Understanding Extremism: Dr. Benedetta Berti & Suleiman Bakhit
Dr. Benedetta Berti
Dr. Benedetta Berti is a security and conflict management expert, specializing in civil wars and global challenges. In her writing, and in her work at Ben Gurion University, she argues that “understanding the day-to-day politics of rebellion” is essential to solving problems posed by violent groups like ISIS. This means understanding what they do when they’re not shooting—acknowledging that they’re more than just violent rebels.
“We cannot understand these groups, let alone defeat them, if we don’t have the full picture,” she says in her 2015 TED Talk. “Armed groups seek to win the population over by offering something that the state is not providing: safety and security.” In other words, they invest in social services; they build schools and hospitals, give loans and build structures. “In general, providing social services fills a gap—a governance gap left by the government—that allows these groups to increase their strength, and their power.”
Long-term government stability is thus key to battling ISIS—without the help of the state, the group can fill a role traditionally reserved for other actors. This redefines how we might deal with terrorism, in both the Middle East and abroad, and offers a more nuanced understanding of a complicated web.
Suleiman Bakhit specializes in CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) and heroism narratives. He traces the mythic and psychological origins of extremist ideology—the stories and worldviews that motivate young men and women to join groups like ISIS—and helps us understand their powerful and lasting draw. Importantly, he shows how these stories might be replaced with messages of hope, tolerance, equality, and service, and thus neuter the allure of terrorism—in ways much more effectively than military action.
Bakhit’s own experience with heroic narratives came in the form of comic books (his company sold 1.6 million comics in Jordan alone). By targeting kids in the Middle East with a positive message, he hoped to change toxic ideology into healthy versions of masculinity, self-worth, and sacrifice. Now, Bakhit is an international speaker and TED Global Fellow, delivering his talks on CVE and heroism to the White House, World Economic Forum, and United Nations.
“We have the biggest threat today in the Middle East, and that’s terrorism disguised as heroism,” Bakhit argues in his Oslo Freedom Forum talk. For his radical re-imagining of how violence can be averted with art and storytelling, Bakhit is both an inspiring and invaluable authority.
To hire keynote speakers Dr. Benedetta Berti or Suleiman Bakhit for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.