Soon after the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns were raised about its potential to exacerbate violent extremism and radicalization. Based on the findings of a EuroMeSCo Policy Study and focusing on the Maghreb states, this Spotlight argues that while the pandemic undoubtedly had serious consequences, there is so far no empirical evidence of a direct “COVID effect” on the activities of violent extremists beyond references to the pandemic in propaganda. In light of this, the article makes the case for broadening the debate to also take more indirect aspects such as the states’ crisis management and the emerging socioeconomic consequences into account.
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.
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.
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.