23 June 2011

In 2011, the United Nations International Year of Youth, one person in five in the world is between 15 and 24 years old. As recent events in the Middle East, and elsewhere show, millions of these young people are deeply dissatisfied with their life prospects and are willing to contemplate radical action in order to change their country’s political, economic and social systems.

In response to these challenges, next week (from 26-29 June) Quilliam will take part in the Summit Against Violent Extremism (SAVE), a ground-breaking event in Dublin organised by Google Ideas, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Tribeca Film Festival to address issues of youth and vulnerability, particularly focusing on how young people’s legitimate frustrations and aspirations can be exploited by a wide range of extremists.

The event will bring together nearly 90 former members of violent and extremist groups and will explore extremism across cultural contexts. It will include former members of far-right, Tamil, IRA and Islamist organisations, as well as former gang members. The event will highlight that extremism is not only a problem affecting Muslim communities and that it can occur in almost any cultural, social or religious context.

Key points:

– For the first time, nearly 90 former extremists and gang-members will be brought together in one place to explore the commonalities and differences in the causes of extremism across different cultural contexts.

– For the first time, these international ‘formers’ will discuss their pasts on panels moderated by victims of terrorist attacks.

– The event aims to establish a global network of former extremists who can pool resources and ideas to tackle extremism together in the future.

– The event comes at a time when young people around the world are suffering disproportionately from a lack of employment and other socio-economic opportunities that may lead to political and social instability.

Quilliam involvement:

As a former Islamist, Quilliam’s director Maajid Nawaz will speak on a panel chaired by Gill Hicks, who lost both legs in the 2005 London bombing, on the subject of ‘Finding Common Ground Between Different Extremes’. Maajid is on the event’s steering committee, which also includes former gang members, former right-wing extremists and other former Islamists.
Noman Benotman, a senior analyst at Quilliam and former jihadist, will speak on a separate panel alongside Aicha el-Wafa, the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the “20th hijacker” of the 9/11 bombings.

Maajid Nawaz, Quilliam’s director, said:

‘It is fitting that the United Nations International Year of Youth falls in a year when we have seen young people in the Middle East rise up to overthrow dictatorships and strive to establish freer and more representative governments.

‘At the same time, however, such upheavals brings new challenges for us all. Too often in the past young people’s aspirations for a better world have been hijacked by extremists who have misused their youthful idealism for their own ends. One of the great challenges of today is to try and ensure that this does not happen again.’

‘Extremism is a problem that affects all communities and all societies. This event is an exciting opportunity to explore similarities between different types of extremism around the world and to find ways to work together against such extremism.’

Media information:

The event will take place in Dublin, Ireland, between 26-29 June 2011. It is being organised by Google Ideas, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Media wishing to attend the event should email [email protected]

The event will be twittered live by @GoogleIdeas using the hashtag  #AVE (‘Against Violent Extremism’).

For further information, please email [email protected] or call 0207-182-7286 or 07789 040 850 (out of hours).