Southeast Asia


R. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi recently led a workshop at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), the leading research and graduate teaching institution in strategic and international affairs in the Asia Pacific region, to explore Muslim community’s efforts in building awareness and community resilience against the threat of violent extremism. RSIS Senior Fellow James Michael Dorsey, the award-winning journalist and commentator on foreign affairs who has covered ethnic and religious conflict and terrorism across the globe for more than three decades, chaired the discussion. The discussion included members of the Singapore government as well as students who were interested in learning about counter radicalization programs in the US and Europe, and how those efforts compare to initiatives in Southeast Asia. The lively discussion focused on the differences between Asian and US approaches to counter radicalization, the challenges faced by each region, and the successes to date.

Dr. Mirahmadi and WORDE’s new Asian Youth Fellow, Mohamed Irshad also met with Rohan Gunaratna, the Head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research to discuss his Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and its efforts in Singapore, Malaysia, and more recently Africa. WORDE hopes to collaborate with the program in the future and to encourage Western countries to consider forms of religious rehabilitation as well.

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Consultation on Islam and Women’s Health

Dr. Mirahmadi was recently a guest speaker at the High Level Expert Consultation on Islam and Women’s Health, hosted by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Perdana Leadership Foundation. Many experts as well as Muslim community leaders gathered from around the world to discuss the current state of women’s reproductive health, family planning, female genital mutilation, and the prohibition of violence against women and girls.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, who attributed the poor state of affairs of Muslim communities to scholars who misinterpret the sunnah (traditions and examples of the Prophet Muhammad) and advocate for more severe punishments than the Holy Quran requires. He suggested that this could be resolved by improving secular and religious education for Muslim communities.

Many speakers were disappointed that significant progress was not being made in Muslim countries on social issues. In particular, many felt that women’s rights were moving “backwards,” partly due to the rise of extremist interpretations of Islam that have become prevalent over the past two decades. According to one participant from Tunisia, violence against women has increased in many of the regimes affected by the Arab Spring. In her lecture Dr. Mirahmadi noted, “Despite extensive examples of the Prophet’s loving and compassionate relationship with the women in his family, cruelty against women persists in Muslim communities and goes hand in hand with a rise in violent extremism of every type.” Her lecture was largely drawn from the fatwa, “The Prohibition of Domestic Violence in Islam” produced by WORDE in 2011.

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