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Merits and Limits of Counter-ideological Work Against Terrorism: A Critical Appraisal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-308
Number of pages18
JournalSmall Wars and Insurgencies
Issue number2
Early online date20 Mar 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Mar 2017

King's Authors


Counter-ideological work is touted as crucial in combating terrorism. This article attempts to analyse the role of counter-ideology in dealing with a particular type of terrorism: Muslim jihadist extremism. This paper reiterates findings from existing research, in arguing that counter-ideology is indispensable for three reasons: firstly, to prevent Muslims from genuinely believing that terrorism is sanctioned by the faith; secondly, it is instructive to assure non-Muslims that Islam per se, is not the problem; and finally, it can be used to ‘rehabilitate’ terrorists who are in detention. However, this paper also suggests four criticisms of many counter-ideological efforts, and posit that in order for such work to be truly effective, the following shortcomings need to be rectified: firstly, the creation of unnecessary frontiers that may alienate potential allies; secondly, the inability to ‘preach to the right crowd’; thirdly, the perils of promoting ‘moderate’ and ‘progressive’ Islam; and finally, credibility issues associated with the people spearheading such works. An underlying factor that lurks in the background of all of these is the role of the ulama, or Islamic religious scholars. This article further hopes to contribute to the literature on counter-terrorism by exercising more scrutiny on the role of the ulama.

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