How to Counter Extremism? ---

We live at a time of unprecedented and increasing international crises: ideological, religious, and ethnic conflicts, natural disasters and climate change as well as economic destitution and geo‑political confrontation have led to a surge in refugees – be it on the European coast, the Syrian, Turkish or Iraqi borders, or elsewhere. Ever more people are forced to leave their old lives behind, becoming unsure destinies scrambling to find ways to safety and better lives, or mere survival – only at arrival to become numbers and statistics in the recipient countries, that have long since stopped being welcoming to their less fortunate neighbors. Extremist ideologies and demagogic politics thrive and have created an environment of violence, mistrust, fear and scapegoating across the world.

Last year, in a series of exclusive authors’ only debates, the Frankfurt Undercover debates, co‑hosted by Danish writer Janne Teller and the Frankfurt Book Fair, we began deliberating on questions such as: How can we make these massive migrations a force for positive change for all? How can we secure a peaceful togetherness internationally as in our everyday lives – and build a multi‑culturalism that truly functions? How can we find ways to better understand and learn from one another across cultures and nations? How can we find ways to better understand and learn from one another across cultures and nations? How can we respond effectively to those who demonize immigrants or other groups and cultures - and pollute our language with terms for doing so?

This year, with the additional support of Colombian writer Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, we wish to continue this endeavor, under the overall theme Borders & Barriers, Cultures & Crossroads II, focusing particularly on new perspectives and ideas on: How to Counter Extremism. We’ll raise questions regarding, ia how to challenge extremist propaganda of all kinds, be it Islamic militants like ISIS, the new right wing fascism in Europe, or other?. What makes individuals turn to extremist ideologies, how do we prevent it, and how do we get extremists to let go of their dogmatism? Are there practical solutions within reach, new creative possibilities, or even seemingly far‑fetched utopias that can challenge the reality of growing fundamentalism – be it religious, political, economic, or otherwise - and help us find new ways for pluralist co‑existence?

Believing that writers’ particular insights into the working of the human mind and human relations could give rise to totally new ideas and thoughts that can be used to overcome radicalism, we invite a select group of eminent authors and intellectuals to come together for a series of three debates, with the aim of creating a Compendium of Ideas – a collection of ideas helping to approach the problems of our times to be subsequently presented to the world politicians and the public.

The debates were divided into three sessions – with a particular focus under the same overall theme within each session. Depending on the availability of the participants, most took part in just one session, whereas some joined two or all three of the sessions. The debates were held in English. They took place on: Wednesday, October 14: 13:00–15:00 hrs; Thursday, October 15: 10:00–12:00 hrs; and on Friday, October 16: 10:00–12:00 hrs.



30. October 2015