Polarized Societies & Many Shapes of Extremism

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Polarized Societies

In the wake of the Coronavirus, all planned gatherings have been cancelled. These include regular teaching, local, national, and international academic events. The above mentioned International workshop was to take place at FCCU Lahore in collaboration with Journalism & Media International Center (JMIC) at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) Norway. Because of the global pandemic, the workshop couldn’t take place as expected. FCCU, in collaboration with JMIC/OsloMet, has decided to carry on with the planned activity in a virtual way. We believe that life should go on and one should do what is possible with the hope and resolve to live through the crisis. Therefore, we organize a virtual workshop on Polarized societies and shapes of extremism in six sessions, each session for two hours, two days each week, spread over three weeks, one week before Ramadan, and two during the first two weeks of Ramadan (April 21st – 22nd; 28th – 29th; May 5th – 6th)

POLARIZED SOCIETIES AND THE MANY SHAPES OF EXTREMISM

Session 1: Inaugural, Events that shook our countries.
Session 2: The transitional roots of extremism.
Session 3: Regional varieties of extremism.
Session 4: Extremist recruitment and social media.
Session 5: Freedom of expression debates: how free?
Session 6: COVID-19 Voices from around the globe.

INTRODUCTORY BACKGROUND

Democratic societies function on the basis of continuous dialogue among the different sections of the society. This dialogue is made possible through a transparent social structure, supported and guarded by a state structure that considers the inviolability of freedom to think and express as its fundamental duties along with the providence of sustenance and equal opportunity for all citizens. This effort is supported and checked by different for forums of communication and information, mass media being one of the prime components of this process.

The world is changing. Both citizens and states are changing. So are the societies and their tools of expression and debate. Social media and globalization have brought a lot of extremism and anger into the public sphere. This anger occurs in many ways. But it has one constant: hatred of the other, intolerance of any critique, and the rise of narcissism which leads to the individual as well as collective self-righteousness. This collective self-righteousness is manifested in hate speech and the rejection of the other. The hatred has many shapes, but all share sanctity, being sacred, sacrosanct. It might be religion, nationalism, racism, living standards, or other ways of ‘proving’ that one is superior of the other. The other, in this case, is subjected to all kinds of injustice: from being bullied and ostracized to being lynched, raped, banished, or made a stranger in their own house. The aim of this workshop is to create an atmosphere of open exchanges on this wide-ranging and imminently ominous phenomenon and to investigate the many facets of extremism in the light of scientific enquiry.

A good number of media reports on polarization and extremism have occurred in recent years, partly blaming this development on digital media and a dwindling or fragmented public sphere. They also point at extremist organizations, some of them mainly political-leaning, some more (at least in their rhetoric) inspired by religion. A key issue is how extremists use online freedom for recruitment and threats: freedom of speech for opponents to freedom dilemma. Concepts such as “post facts”, “alternative facts”, etc. are part of everyday talk all over the world, a world where conspiracy theories have long been disseminated via social media and otherwise. Extremism occurs all over the world. In Europe, neo-nazi and neo-fascist groups seem to be more active. The fascist/racist Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people and wounded many more in Norway on 22. July 2011, sent shock waves across the world since this was exceptional in a small ‘peaceful’ country. Right-wing extremist leaders in ‘alternative’ media, who harbour some of the same ideas as the Norwegian mass murderer, attack people of the minority while defending their own right to free expression.

In larger countries, from Nigeria and Somalia to Pakistan and Afghanistan, terror acts with large numbers of casualties have occurred more frequently and IS has in recent years gained ground in Afghanistan, after being defeated in most of Iraq and Syria. IS has recruited young people from almost all European countries, which has spurred debates about their return from imprisonment in Syria and Iraq. Extremism (and social media) has been the subject of several JMIC initiated conferences with partners in Indonesia (2017), Tunisia (2018) and Oslo (2016 and 2019). Forman Christian College/Chartered University (FCCU) in Lahore in Pakistan in cooperation with Journalism & Media International Center (JMIC) at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, invites journalists, media leaders and academics to a virtual workshop to delve deeper into these topics: How to analyze the growth/occurrence of different shapes of extremism and their historic roots? Analysis of media coverage of extremism (including acts of terrorism): pitfalls and good practices.

The role played by digital/social media in identifying/combating/recruiting extremists. The workshop hopes to gather prominent actors within the media field as well as the academic field, in an atmosphere of openness and enquiry.

PARTNERS:

Altaf Khan, professor at FCCU in Lahore: https://www.fccollege.edu.pk/member/dr-altaf-ullah-khan/

JMIC, OsloMet: Director/professor Elisabeth Eide
https://uni.oslomet.no/jmic/

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