EMUNI Centre for Arab, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies continued the series of EMUNI Talks. The event was hosted by the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS) of Lebanon.
The event followed the theme of the preceding Middle East Research and Innovation Dialogue (MERID) regional event of a policy dialogue between EU and MENA region, but focused on the interplay between science and policy in combatting extremist ideologies, an issue that is central in current regional concerns. Among the key aims of the event was to discuss why individuals fall prey to extreme ideologies and how to establish effective regional cooperation in fighting these ideologies.
In the opening address, Prof. Dr. Abdelhamid El-Zoheiry - president of EMUNI and Prof. Dr. Mouin Hamzé, the Secretary General of CNRS, highlighted the importance of regional cooperation in analysing the root causes of extreme ideologies and repsonses to them. The role of European Commission in fostering this knowledge was acknowledged. Next, Ms. Elisabeth Lipiatou, Head of Unit ‘Open and Inclusive Societies’ at DG Research presented the approach to the issue taken by her Unit. She also outlined the priority areas for the future calls.
A roundtable followed, which was moderated by Dr. Jerneja Penca-research fellow from EMUNI. Dr. Sari Hanafi−a professor at American University of Beirut pointed out the problematic attitude of politicians in the Lebanese society towards science. His claim was that scientific conclusions and recommendations are largely not drawn upon in formulating policies to tackle societal issues. Dr. Milan Obaidi− Post Doctoral Fellow from Uppsala University in Sweden made an overview of sociological and in particular psychological factors that contribute to extreme acts of violence by individuals. He highlighted in particular the significance of the perception of threat. His own research points to perceived incompatibility between Islam and Arab culture and the West as the most likely factor leading to hostility, while realistic threat less but also a factor to take into account. In his contribution Mr. Alessandro Ovi stressed the need for policies to not be interventionist and be bottom-up, rather than top-down.
A number of valuable comments were raised by the audience, including the role of the history of the relationships in the region that contribute to the ongoing resentment and the need for policies in the aftermath of radicalisation.
In their concluding remarks, both El-Zoheiry and Lipiatou emphasized the importance that policy-makers but also the public from both Europe and Middle East recognize a shared interest in tackling extreme ideologies-induced violence.