Terrorists have again struck in the Arab world, this time targeting Egypt and killing innocent people as part of their repeated attempts to undermine the deep-rooted national unity of Muslims and Christians. Is there any end to all the crimes committed by all factions of the Daesh extremist fanatic ‘family’?
One of the founders of modern sociology, French philosopher Emile Durkheim, believes that “society can survive only if its members have a degree of homogeneity and integration, and that the educational system in society, represented in school, is one of the important pillars in supporting and stabilising such homogeneity by planting it in the child from the very beginning of the school.” He also believes that “through the educational process, members of the community become imbued with positive social values that instill within themselves the values of national belonging and national unity that create the social symmetry necessary to maintain security and stability in society”. We agree with Durkheim.
Many studies and articles have spoken about the imminent fall of the terrorist ‘state’ of Daesh, but optimism regarding its defeat does not necessarily mean elimination of the Daesh ‘thought’ nestling mainly in non-marginal segments of the society! Certainly, a military victory against the group would only be incomplete. The real war should be based on an intellectual and ideological confrontation, coupled with continuous proofs and arguments capable of dispelling the notion of terrorism as well as the ignorance currently prevailing in the Middle East in particular.
Therefore, our battle with Daesh is, definitely, an intellectual and ideological one, and we must be aware that only through this route, the war against it can be won. In this regard, we should first admit that ‘Daeshism’ was not merely born out of books of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and heritage only but also grew out of a miserable Arab situation. Unfortunately, Arab educational institutions were affected, with thoughts of extremism, violence and a culture of exclusion finding their way into their lines. Therefore, the ultimate eradication of Daeshism should come through a multi-dimensional, long-term and comprehensive political and reform plan.
An effective educational policy is the starting point towards bringing an end to ‘Daeshism’. Such a policy mainly targets the youth, who embody the hope for a future where a political reform plan can be developed, based on moderation and middle ground. Thus, it is important that the educational policy should focus on modern human concepts of proper citizenship and tolerance among the members of a society, regardless of their creeds, ethnicity, religion and ideologies. With such concepts, they should all enjoy equal rights and duties, respecting the other, coexistence and pluralism.
What is, indeed, needed is to streamline and continue to modernise the educational policy while addressing the negative perceptions of “the other” by deepening the principles of coexistence and daily dialogue that is totally in contrary to extremism. Those with extremist beliefs have a strong desire to exclude “the other”, because — in their opinion — they are the only ones who have the ‘right’, thus, the only capable group of understanding realities and issues, which — of course — comes decidedly one-sided and un-negotiable.
Spirit of understanding
The success of the reform process of the educational policy requires a spirit of understanding and participation between the government policymakers and the civil society. This should take place away from any confrontation or the traditional tendencies that often seek exclusion by rejecting opposing views, of which Arab countries have suffered from for more than a century under most political and intellectual exclusionist trends, leading to an environment of extremism taking root in the region.
Moreover, the current social and cultural changes in the world require educational policymakers to double their responsibility towards instilling in the young the standards and values that help preserve the security and stability of their society. It is an integrated process where such a policy relies on dealing with and connection among the four golden sides of the square; the curriculum, the teacher, the student and the parents. It is impossible to advance the educational policy without enhancing their capacities, such as it is impossible to discuss the desired role of the school vis-a-vis the extremist beliefs away from the development of and cooperation among these four elements.
By ensuring their sound development, the educational policy will be able to have a vital role towards protecting the cohesion of the society, creating national belonging and feelings of national unity among its members, which are necessary requirements to protect its survival and integration within a modern sustainable policy.
The implementation of a sound educational policy aimed at reforming the educational curricula and process when combating extremism and terrorism is one of the most difficult issues in the Arab world, as it deals with the society and its components, as well as with the official state institutions, namely the family and the entire educational institution with its schools, colleges and universities.
We should stress, in this context, the need to adopt an educational policy based on establishing critical methods in education, respect for the role of the mind and logic, as well as provide the student with the scientific method of thinking and practice, the ability to compare, analyse, draw conclusions and have creativity. Under such a process, which is essential for every advancement, the real elimination of ‘Daeshism’ will be possible to achieve through the consolidation of thought and power of persuasion against extremism, a thing which the ‘creators’ of terrorism fear more than a military confrontation.
However, without establishing an educational policy as a basis towards advancement, the Daesh thinking/phenomena will remain there around us (and in the world) for a long time even after eliminating its ‘state’ in Iraq militarily.
Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.