Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Protecting youths from extremism

A forum calls for an Arab plan of action for youth to combat fanaticism and violence, reports Mahmoud Bakr

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Arab Federation for Youth and Environment (AFYE) has established a prize in the name of assassinated prosecutor- general Hisham Barakat, honouring the institutions and personalities that best contribute to countering terrorism.

This year, the prize was awarded to the Arab League, Al-Azhar, Nasser Military Academy, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) and MP Abdel-Rehim Ali. They were honoured this week at the Arab League during the 8th Arab forum on the role of youth in Arab universities in confronting violence, extremism and terrorism. The forum was sponsored by the AFYE under the auspices of Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit and in cooperation with ISESCO, Egypt’s Ministry of Youth, Al-Azhar, the Arab Universities Union, Cairo University and Nasser Military Academy. It was held at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo between 25-29 September and was attended by 150 male and female youths representing 15 Egyptian and other Arab universities.

At the forum, participants called for an action plan that includes proposals and programmes to combat extremism among Arab youth. One proposal called for the creation of a “thought forum” in the Arab League to confront terrorism. These would be permanent programmes at all youth communities in coordination with the five Arab youth unions, the Arab Universities Union, Arab Broadcast Union, Arab Journalists Union, Arab Thought Forum in Jordan and Nasser Academy in Egypt. A committee was also set up to decide a timeline for the implementation of the recommendations headed by Gaber Nassar, president of Cairo University and Magdi Allam as rapporteur. It includes Lebanese judge Nabil Sari and ISESCO representative Salah Al-Gaafarawi.

Participants also called for the drafting of a procedural document for the Arab nation as a reference for combatting terrorism, and that the Arab Union takes charge of raising awareness among youth and correcting mistaken concepts about extremism and violence. This would be done in cooperation with Nasser Military Academy.

In an address by Abul Gheit, read by Ambassador Abdel-Moneim Al-Shairi, director of the Arab League’s Youth and Sports Division, the secretary-general said youth at Arab universities play a key role in confronting violence, extremism and terrorism, and more is expected of them. “Youth represent 40 per cent of Arab societies and are an influential force,” he said. “We must focus on them and give them opportunities for innovation, training and guide them in order to become effective members in our societies. This attention would guard them against becoming victims of fanatics, extremists and terrorism which always target this active and energetic segment of society.”

Abul Gheit said the Arab League exerts maximum efforts to raise the standards of Arab youth and to confront any challenges obstructing their success and building their future. “We are keen on sponsoring many youth events to direct the energy of youth towards activities that promote security, stability and a culture of security and peace, as well as sponsoring programmes and dialogue between youth and officials to help them face challenges. Accordingly, the league recently launched the Arab youth campaign ‘No to Violence, No to Fanaticism, No to Terrorism.’”

Allam said the five-day forum explored several key issues, most notably correcting mistaken concepts about jihad, Islamic succession and governance. It also discussed reasons behind social, familial and environmental isolationism of youth that cause them to become “lone wolves”, and looked at social causes of despair and choosing suicide in the name of mistaken jihad such as extreme poverty, long-term unemployment, wars, refugees and occupation of their homelands, all which create an environment of violence and despair, such as the Israeli occupation.

He said the forum also discussed the role of electronic warfare in recruiting youth and leading them astray, as well as the role played by intelligence agencies in creating groups to overthrow regimes and turning youth against their families and countries using monetary incentives because of poverty, ideological attraction based on ignorance and suicide resulting from isolation and despair.

Discussions also explored the role of youth, cultural and religious ministries and institutions as well as universities in Arab, Islamic and domestic coordination to confront religious extremism, factional, sectarian and tribal intolerance which divides Muslims among themselves and with other faiths.

Mamdouh Rashwan, AFYE secretary-general, said the topic of this year’s forum focuses on issues plaguing the Arab nation to raise youth awareness about the dangers of this phenomenon and their national role in confronting terrorism, extremism and violence. Rashwan added that delegates from Arab and African countries also participated in a cultural and tourism tour of Fatimid Cairo, Al-Ghouri performances, the sound and light show by the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum upon the invitation of the Egyptian minister of antiquities.

ISESCO’s Gaafarawi said that if current social transformations are powerful enough to impact all aspects of life, then youth have a greater responsibility to address the negative aspects of these transformations and redirect them to serving society. “This is in order for our message to be a humanitarian one that promotes moderation, dialogue, peace and educates citizens – especially children and youth – about the dangers of the evil goals of extremist groups,” he said.

Nassar said Cairo University supports all youth initiatives against extremism and terrorism, and raising awareness among university youth about the importance of countering extremist ideology promoted by fanatic groups. He said his university is willing to cooperate with AFYE through activities and events to raise youth awareness on all planes. Nassar also urged dismantling the environment of extremism in thought, behaviour and conscience, and promoting the principles of respecting differences and accepting the other among Arab youth.

Barakat was assassinated in a car bombing in Cairo on 29 June 2015. The attack was blamed on the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

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