COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN MACEDONIA – PROPOSED ACTIVITIES
I. Recognizing the problem:
The origin of the violent extremism in Macedonia, as well as other Western Balkans countries, can be traced in the early 1990s with the wars in former Yugoslavia, arrival of foreign fighters (Mujahedeen), domicile students who studied in MENA region (mainly Sаudi Arabia and Egypt) and the presence of foreign Islamic humanitarian organizations (IHO), which remained active through local partners until nowadays. All this factors contributed to spreading of Salafism/Wahhabism, but recently and more radical Takfir ideology, mainly focused on youth from low social background. This was achieved by self-proclaimed preachers, active outside Islamic Community (IC), through own networks of adherents and IHO, combined with own developed and organized propaganda through internet sites and social media.
This problem was neglected and ignored with years, mainly viewed as an IC problem, which couldn’t be solved without help from state institutions and other stakeholders. However, conflict in Syria showed how those long-term activities and strategy of the local networks produced “Jihadists” and the foreign fighter phenomenon. This was result of the conditions in Macedonia created by local networks, combined with global events (MENA region). The radicalization process combines several factors (personal characteristics, social background, social network & friends, propaganda, internet and global events). That’s why we need multi-vector approach. Furthermore, it’s not just about religion, but it’s against the values of the liberal democracy, and those values have been challenged. In multi-ethnic society, as Macedonia, religious radicalism also endangers inter-ethnic relations, and makes these issues sensitive. So, if we want to create an effective CVE measures we should identify reasons contributing radicalisation so far:
- It’s not а recognized problem, not a policy topic to a level that various stakeholders would focus on and work together to prevent it – we need to raise awareness!
- It’s a problem combining various aspects: misuse religious narrative & propaganda – we need to involve various actors in preventive efforts!
- It’s a problem of the vulnerable youth – we need to focus on them!
- It’s a problem mainly to the Islamic Community – we need to provide support!
- It’s a problem of winning “hearts & minds” – we need to win first!
It’s a longstanding problem – we need to establish a longstanding preventive network!
II. Various stakeholders identified as partners in preventive efforts:
- Islamic Community
- Political parties
- Local self-government