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Religion and Society

The Language of Extremism

A frame taken from a recruiting video of the IS

The fundamentalist discourse divides the world into two factions: that of evil and that of “true” believers

The current situation in the Middle East requires us to be vigilant and to join our efforts, especially in Egypt, in order to stop this chaos and handle this urgent crisis. It is an unprecedented crisis, which could be called “viral” or “contagious,” given the ease with which it is transmitted from one place to another. […]



Here I want to present some features of the extremist mindset, which we should urgently deal with through educational, social and media interventions. […]



An Authoritarian Speech


When they speak, extremists put themselves in a dominant position, using a negative, threatening, uninformed and approximate language, built on aggressive and arrogant arguments, and on fallacious reasoning. Extremists think of themselves as the only representatives of God on earth and claim to guide the people who follow them from darkness to light. Those who do not accept their demands are excommunicated. […]



Recruitment Strategies


Extremists resort to discursive strategies that aim to recruit militants, especially among people who struggle. […] They combine financial incentives to forms of brainwashing. Knowing who finances them remains a central issue. […]



A Manichean Language


The extremists’ speech divides the world into two factions: that of evil and that of “true” believers. […]



Slogans and Symbols


The extremists’ language is packed with glittering slogans and emotionally charged symbols such as “Freeing the Islamic lands from the colonizers,” “Fighting injustice and the corrupt and tyrannical political systems.” […]



In front of these phenomena, we must focus on prevention rather than crisis management when it is already too late.



*Extracts from the speech delivered at the symposium of the Joint Committee for Dialogue of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and al-Azhar. Hassan Mohamed Wageih Hassan is Professor of Linguistics at Al-Azhar University.