The term "Islamism" is often inevitably associated with terrorism. | Photo: Unsplash/Marija Zaric | Free use

Who are these “Islamists” everyone talks about?! Why academic struggles over words matter

Politicians, the media, and social media users alike have framed recent attacks in Europe as instances of “Islamist” violence. The current debate often remains superficial and uses the umbrella term of “Islamism” to describe a diverse spectrum of actors, ideologies, and activities. Notably, conflating Salafi jihadism with other manifestations of Islamism risks consolidating a unified enemy image of “the Islamists” – or, even worse, Islam. This blogpost aims at disentangling these labels, in particular pointing out two discursive pitfalls: the securitisation of Islam and Muslim communities, and the equation of Islamism with terrorism.

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French president Emmanuel Macron presents a five-point plan to address Islamist radicalization. | Photo: picture alliance/dpa/MAXPP

Macron’s plan for fighting Islamist radicalization – and what Germany and other European countries should and shouldn’t learn from it

On October 2nd French president Macron presented a five-point plan to address Islamist radicalization. The long awaited speech sparked debates in France and beyond. In Germany, some called it “historic” and a “wake-up call”, demanding a similar set of initiatives and central speech for the German debate. This is problematic for two reasons: first, while many measures in Macron’s plan are promising, others and the overall framing of the speech can prove counterproductive in terms of stigmatization and securitization. Second, the French centralist approach cannot and should not be transferred to the German federal and civil society-based system of preventing extremism.

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Das Foto zeigt die Webseite "Coronavirus - a soldier from Allah" auf einem Smartphone.
Extremists of all stripes reinterpret the Coronavirus pandemic to serve their ideologies. | Photo: PRIF

The Coronavirus as a Means to an End: Extremist Reinterpretations of the Pandemic

Various aspects of society and everyday life have become affected by the clampdown on the Coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions enforced to prevent it from spreading. While the spread of COVID-19 continues to be fought and researched under extreme pressure, many uncertainties remain regarding its origin and the social, political and economic consequences. These uncertainties are easily exploited by extremists such as right-wing and Islamist extremists. The spread of the Coronavirus is thus accompanied by the propagation of extremists’ discourses. Within a short period of time, they reach thousands of people – not only but especially via social media. 

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