Prof. Dr. Mohammad Bilal Khan
Extremism is a menace that may manifest in various forms. Prevention of this disease is the best remedy to avoid this menace. In the larger context, it tramples on human rights and sustainable development. Education is the best tool to prevent extremism. Modern education rests on three pillars namely knowledge, skills, and behavior. Apart from professional education, there are certain character traits that need to be inculcated at the individual level to unleash positive energy in the learners.
Virtues like love, honesty, and gratitude are essential for a satiated soul. Peace of mind is the driving force behind these traits. This coupled with an abundance mentality and contribution vision leads to creativity.: A virtue that propels one to bring something new into existence rather than eliminate something. Life is replete with hardship and challenges. Man is created in constant struggle. To stand firm in times of adversity is the hallmark of strong character.
Ethical counseling should be an essential part of the education system. The teacher is an important entity in this equation to build learners’ resilience to extremism and mitigate the drivers of this phenomenon. He is responsible to create a classroom climate that is inclusive and conducive to respectful dialogue, open discussion, and critical thinking. Thus he is in the best position to address all forms of discrimination and hate speech. At UoC, we have introduced the practice to spend the first 7-10 minutes in every class to impart ethics to the learners. We have also formed tutorial groups in every class under the headship of faculty members to provide a forum for one-on-one meetings with the students to address their academic, social, and stress-related problems. The overall goal is the inculcation of emotional stability in the students.
Concomitantly, the role of media in imparting the proper ethics can be hardly over-emphasized. The media should discourage all forms of radicalism and deist from sensationalism. Our dramas and film industry should not promote violence and sensuous content.
Delighting the sensuous pleasures and relishing them is generally regarded as vulgar practice because such indulgence leads to base desires, which are clinging and lustful. Likewise, the gaming industry is taking a heavy toll out of our youngsters. New video games are ethically affecting people who play them. Some of the ethical issues include violence, rating, stereotyping against women, community, and addiction. According to a Harvard University report, gaming has also been associated with sleep deprivation, insomnia, cardiac rhythm disorders, depression, aggression, and anxiety.
As emphasized above peace and tolerance are desirable, however, according to UNICEF report peace, tolerance, and non-violence should not lead to passivity in society. In fact, these virtues should be accompanied by justice and equality. Looking at history, the drawback of Gandhi’s magnificent non-violence movement is that it created passivity in society. A big faction of the Hindu community failed to embrace justice and equality. The ensuing result was the development of prejudice. The seeds of Hindutva “ideology” seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus based on ostracism, discrimination, terrorism, racism, and fascism were sown as early as Gandhi’s own period. When Gandhi insisted to visit Pakistan after the division of the sub-continent, an extremist Hindu belonging to RSS fired point blank in his chest killing him on the spot.
The famous film Gandhi actually starts from this tragic scene. The foregoing comments are not meant to denigrate the Hindu faith at any rate. To add insult to injury Hindutva has gained political clout in the form of a fascist regime bent upon unleashing state terrorism on minorities within India and on the Muslims in Kashmir. In this way, the regime is trampling over the ideology of their own Bapu.
Countering violent extremism is altogether a different ball game. This comes into play when the diseases have actually taken root. Two different strands of violence can be identified. The one seeks settlement in the Northern areas of the country upon returning from Afghanistan, while the other comprises brain-washed foreign militants and mercenaries who are launched for terrorist activities across the borders by the enemy. The former must lay down arms. There is a need to launch sweeping efforts at disarmament, including house-to-house searches to hunt for weapons and confiscate material: dramatic steps, but less severe than other counter-insurgency tactics. This can be followed by declaring general amnesty, applicable to everyone who abstains from fighting. Concomitantly, carefully circumscribed engagement with the Afghan government should be established to stem the tide through better stronger border management.
The other strand of foreign militants launched by the adversary deserves no mercy. The intelligence agencies, security forces, and combat-hardy troops are bravely encountering this menace and laying down their lives to protect the motherland in the process. The entire nation stands behind them to curb this menace.
The Quran lays great emphasis on the sanctity of human life, but at the same time condemns mischief, tumult, and oppression; “if anyone slew a person unless it is for murder for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people”. It vehemently denounces the disturbance of public peace and goes to the extent of saying: “for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.”
The writer is Vice Chancellor, of the University of Chakwal, and Senior Fellow of NUST Islamabad.