This paper begins with an ideological analysis of “violent extremism” and “extremism”, and argues that to effectively prevent violent extremism, there is an urgent need to better understand and counter extremism. This paper makes a conscious distinction between “violent extremism” and “terrorism” and offers conceptual clarity on the definition of “extremism”, that is, as “actions, both violent and not-violent, that are informed by a supremacist ideology enforced through authoritarian, dictatorial or totalitarian traits, with the intention of achieving a purist and singular existence for a specific group while rejecting the concept of equality, particularly gender equality, and all forms of diversity and pluralism; and uses both communal and political space to advance their cause in efforts to take state power”. The paper then surfaces the phenomenon of the “progressive” extremist and suggests that a conventional understanding of “progressive”, “masculinity” and “femininity” in analysing such phenomena must be revisited from the perspective of the supremacist ideology, that the paper argues, underpins extremism. This paper further posits that extremism in Malaysia is informed by a supremacist ideology, and that the ideation of such extremism is premised on a group identity that stresses deindividuation. This suggests that masculinity and femininity within extremism takes on a collective identity, and as such, the paper argues that it has to be analysed and understood from the collective’s perspective. For example, the act of questioning is associated with the troublesome, problematic woman. It is seen as a feminine trait that men in these circles exhibit if they were to question the “authorities” in such extremist groups. The paper draws on both desk research and interviews with 16 research respondents to clarify the processes by which people become extremist, and how extremism links to violence and violent extremism.

This research was undertaken for UN Women, from November 2018 to March 2019. For more information on the research, please write to info AT kryss DOT network.