Strong Cities Network Newsletter: May 2020
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Strong Cities Network

Above: The city of Tunis, Tunisia, joined the Strong Cities Network in September 2015. 
Dear Friends and Partners,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy in these turbulent times.

With each week that passes the SCN team and our wider team at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue witness new efforts by hateful and extremist movements to exploit the pandemic for their own gain. In this edition, we deep dive into how this is playing out across India with an exclusive and eye-opening research report highlighting the harmful blaming of the Muslim community for the spreading of COVID-19 in what has been termed #CoronaJihad. Download the full report from Shweta Desai and Amarnath Amarasingam on COVID-19, Misinformation and anti-Muslim violence in India here.

Are your communities being impacted from misinformation?  Are you seeing a rise in community divisions? Have you found a way to minimise tensions throughout the pandemic? If yes, we can help. Reach out to us at and help us grow our SCN COVID-19 resource pack.

In other news, our daily work continues. Dominic Pkalya, our SCN Senior Programme Manager in Kenya offers commentary on how law enforcement can be leveraged as a positive actor for change in counter extremism efforts.  We also showcase new resources from our friends at the Global Counter Terrorism Forum and highlight lessons in combating the far right from a soon to be released analysis of groups mobilising online in Canada.

Lastly, please join us on our newly launched LinkedIn page to access our latest must reads and access new ways to connect with our global network.

The team and I stand ready to assist you all however we can. As always, please get in touch if we can help.


Rebecca Skellett
Head of Strong Cities Network

The Canadian Far Right Online –  Lessons in Responding to a Resurgent Threat


In the coming weeks, ISD will release the result of a two-year study and one of the most comprehensive efforts to date to assess the scale of right wing extremist activity online in Canada. Mackenzie Hart, Research Associate and one of the researchers on the report, details some of the findings and highlights key lessons for city leaders facing a resurgent right wing extremist threat. 
#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India

As our members endeavour to understand and monitor how the impact of misinformation, polarisation and extremism interact with COVID-19, we examine the trajectory that has led the world’s largest democracy to scapegoat Muslims for what has been termed #CoronaJihad.
Writing exclusively for the Strong Cities Network, Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Amarnath Amarasingam, and Shweta Desai explore anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence in India related to COVID-19, as well as the ongoing impact on social cohesion in the country.
Opinion: Can Law Enforcement be a Positive Actor for Change?

In our previous article we explored, based on research findings, how violent extremist organisations use the breakdown of trust between local communities and state to harness support for their activities and recruit individuals at risk. In this issue, we look at the other side of the coin and examine the role that law enforcement plays in the prevention of violent extremism, in particular why accountability and transparency are so vital.
ISD COVID-19 Disinformation Briefing No. 3: The U.S. Landscape

This is the third in a series of briefings from ISD’s Digital Research Unit on the information ecosystem around COVID-19. ISD released a pioneering investigation with BBC Click, mapping the scale and nature of online disinformation around COVID-19 in the US, as well as its co-option by far right actors. The investigation was featured on BBC World’s Click programme, as well as on the BBC News website.
COVID-19 Resources for City Leaders - UPDATED
In light of the increasing pressure being put on city leaders to respond to the threat of COVID-19, we will be putting together monthly resource packs containing some of the best tools, guidance and expertise from across our network and partners on how we can respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. You can view the full list, including previous months’ resources, here.


Showcase: Global Counter Terrorism Forum Resources


Since they launched in 2011, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) has created a repository of policy and practical resources to support national government, experts and practitioners working across counter terrorism and countering violent extremism initiatives. The SCN works closely with the GCTF, and together with the Prevention Project we currently lead an initiative to document good practices in National-Local Cooperaiton. 

On this page you can browse their recently improved good practice documents and guidance manuals which now feature videos, podcasts and infographics to bring the forums resources to a wider global audience. 

To learn more about the GCTF’s work, you can watch this collection of short videos and explore some of their key policy areas such as;
Pandemic Propaganda and the Global Democracy Crisis

The COVID-19 global crisis presents particularly unique challenges for democracies. In the wake of the pandemic a variety of malign actors have looked to exploit the crisis with pandemic propaganda and disinformation. War on the Rocks' Haroro J. Ingram writes on the threat to democracy and the need to build new frameworks to help mitigate it. 
The Strong Cities Network is led by ISD, a global counter-extremism organisation dedicated to powering solutions to extremism and polarisation.
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