This guest post is written by my colleague, Ed Husain, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR. Here he discusses his latest Policy Innovation Memorandum, which lays out a plan for countering violent extremism.
Five years ago in London, I co-founded Quilliam, the world’s first counter-extremism think tank, dedicated to improving understanding of the ideas underpinning al-Qaeda’s terrorism and, in turn, rebutting those concepts. The demands put on Quilliam’s staff from governments, global media outlets, universities, and Muslim activists in Europe and the Middle East were huge. However, even as Quilliam’s work charted new ground, influenced government policies, and confronted extremism in powerful ways, the organization faced an abiding problem: funding. And in this difficulty, they were not alone.
As I traveled and met with Muslims in Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, and across Europe who sought to cleanse their religion from the impurity of al-Qaeda’s extremism, I learned that they had the same complaint. They struggled to plan projects, fund events, pay salaries, print leaflets, create ads on satellite TV channels, rent offices, translate books, maintain high-end websites, visit areas of extremist activity, or even travel to campuses to speak against violent extremism.
It is easy to say, “Well, why don’t Muslims pay for it?” The simple answer is that wealthy Muslims still prefer to build mosques, hospitals, schools, and orphanages named after themselves, rather than invest in the battle of ideas against Islamist extremism. But al-Qaeda’s fanaticism affects us all, and it is time to be stop being tribal in the effort to counter it. Western governments, Muslim-majority countries, individual philanthropists, and assorted endowments should come together to create a long-term funding mechanism for this crucially important work.
My CFR Policy Innovation Memo, published yesterday, explains how a fund of $300 million could counter extremism by educating Muslim thought leaders on university campuses, establishing alternative satellite television channels, and supporting Muslim professionals who challenge al-Qaeda propaganda in chat rooms around-the-clock. Click here to read more.