ACU’s Dr Irfan Ahmad warned against over-religionising the issue of terrorism to the exclusion of political, economic and international factors at a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) conference in Oslo.
He also was critical of media outlets, which promoted terrorism through sensationalism by way of producing stereotypes well before evidence was furnished.
He argued that to effectively overcome terrorism we need a common definition of terrorism applicable to all contexts.
“What was the rationale for the United Nations to leave definition of “terrorism” and “violent extremism” to a member state and at the same time invoke the “power of our shared principles, purposes and values.
”The Associate Professor of Political Anthropology from the Institute for Religion, Politics, & Society (IRPS) was invited to speak at the UNDP conference entitled Preventing Violent Extremism by Promoting Inclusive Development, Tolerance and Respect for Diversity.
Dr Ahmad, who leads the research stream of Asian Societies and Their Religions at the IRPS in Melbourne and co-edits along with its Director, Bryan S. Turner, Journal of Religious and Political Practice, presented a paper titled Religion and Violent Extremism: An Anthropological Perspective from India.
Speaking at the session on Faith-based Organizations and Religious Leaders and drawing from his research in India, Dr. Ahmad stressed the need for credible empirical research for an adequate understanding and effective formulation of any policy to combat terrorism.
In particular, he highlighted how media rather than mitigate or solve the issue of terrorism also promoted it through sensationalism by way of producing stereotypes well before evidence was furnished.While noting the role of religion, he introduced a cautionary note against over-religionising the issue of terrorism to the exclusion of political, economic and international factors.
“Before we begin inter-religious dialogue, there should also be inter-political dialogue,” he said.
The talk was followed by a brief but lively discussion with audience who came from over 50 nation-states.