Speakers at an international conference underscored the need for coming up with some equal powerful counter-narrative against extremism and terrorism.
The two-day event on “Extremism and terrorism in Pakistan: challenges and sustainable solutions” that started here at a local hotel on Monday has been organized by the University of Sindh (SU) in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and Hanns Seidel Foundation, Germany.
Speaking on the occasion, SU Vice-Chancellor Nazir A. Mughal stated that the word of fundamentalism was used by the international community and discussed implications of extremism on higher education.
He said Pakistan was faced with a number of conflicts nationally and internationally and its history was replete with wars.
Ironically, he said, foremost target of extremists had been the Muslim world itself. Minority wanted its philosophy thrust over majority.
He said scholars assessed and interpreted the given issue. If Islam was associated with terrorism, let pages of history be opened to recount that Jewish guerrillas used terrorism against the British in Palestine. Tamils of Sri Lanka invented the art of suicide vest, Greek terrorists carried out assassination operation against the USand Sikhs used terrorism against British.
He said Islam had been a unifying force of a high order and as a global universal faith it had created a broad civilization that shared many common principles of philosophy, the arts, and society, a vision of moral life, a sense of justice, jurisprudence etc. He rejected Western conception that Muslims were terrorists or Islam taught terrorism.
He said Western media had branded seminaries as factories of jihad and nurseries of violent, extremists Islamists.
According to his information, there were over 17,000 religious scholars in 2005. They provided free medicines to poor, sent their followers to seek votes on slogan of ‘Islam is in danger’ and these students after graduating from seminaries were sent to public universities to convert traditional students to their way of life. Thus campuses had become breeding grounds and recruiting targets for extremism inPakistan.
He called for evaluation of seminaries every three months to assess curriculum and teaching of faculty, students and their policies and the government should initiate a pilot programme in seminaries to modernize their curriculum.
Hussain Haroon, former envoy to the United Nations, called for identifying the problem correctly and putting ‘our own house’ in order first. He said that Jews had resolved their issues with Christianity as far as threat perception was concerned. There was a threat perception involving Muslims and Islam.
He said good governance and better economic development could address most of problems as they played an important role in redressing grievances of people.
President of Policy Architects International, Washington, Dr Rodney W. Jones traced history of jihad or militancy. The latter fought against Sikhs. He added that Islam was not an issue but the issue was that there were many perceptions about Islam, reflecting sectarianism.
He said the Pakistani establishment failed to abandon its policy of using militants as proxies as policy instruments. Taliban used to be against theUSbut now they were against Pakistani state.
He referred to Gen Kayani’s definition of extremist in his last year’s Independence Day speech when he said that anyone trying to thrust his opinion over others was extremist and anyone trying to thrust opinion with gun was terrorist.
Researcher of Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security, Dr Daniel Pineu stated that Pakistani academicians were not coming up with equally powerful counter-narrative against terrorism and extremism. Flow of information on terrorism was unhindered and Pakistani society was consuming this knowledge in the absence of a counter-narrative. Pakistani experts should come up with a more analytical assessment of the situation as descriptive kind of evaluation was not appreciated abroad.
He said that despite being secured people, the West was feeling insecure; they feared for disease, violence and terrorism.
Former ambassador Shamshad Ahmed — who moderated the second session — disagreed with the contentions raised by
Dr Rodney W. Jones. He said that apparently Dr Jones and CIA were on the same page as far as their narrative onPakistan and Islam was concerned. He said Pakistani people were used as proxies, mercenaries and even as agents. He praised Dr Daniel’s presentation and said that it was realistic as Dr Jones clearly absolved his country of the responsibility of creating the monster that was known as the Taliban.
Director Centre for Aerospace Power studies PAF, Air Commodore Jamal Hussain, Dr Shabana Fayyaz,Assistant ProfessorDefence & StrategicStudiesDepartmentQuaid-i-AzamUniversityalso gave presentation on sub-conventional warfare and women’s role in moderating extremism.