War of Idea’s against extremism
The last few weeks have seen a significant shift in the global response to events in Iraq and Syria. Led by the US, more than 40 Countries are now joined in fighting the scourge of Islamic States (ISIS). This is a very important decision, but is it enough?
Because the issue is larger than terror groups like ISIS, Boko Haram or Al-Shabab alone. There is a fundamental problem with radical Islamism,and it is imperative that we recognize the global nature of this problem, the scale of it, and from that analysis contrive the set of policies that will resolve it.
The Principles of Understanding that, would underpin this strategy invariably boils down to the question of intervention. There is no doubt that Force is needed to confront a group like the ISIS; It is a Group of People who fight without hesitation, kill without mercy and die without regret. But left out of the analysis is one of the most important questions this Generation of our Leaders face is how we uproot the thinking of the extremists and not simply disrupt their actions. It may take little more time for the Generation whom we will have to educate to understand what all this is about?
Unless we begin to confront the causes that each time we take on a group like ISIS, another will quickly arise to take its place. And in order to fight a warped and worsening ideology in the long term we need to recognize that Education is also a Security Issue.
This issue is rarely raised in the Debates of Radical Islamism which is indeed both perplexing and alarming. Because each and every day the world over, millions, even tens of millions of young children are taught formally in Schools or in Informal Settings, with a view of the World that is hostile to those of different Religions and Beliefs.
The world view has been promulgated, proselytized and preached as a result of vast networks of Funding and Organizations, some coming out of the Middle East, others now locally Fostered. These are the incubators of the radicalism and are in particular the export of the doctrines of Salafi Wahhabism has had a huge impact on the teaching of Islam around the world.
I am not saying that they teach youngsters to be extremists. I am sure most of them don’t. But they teach them to take their place on a spectrum of opinion based on a world view which stretches far into parts of Muslim society. They teach a view of the world that warps young and unformed minds, and places them in a position of tension with those who think differently.
The challenge we face is to show young People who are vulnerable to appeals from terrorists that there is a better path to having their voice heard; and that the only future that works is one in which People are respected as equals, whatever their Faith or their Culture be.
Tony Blair the Founder of the Faith Foundation, works in Schools in 30 Countries as diverse as Pakistan, the US and Singapore. He has pioneered School programs for the 12 to 17 year old.
The young people in these schools take part in lessons that seek to increase understanding of the Faiths and Beliefs of others, the facets of identity and the requirements of global citizenship. They also take part in a video-conference with other schools on a global network, so young people from Lebanon or Indonesia can explore and articulate their values, as well as encounter those of students in Ukraine or the United Kingdom.
This can be a profound experience for the students. I believe that an Islamic School in Jakarta, where children take part along with predominantly Hindu children from a school in India. Watching these young people interacting and dealing with challenging issues around their faith and culture gives a glimpse of what’s possible.
Though they lived in very different Countries and followed different religions, they came together and through a shared experience gained a better understanding of each other.
The results of this engagement are apparent – and they are overwhelmingly positive. But it is only Foundations like Tony Blair’s Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund is even attempting such endeavors and they have reached over 100,000 students, which is not nearly enough when a tide of young people are taught a view of Religion and the World that is exclusive and reactionary. In the context of a World whose hallmark is People mixing together across the boundaries of race and culture.
So unless we tackle this question with the honesty and openness it demands, then all the security measures and all the fighting will count for nothing. As I have said before, especially foolish is the idea that we leave this process of the generational deformation of the mind undisturbed, at the same time we spend billions on security relationships to counter the very threat we allow to be created.
We must raise this issue at an appropriate forum, as soon as we can – like at the G20 forum as a matter of urgent global importance and work on a common charter to be accepted by all nations, and endorsed by the UN, which makes it a common obligation to ensure that throughout our education systems, we’re committed to teaching the virtue of RELIGIOUS RESPECT.
This doesn’t mean an end to Religious Schools or that we oblige Countries to teach their children that all Religions are the same. The Human Being is one, Religion is Faith.
Catholic schools will continue to teach their children the virtues of the Catholic faith. Hindu Schools must teach the children the virtues of Hinduisms and Muslims must teach their children the value of being Muslim. But we should all teach that PEOPLE WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT FAITH MUST BE TREATED EQUALLY AND RESPECTED AS SUCH. WE SHOULD TAKE CARE TO ROOT OUT ALL TEACHING THAT INSPIRES HATRED OR HOSTILITY.
This should be a common global obligation, like action to root out racism or action to protect the environment. Nations should feel the pressure to promote respect and to eradicate disrespect.
The work which is being done by TONY BLAIR’S FAITH FOUNDATION clearly benefits all Education Programs which teach young people about “the other” side of the coin which in ways enhance mutual Respect and Brother Hood. May be we can adopt the same curriculum programs.
There is enough evidence that such programs work. We need to act on it. We need to sow the seeds as widely as possible so that they take root and therefore weed out the perversion of faith that has been growing unchecked.