In the globalised world of today, where distances have been reduced, geographical access and broadband interconnectivity have eased interactions; a new way of life has emerged. The transnational world has also brought in new forms of vulnerabilities/insecurities. The use of media, in particular, the social networking sites to spread hate material has in a way eased the job of extremist factions; through the internet a large number of audiences can be reached out. Former US President Obama said: “Ideologies are not defeated by guns, they’re defeated with ideas – a more attractive and compelling vision”. In an era of information technology, other than focusing on hard power, the soft approach needs to be employed not only to counter the hatred spread by extremist mindsets but also to promote a balanced ideological outlook.

Pakistan has been battling militancy for more than a decade, over these years a number of counter terrorist operations have been conducted. Other than the security considerations, terrorism has limited the entertainment activities in the country; concerts, industrial exhibitions and Lok Virsa events are still organised but the number has been reduced. Thus, terrorism’ has impacted everyone in the society, in one way or the other. The National Action Plan (NAP) introduced by the government has put a ban on hate speech and extremist material (reference point 5 NAP). NAP has also prohibited the glorification of extremists on media (point 11). Besides, there is also a provision to take action against those who lure youth towards extremism through social media (point 14). Quite a lot emphasis has been made on media. Can media be an effective tool in deterring the extremist ideology?

The projection of violent acts like showing the beating (or killing) someone could attract more audience but it also has the tendency to instigate violence, thus, negatively affecting the society. The media, instead should project positive narratives like the examples of young people facing the challenges courageously. Media also needs to expose the lies and destructive consequences that the extremist ideologies reinforce. The argument that Muslims are allowed to use violent means can be countered by religious teachings. The Quran emphasises, whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed all of humanity. And whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all of humanity. Thus, the religion prohibits the targeting of civilian population and the use of violence. The lectures and talk shows of religious scholars highlighting the true essence of Islam could be useful in creating harmony between the various sects as well as in promoting interfaith peace and understanding. However, the communication gap could be an impediment in reaching out to a larger audience. Therefore, the religious scholars need to be integrated into modern technological platforms and online social networking sites. Moreover, to enhance publics’ confidence, religious programmes/talk shows should be organised, in which, public queries pertaining to religious issues should be addressed. De-radicalisation seminars and lectures on Youtube and facebook should also be shared. Meanwhile, the role of “Suffism” in spread of Islam in the subcontinent is a testament to the fact that in religion there is no room for violence. The traditional and “Sufi devotional music” Qawwali needs to be promoted. It is a known fact that culture and literature have been pivotal in making (or destroying) of societies. Allama Iqbal’s poetry was a motivating factor for the Muslims of the sub-continent. Dramas and movies on subjects relevant to social issues can be helpful in building of a balanced perspective. The movies like “Khuda Kay Liye” is an example of how the young minds are misguided. To conclude, since everyone has suffered due to terrorism, to ensure an effective implementation of NAP, the state institutions need to incorporate the various segments of society, including teachers, parents, sportsmen and the youth.

 

The writer is a researcher at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).