Executive Summary of the



February 2017

In recent years, international efforts to deal with violent extremism have expanded to encompass not just the countering of extremism, in a security context, but also the prevention of violent extremism, or PVE.

Religious communities and religious leaders have been identified by the UN as playing a crucial role in PVE. Key tasks identified in this context include: providing a platform for intra and inter-religious dialogue; promoting mutual understanding between people of different religions; vocally rejecting pro-violence doctrines while espousing peaceful and humanitarian values; preserving the heritage of cultural and religious diversity; guarding against religious-based discrimination or intolerance and sharing good practice.

This paper is based on an integrative approach involving experts, community actors and grassroots leaders and activists from the international scene.   

The aim is to build resilience in the face of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) and Boko Haram as well as other types of violent extremism including Neo-Nazis groups. The frame here is the phenomenon of radicalization leading to violent extremism and the role religion/s can have in helping to address the issue.

An inter-religious or multi-religious approach to PVE can ensure greater effectiveness in countering extremism because it removes stigma or blame on any one religion, and facilitates a more open, beneficial discussion about the issues faced. Such a collaborative, integrative approach is also a deliberate counter to the extremist agenda of discrimination, isolation, destruction and hate.

This white paper aims to encourage and generate discussions needed for policies and initiatives to make strategic collaboration a reality. It is an open, proactive process to be continuously enriched and updated based on evolving experience and expertise.

The paper comprises three sections. The first looks at the concept of extremism and the radicalization process. The second explores the relationship between religion and extremism. The third identifies four priority areas for interreligious collaboration in addressing radicalization and violent extremism, while highlighting existing good practices and initiatives that could be amplified and built upon. First, strengthening social cohesion through each religious community upholding its Religious Social Responsibility. Second, fostering literacy about religions and education on citizenship inclusive of religious and cultural diversity. Third, promoting an existential religious narrative rather than an essentialist one in response to extremism, especially through the media. Fourth, setting up interreligious platforms for dialogue and common civic engagement for shared public life values and for interfaith solidarity, especially among the youth.