Comedy and Comics – Creative Approaches Break New Ground in the Battle Against Violent Extremism
Joint Press Release
For immediate release
Innovative approaches such as an animated TV show with a female superhero who promotes messages of peace are needed to stem the growing threat of violent extremism in the Asia-Pacific, an important regional forum has concluded.
Bangkok, Thailand — Participants at the forum, “Comedy and Comics: Fighting terrorism one laugh at a time,” shared experiences on using new forms of media to creatively engage audiences with messages of peace and tolerance. UN Women Asia and the Pacific and the Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate convened the forum with support from the Government of Japan.
The event was part of a series of workshops on 25-29 September focusing on successful community-based approaches in Southeast Asia and South Asia to counter terrorist narratives and incitement both online and offline.
Aaron Haroon talked about how he created Burka Avenger, Pakistan’s first-ever animated superhero TV series. The show has won numerous international awards including a Peabody and was nominated for an Emmy. The protagonist of the show is Jiya, an inspirational school teacher whose alter ego is the superhero Burka Avenger, who fights for Justice, Peace, and Education for all. The show has significantly boosted support for girls’ education, women’s empowerment, and tolerance in Afghanistan, and has recently been launched in Indonesia.
The Regional Director for UN Women Asia and the Pacific, Miwa Kato, spoke about the importance of female characters like the Burka Avenger to deliver messages that engage communities in building peace and countering extremist narratives. Terrorist organizations often recruit young men and women with messages that promote gender stereotypes including violent notions of masculinity. “Women are leaders in preventing violent extremism and countering the harmful narratives used by extremist organizations to recruit fighters to their cause,” Kato said.
Yenny Wahid, Director of the Wahid Institute in Indonesia, said that, “Communities must be engaged in order to strengthen the voices of civil society, women, and youth in spreading positive messages of peace.”
Hideo Fukushima, Minister, Deputy Chief of Mission at Japan’s Embassy in Thailand and Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said his government was committed to preventing violent extremism both globally and across the Asia-Pacific. “The international community must unite across a wide range of fields and continue to take enduring measures, focusing on creating societies resilient to radicalization as well as strengthening counter-terrorism measures,” he said.
Sué Takasu, Senior Legal Officer, United Nations Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, which supports the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, said: “In countering violent extremism, all-of-society and public-private partnerships have never been so important. We need to identify and mobilize more community stakeholders and break down firewalls between the public and private sectors. The ‘comedy and comics’ initiative is an excellent example of this approach.”
Expert participants in the forum agreed that efforts to prevent violent extremism must center on engaging communities and supporting the leadership of women and youth in countering incitement to violence.
Regional Communications Specialist
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Asuka Murata (Japanese | 日本語)
Regional Programme Specialist
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About UN Women
UN Women is the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, the organization was established in 2010 to accelerate progress on women’s rights worldwide. UN Women’s efforts are based on the fundamental belief that every woman has the right to live a life free from violence, poverty, and discrimination, and that gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving global development.
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About United Nations Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate
In 2004, the Council created the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to strengthen and coordinate the monitoring process. CTED is headed by an Executive Director, at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. In its resolution 2129 (2013), which extends CTED’s mandate until 31 December 2017, the Council notes that new terrorist trends are emerging and that the terrorist threat "has become more diffuse, with an increase,in various regions of the world, of terrorist acts, including those motivated by intolerance and extremism."
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