A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START researchers co-lead International Symposium on Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism

Kuala Lumpur cityscape
© Kjersti Joergensen

From Jan. 12 through Jan. 27, START Executive Director Amy Pate and Training Director Barnett Koven virtually co-lead the International Countering Violent Extremism (ICVE) Symposium in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, along with the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM).

“The symposium offered a great opportunity for Malaysian and regional scholars to showcase cutting-edge research, and also build indigenous capacity for scholars and practitioners focused on preventing and countering violent extremism in the region,” Koven said.

This is the culmination of a joint capacity-building effort for Malaysian researchers studying terrorism and violent extremism funded by U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur, which aimed to bring together scholars, researchers and practitioners from the region and around the world to promote collaboration, present research findings and discuss policy implication on preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE).

IIUM Rector Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak and U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir provided opening remarks. Dzulkifli first described the history of the project that the ICVE Symposium grew out of, when IIUM initially worked with the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

“At the point of conception in the year 2018, the project was centered on locally-based researchers and practitioners from ISTAC-IIUM, USM and UMS, as well as other organizations,” Dzulkifli said. “It gradually Alhamdulillah expanded with a focus on capacity building for P/CVE…building the collaborative research activities with researchers from START-University of Maryland in the year 2019. In addition to the flagship, a new research unit called Extremism Analytical Research Unit was also established, and three affiliates of this unit completed a six-week training stint at [START].”

The ambassador noted that various U.S. and Malaysian organizations and government agencies share a common goal in countering ideologies that promote violence.

"The United States values the important role that civil society plays on preventing and countering violent extremism. We try to promote a comprehensive approach that involves non-governmental organizations and academics in order to effectively address the full cycle of radicalization and understand its drivers," Lakhdir said.

The Symposium attracted more than 450 total attendees, with dynamic audience engagement during each panel event.

“While we very much wanted this event to be in person, the online format in some ways helped elicit greater participation in events,” Pate said. “The online format also facilitated very active question and answer sessions. The conversations provoked by audience questions added a great deal of substance to the event.”

Several student panelists offered presentations on topics such as women and violent extremism, the future of P/CVE governance in Southeast Asia, implementing P/CVE policies, ethnic conflicts and social network analysis.

“While all of the presentations have been stellar, it was especially great to hear three student scholars from IIUM present findings from research that they have undertaken over the course of a year and a half in collaboration with START,” Koven said.

The Symposium concluded on Jan. 27 with a RESOLVE Network event on “Getting to the Source: The Importance and Challenges of Field Research on Violent Extremism.”

The recordings of the panel events can be found on START’s Multimedia page.