Environmentalism – Not The Next Islamist Trend (?)

Those versed in scenario planning will have thought about the following: what will be the next trend in violent religious extremism? We do not know what will replace the strategic elements after the surge in messaging apps and illicit financing. In other corners of world society, we have seen an initial emergence of environmentalist activism. But will such be adopted by Islamist extremists, in order to boost their cause? Most likely not.

A differentiation in degrees of radicalism within religious extremism can be observed, from quietist to overtly violent. But the public discourse in mainstream Islam does not focus on the environment. Cannibalizing the issue of nature protection would probably alienate the following of Islamist extremist groups, known to be purist, and lead to their decline.

What we are to see will likely be a continued concentration on religious ideology, backed by the exploitation of social dissatisfaction and perceived political injustice. While a shallow glimpse of environmentalism may, in future, play a role in the ideological drive of religious extremism, as we have already seen in the case of Boko Haram, it does not look as though nature protection will be at the forefront of radical Islamism worldwide.

When it comes to the issue of climate change, interestingly enough, where this is, or will be, a cause of frustration to local populations and a cause of violent extremism, it will be so only indirectly, with people identifying not temperature as the reason of trouble but flooding, the degradation of land and the unfortunate occurrence of plagues. At least in the medium run.

Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
January 2020

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