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Pakistan’s universities tackle extremism threat

Courses must be introduced in all schools to counter extremist trends, officials say

Gulf News

Islamabad: Alarmed by the rising trends of extremism in students, Pakistan’s top universities gathered in Islamabad to discuss their role in countering the threat of radicalisation and instilling peaceful ideology.

As many as 80 university vice-chancellors attended the conference on “the role of universities in advancing national narrative to counter violence, extremism and terrorism” on Monday, organised by Islamic Research Institute of International Islamic University (IIU), in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The educationists issued a joint declaration saying a subject centred on interfaith harmony, tolerance and peaceful coexistence should be introduced in all schools to counter extremist trends with a positive narrative and to create a peaceful society.

The participants said sectarian hatred and imposing one’s ideology was clear violation of Sharia and could not be allowed as it was also against the constitution of Pakistan. The VCs and ministers agreed that non-Muslims must be provided full protection and higher education institutions must discourage discriminatory attitudes.

HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmad highlighted that Pakistan’s armed forces are safeguarding Pakistan’s geographical borders, and as educationists, “it is the duty of universities’ vice-chancellors to secure the country’s ideological borders.”

“Our youth are being neglected at all levels, from their homes to educational institutions, and it is the responsibility of teachers and parents to address their issues and challenges with the utmost care, and engage them in productive activities” Dr Ahmad said.

IIUI Rector Dr Masoom Yasinzai said extremism had crippled society and a counter narrative was required to deal with the menace and to move towards progress and prosperity.

“Extremists have started targeting our youth, and in some cases, faculty and staff are also involved” Dr Yasinzai highlighted.

He called upon the universities to take the responsibility to support youth and address threat of extremism, while briefing the participants about the efforts initiated by the IIU to curb the problem of terrorism, violence and intolerance.

IIU President Dr Ahmad Yousuf Al Draiweesh shared that university had organised around 400 conferences and dialogues regarding eradication of extremism and promotion of peaceful coexistence which were attended by intellectuals of Pakistan and aboard. The dissemination of peace should be the top priority of universities, Al Draiweesh said.

Hafiz Abdul Kareem, Minister for communication said that universities are the best sources to eradicate the menace of extremism as education is the backbone for prosperity and progress.

Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar, Minister for Human Rights highlighted that no religion in the world supports extremism and violence. He maintained that Islam was staunch supporter of peace and prosperity. He stressed that youth be put in the constructive activities to have positive results in the society.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, in his speech, called for a unified and well devised strategy and counter narrative against extremism by both academia and parliament. Universities and legislators need to work together to produce a counter narrative, he urged. Quoting Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Senator Hussain said that “education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan” to emphasise the importance of education.

The participants agreed that it was imperative to engage youth in useful academic and social activities and dialogue to promote tolerance and curb hatred, extremism and violence.