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Religious extremism—especially when unhindered by the state—can result in unimaginable harm to individuals. That is not to suggest that the only extremism is religious extremism.
That would be patently incorrect and a profound misrepresentation of history; secular extremism - Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Pol Pot, Mao to name but the most obvious - has exacted an unimaginable price on hundreds of millions of people over the ages. While our examination will focus exclusively on religious extremism that is not intended - in any way - to minimize the extraordinary harm inflicted on innocent individuals by extremism not based on religion. To suggest otherwise would be an unacceptable combination of revisionist history, disrespectful of the memories of millions of victims. As we move forward, it is important to recall that in this chapter our focus is religious extremism and its impact on the individual. In doing so, we analyze the cost to the individual impacted by extremism and argue that state complicity in the face of extremism exacerbates individual vulnerability.
In focusing on individual vulnerability, the working assumption is that the state fails to protect the individual member of a closed religious extremist group. The obligation, and the consistent failure, to protect individuals in the face of religious extremism - particularly in the context of “closed communities” - has significant consequences. This chapter will focus specifically on the effect specific closed communities have on vulnerable individuals. Not only does it put individuals “at risk”, it manifests state complicity in the face of extremism, the consequences of which are profound. While religious extremism is harmful to greater society, it is especially harmful to vulnerable individuals. With respect to the impact on larger society, specific examples will be provided illuminating the consequences of state complicity, regardless of its motivation or cause.
State Complicity and Religious Extremism: Failing to Protect the Vulnerable, Afshin Elian and Paul Cliteur, eds., The open society and its closed communities, Eleven International Publishing, The Hague, 2021