Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar
The media have the ability to greatly influence the public through the information they provide and the persuasive tools they have in terms of sound, image, animation and more, thus becoming one of the most important sources of information in the modern era.
An individual’s reliance on the media increases as the rate of culture decreases, as he does not have the ability to research the sources of such information and to verify their authenticity and viability. But this does not diminish the significant role played by the media in directing the public.
Media and ideological extremism
The need for the media has increased in the context of countering ideological extremism. The media must deal with terrorist incidents in a smart and effective manner that contributes to maintaining calm among citizens and not spreading panic and terror among them.
Researcher Dr. Hesham Shafei sought to identify the nature of this role through his study “The role of the media in countering ideological extremism”, which was published by the Arab Center for Research and Media Studies in the first issue of the Arab Journal for Media Studies in April 2019.
Dr. Shafei views ideological extremism as a closed method of thinking characterized by the inability to tolerate or accept the existence of any belief or doctrine different from that of the person or the group to which he belongs.
The relationship between ideological extremism and terrorism is thorny, Shafei said, as extremism itself stands in isolation from the two; however, when extremism is linked to ideology, and one’s beliefs become extreme and unreasonable, then he seeks to develop this thinking into action and to find a foothold on the ground. Therefore, extremism is the first spark that ignites violence and terrorism, especially if one takes the idea from the mind into reality. This turns into violent patterns of behavior, which is then reflected in attacks on individuals, freedoms, property, etc., in order to spread one’s ideology.
According to the study, the emergence of this has contributed to strengthening the role of the media, especially with the shifts in the technological developments of communication, as the information and news industry is no longer confined to a particular group. With modern social media, everyone has become able to become an independent journalist. This has also allowed extremist organizations to spread terrorist propaganda and disseminate hate speech and false news on the internet, with the aim inciting citizens against their own regimes and countries, giving terrorists the ability to penetrate these countries, as happened in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
Shafei believes this crisis is strong and has a very serious impact on the stability of nations, so it has become necessary for media institutions to support ideological security through awareness programs on the dangers of extremist thought, as well as exposing the sources of funding and the methods terrorist organizations rely upon to recruit through the internet and gain access to weapons. He also believes in the need to renew religious discourse and spread the moderate way of thinking as espoused in the true Islam by encouraging substantive dialogue and discussion, with the opportunity for all individuals to express their thoughts so that they do not turn to terrorism and extremism.
This is in addition to the need to inform citizens of all the risks faced by the state in countering terrorism through the dissemination of correct information and spreading awareness among citizens through documentaries, talk shows, religious programs and others, according to the study.
The media should clarify the deterrent laws specific to spreading terrorist ideology and belonging to extremist groups, in addition to exhibiting the efforts of the security services in confronting this phenomenon so that everyone knows the role of the state in this regard, as well as to threaten all those who consider similar operations and to urge citizens to support agencies in the war on terrorism.
In his study, Shafei urged the need to prepare training programs for media workers to deal with issues of terrorism and extremism, as well as try to address other countries through programs in different languages to provide knowledge about the reality of Islam and its stance against terrorism.