Burying the Sword: Confronting Jihadism with Interfaith Education

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AuthorHouse, Feb 9, 2017 - Religion - 194 pages
Burying the Sword: Counteracting Jihadism with Interfaith Education This book analyzes the historical and political context in which various forms of violent extremism (jihadism) have emerged in the Middle East, Europe, and in Africa since 9/11/2001. The growth of the jihadism can be attributed in part to the oppressive regimes of the Middle East which have curtailed the democratic impulses of their youth. Alternative youth movements such as we saw in the Arab Spring can serve as a source of inspiration and model for renewal of these regions. The book also analyzes the role that technology can play in organizing future youth movements and serve as part of an interfaith educational program that has already been initiated in Kenya. New models of interfaith education in public and private schools throughout Africa are needed to counteract the growth of extremist ideologies among the youth of this region.

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About the author (2017)

The growth of religious and political extremism is not limited today to the Middle East. We are now living in a globalized environment in which the media highlights the latest terrorist attacks upon innocent civilians in various parts of the world often attributed to the hatred of militant groups using apocalyptic and violent rhetoric to justify their actions. Often, these atrocities have been focused on westerners living or working in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia. More recently the attacks have expanded into Europe (Paris), Africa (Kenya), South Asia (Dhaka) and North America (San Bernardino and Orlando). Most often the perpetrators of these attacks are Muslim youth between the ages of 18 and 30. The motivation of youth who are attracted to religious and political extremism has become the subject of recent studies but they fail to explore the larger context in which these extremist tendencies have found a fertile ground among a segment of Muslim youth. As we will see in a later chapter, the attraction of ISIS and other Jihadist groups is not limited to disaffected or alienated youth. Some well-educated Muslim youth idealize the life of a warrior in the battle to defend their faith against perceived Western aggression or in the sectarian battle of Sunni versus Shia such as we see taking place in Syria. The Arab Spring represented the flowering of a hopeful idealism among the youth of the Middle East ; Al Qaeda and ISIS represent the failure of Middle Eastern and Western policies to confront the inequality and corruption in this Middle East resulting in the disaffection of the region''s youth. Few avenues for meaningful careers are available to Muslim youth in many of their home countries in the Middle East. Some have become overwhelmed by a sense of alienation and oppression leading a street vendor in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, to immolate himself on December 17, 2010 as a protest against police corruption and restrictive government policies. The Tunisian youth revolution led eventually to the resignation of the Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in January, 2011. The Tunisian revolution sparked similar youth protests in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The youth protests in Egypt received extensive coverage by the Western press and social media leading to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. The Arab Spring gave new hope to the youth of the Middle East and inspired other movements such as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) which began in September, 2011. From its inception in September 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been linked to the revolutions and popular uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East that have gone under the name of the Arab Spring. This connection is reflected in the official OWS website, which declares: "We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants." This experience of global solidarity has been one of the hallmarks of revolutionary youth coincident with the proliferation of the internet and social media over the past two decades. We may ask why did the Arab Spring fail to realize its hoped-for transformation of the political, social and economic systems in the Middle East? I had co-led a series of academic seminars in Egypt In January of 2010 for American and Egyptian faculty and students just one year prior to the Arab Spring youth revolution. We had an American delegation of 48 faculty and students from the San Jose area who met with youth and faculty from diverse areas of Egypt at several different university campuses. We had numerous dialogue sessions with these students from diverse parts of Egypt concluding with a day-long seminar at Al Azhar University in Cairo. We experienced, with our Egyptian counterparts, a desire for further dialogue and search for means and methods of collaboration which actually did occur over the next few years. Upon our return to the US, I was able to arrange Skype conversations between Egyptian youth and American youth at two of the academic institutions where I have taught: San Jose St ate University and San Jose City College. In January 2011, one year later after our trip to Egypt, over one million youth would come together in Tahir Square to bring down the government of President Hosni Mubarak. The fervor and intensity of this youthful movement could not be sustained because many other forces were aligned against it. Within just a few years the Arab Spring had turned into an Arab Winter with the possible exception of Tunisia which did give birth to a new, pluralistic and democratic form of government. Other areas of the Arab world have devolved further into sectarian strife or regressed back to another form of authoritarian governance such as we have seen occur in Egypt. Meanwhile, a new and more violent movement burst onto the world scene called ISIS or Daesh which swept into Mosul, Iraq in 2014 and proclaimed itself a worldwide Islamic Caliphate with affiliates in other parts of the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. It soon surpassed the notoriety of Al Qaeda which Osama Bin Laden (1957-2011) had founded during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989).

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