Worldwide, millions of people have been killed, disabled, displaced, widowed and orphaned as a result of acts of violent extremism. In the majority of cases, the statistics are available because it is a tangible, visible damage that can be measured. However, the discourse regarding around the extremism and violence that has inflicted on communities, societies and countries is still limited. States have introduced strategies and policies to prevent and counter violent extremism, but there is no strategy or policy developed till yet to address the long-lasting impact of extremism on individuals, families and communities.
Extremism today has become an outlook not only in the countries which have been directly affected by violent extremism but in countries that have not experienced it directly. In my opinion, extremism is an attitude and it becomes part of one’s belief system when it is not checked, condemned and disapproved by family, the larger community and the state itself.
Hence, this tendency permeates into institutions, organizations, families and the wider community and has devastating impact on the social harmony and unity.
However, the greatest impact of such a societal attitude is the transformation of a tolerant, accommodative and pluralistic society into an intolerant and exclusionist one. The intolerance of ordinary citizens matters because it impacts the socio-political sphere of the society. Due to prevalent religious, ethnic and sectarian intolerance, people have less heterogeneous peer groups, they are more critical of others’ behavior and faith, and they do not feel free to express themselves because of the fear of negative consequences. This mass religious, ethnic, sectarian and political intolerance has resulted in a culture of conformity that constrains individual rights and liberty in many important ways. At the same time, cultural intolerance has divided once united communities on the narrow lines of sectarianism, religion, ethnicity and language.
Can be recalled as a long-lost fairytale only that, once upon a time community have been living together peaceably with love and harmony, sharing religious and cultural festivals, supporting each other in time of sorrow and joy, without the notion of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Christen but “bhai bhai”. But now living under the shadow of hatred, doubt and suspicion.
Moreover, the economic impact of extremism is the closure of many businesses in the affected areas. This results in a further increase in poverty, unemployment and various types of crimes. Extremism also has a devastating impact on women’s mobility, social protection and services. Many women are left as heads of households and a significant number as widows.
The disease of Extremism and Radicalism is more fatal than any other, since it not just infilters the heart but the soul. Nevertheless, it is changing the fabric of society, as one could see how less tolerant, aggressive we became and without love and harmony for others.
However, some of the recommendations for policymakers in this context should be that, states honor their obligations under international human rights law to fight any discrimination and take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life. Legislation protecting the rights of all religious communities should be adopted and implemented with the full commitment of police, judiciary and other actors.
In the face of the bleak global landscape of growing persecution and restrictions on religious freedom, it is imperative to hold interfaith dialogue and forge alliances within and between religious groups that can become a formidable force in coping with existing persecution and preventing it in the future.
Moreover, countries can also work to institutionalize inclusive peace education as a long-term remedy and integrate diversity into education, so that our young generation consider the religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity of their societies an important part of their national heritage. More broadly, there is need for a greater understanding of the invisible and unrecognized impact of extremism on individuals and communities.