatwa and the presidency of the Council of Ministers can be a resilience factor at the national level when the Sunni Prime Minister decides to follow a conciliatory policy with the opponents of the rest of the sects and the political spectrum. Another possible element of resilience observed is the ability of informal, grassroots religious institutions to mediate between armed groups and the government in order to defuse violence.

                                                                  •  In Iraq, another resilience factor is the role religious organizations they play in not authorizing or otherwise delegitimizing armed groups or their leaders. Religious leaders play a clear resilience role being at the forefront of nonviolent protests and publicly rejecting the use of violence by their own followers. The introduction of laws recognizing the victims of violent extremism is also another resilience factor.

                                                                  • In Tunisia, the unification of Islamic knowledge creation in a respected and recognized institution, such as al-Zaytouna University, was noted as an element of resilience against violent extremism, as it illustrates how a serious academic institution can have legitimacy in the religious community.

                                                                  Social bonding within communities and social rapprochement between communities play a key role in building community resilience. For example, in Serbia religious communities traditionally show tolerance and respect for each other and often adopt a common position towards the state. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Interreligious Council is another example of this. This also lays out in schools where the promotion of critical thinking and exchange of experiences helps in bridging social bonding and understanding. Likewise, in Tunisia, civic engagement and youth activism are strengthened by grassroots PVE initiatives.

                                                                  • Gender-Related Findings of Community Resilience

                                                                    It is clear that gender equality is of importance for decreasing the risk of extremism, as well as increasing society’s resilience against it. Advancing gender equality, including women’s leadership and participation within P/CVE efforts is thus another form of community resilience found within the PAVE project. One example of this is through women’s important roles as part of civil society. It is often women in the civil society organizations that are working to strengthen community resilience. For example, in Serbia, women make up the majority of those involved as members of organizations involved in prevention efforts, and in fact, female civil activists lead not just Belgrade-based but also Sandžak-based organizations. Although a high percentage of the population in Sandžak is very religious, this does not prevent women from participating in various social and political activities. 

                                                                    In the MENA region, women’s presence in civil society is significant and greater than that of the religious sector. In Iraq, for example, women are more present in civil society organizations than men (65%). The presence of women in cultural and community events in the city of Kef for example was seen as an element of resilience against violent extremism. Similarly, in Lebanon, women are much more present in civil society organizations, sometimes even representing a higher percentage of the staff of local NGOs and associations. The role and work of civil society organizations and NGOs can be an important resilience factor for VE, as it improves women’s representation, political participation and social engagement. Women’s presence is also evident in local associations or local networks that have emerged from international projects. For example, the network of strong cities operating in Majdal Anjar includes 5 women for every 10 men and women make up 50% of the workers of the Association of Youth Initi- atives.

                                                                    The PAVE project revealed the need for more gender awareness in P/CVE approaches due to the very simple fact that through their work in community organizations, schools, civil society organizations, and families, women tend to be the first to identify the initial symptoms of radicalization and should there- fore be trained so that they can respond appropriately at an early stage.

                                                                    Think To Yourself: Take a moment to consider in what capacities are women and young women missing in your communities P/CVE efforts? How could your community’s programs or initiatives help to address these gaps?

                                                                    • Additional Resources

                                                                      For More Information on PAVE Sister Projects and other Related Projects and Networks see PAVE’s collaboration page: https://pave-project.eu/collaboration.

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