Terrorism has been one of the most fundamental concerns affecting our society. The horrific and deeply saddening incidences of terror always compel us to understand the phenomenon of terrorism that exists within the human mind. Social scientists believe that extremism and terrorism are interrelated; former is cause of later. If this is case, it would be almost impossible for Pakistan to tackle giant of terrorism without effectively reacting to its ideological food— mounting extremism in society.
Extremism is simply be defined as beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, strategies of a character far removed from the ordinary. Typically, the same extremist act will be viewed by some as just and moral such as pro-social freedom fighting, and by others as unjust and immoral depending on the observer’s values, politics, moral scope, and the nature of their relationship with the actor.
However, some consider extremism to be an outcome of state polices, and the state’s failure to enforce Islamic law in country and others express concern over the ‘Westernisation’ of Pakistani society. Though extremism has yet to be defined in Pakistan but unanimously extremism is said to be as imbalanced ideological attitudes that were conceived in a state of mind where an individual regards himself as superior to others.
Moreover, these ideologies are the effective tool of terrorists which they use in their strategies to radicalize the people, particularly young minds. Terrorists have become sophisticated and skilled communicators in filmmaking, film editing and manipulating the means of social media. By using modern communications, social media and extremists are spreading their ideology and recruiting support across the globe, posing a complex and urgent challenge. Their extremist ideologies on social media have even inspired many educated young minds to join these terrorists. Extremist ideology is like a virus that infects individuals and spreads to entire communities, shattering lives and destroying families. Gradually, such extremist content on social media instigate them to hate others who are not of their mindset.
This social environment infiltrated with such extremist ideas and values shapes public opinion. It ultimately influences trends that a society is witnessing. For instance, publishing and distribution of extremist literature through Facebook, youtube, twitter and blogging etc prompt youth as they are more prone to extremist ideologies which gradually feeds terrorism. These opinionated minds with preconceived ideas begin accepting extremist ways to prove themselves right.
Surely, the solution to the extremism problem cannot be same as strategy to fight terrorism. The first approach is essentially preventive in nature; the latter, curative. Extremist ideologies first radicalise individuals then prepare them for terrorist acts. In order to determine ways, in which society can collectively work towards eradicating such atrocities, there is need of proper mechanism to regulate Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc by preventing promotion of any kind of extremist/terrorist ideologies through social media. In a nutshell, there is a dire need to transform the ideological food that produces and nourishes violent and extremist mindset to fan terrorism. Unless the food is curbed, the monster of terrorism can grow indefinitely.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Rawalpindi.