Last year, in Abu Dhabi, a group of young coders participated in an event its organizers called a Haqqathon. “Haqq” is the Arabic word for truth, an appropriate term for a gathering aimed at mobilizing Muslim programmers to fight Islamic extremism. The winner: a mobile app allowing young people to receive answers to questions from authoritative Muslim scholars in millennial-friendly, 60-second video clips, a far cry from the hour-long treatises typically presented by the experts. “This is a way for their teachings to get through to the Twitter generation," says Shahed Amanullah, co-founder of Affinis Labs, a Falls Church, Va.–based startup accelerator and organizer of the event.
Amanullah is one of a growing number of people world-wide, working in a fledgling field called peacetech. The particular solutions vary widely, from creating mobile apps that help young Muslims connect with scholars, to crowdsourcing data about checkpoints in Aleppo. But the overall movement, “aims to empower peacebuilders around the world through technology,” says Derek Caelin, who works with Washington, D.C.-based PeaceTech Lab.