Washington and Abu Dhabi are launching a new media initiative to tackle the radical religious narratives that have helped draw a small but dangerous number of young Muslims to support violent groups like ISIL, Barack Obama announced on Thursday at a White House conference on countering extremism.
“We need to do more to help lift up voices of tolerance and peace, especially online,” the US president said. “That’s why the United States is joining…with the UAE to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and civil society and community leaders to counter terrorist propaganda.”
Mr Obama was speaking on the final day of a three-day conference, attended by foreign ministers and other officials from over 60 countries, focused on formulating and coordinating strategies to address the underlying factors that lead to violent radicalisation, as well as stopping the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq.
“As a result of a separate ministerial here today, many of our governments will be deepening our cooperation against foreign terrorist fighters by sharing more information and making it harder for fighters to travel to and from Syria and Iraq,” Mr Obama said.
He also made a forceful call on countries around the world to expand rights and political and economic participation, especially for young people, and for more integration and tolerance for religious minorities and immigrants, as the most important means by which alienation, and thus radicalisation, can be undermined.
The long-delayed conference was hastily convened this week after a string of attacks by ISIL and Al Qaeda sympathisers in Paris, Copenhagen and Canada, the murder by ISIL of Coptic Egyptians in Libya and the immolation of a captured Jordanian pilot. US officials say the ideological battle against ISIL and other extremists is at least as important as the coalition’s military campaign against the group in Syria and Iraq.