Young people weigh in on efforts to counter extremism

AMMAN – Since young people are “the first target” of extremist groups, a local NGO organised a gathering this week where young Jordanians spoke about this issue and suggested ways to counter it.

Former media minister Nabil Al Sharif, the director of the event’s organiser Imdad Media Centre, said terrorist groups are increasingly recruiting young people, whose energy and efforts should be directed towards building peace and proper citizenship.

Sharif said extremists promote their ideology via the Internet, where the majority of users are young people, calling for reforming education and religious discourse to address this threat.

Speaking at the event, held Monday in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, former awqaf minister Abdul Salam Abbadi discussed the importance of the Amman Message in showing the true image of Islam, and called for maintaining a proper religious discourse.

“We lack proper and balanced Islamic discourse,” Abbadi said, stressing the need to reconsider this matter to protect future generations from being “brainwashed”.

For activist Ahmad Akayleh, one of the solutions is to involve young people in politics.

Political participation gives hope and power to young people, and prepares them to be true partners in working for the betterment of society, the 25-year-old said at the meeting, which brought together some 40 young men and women.

Another method to counter extremism is through culture and art, according to poet and former minister Jeryes Samawi, who said they can be used to “immunise” young people.

Culture, he noted, is about dialogue, freedom and promoting humanity and beauty.

“The right cultural influence has an impact on the younger generation’s moral growth and skills,” Samawi noted.

He added that culture should never be separated from politics, the economy, religion or any other aspect of society, and called for giving more attention to culture in curricula.

Discussing a paper on the role of media, Tayseer Ahmad Abu Arja, chairman of the journalism department at Petra University’s faculty of arts, called for reconsidering the political role of the sector.

He said the proliferation of reality television and other meaningless programmes has pushed young people to find shelter in religion.

Yasmine Abuazab, 22, a university student who attended the event, told The Jordan Times that the topics discussed at the meeting were “bold”, with participants openly analysing the influence of terror groups such as Daesh.

Abdullah Bani Hani said he is interested in learning more about the Amman Message and its role in spreading the true image of Islam.

“There should be more programmes to promote this message for us young people to be able to practise it and play a part in spreading it,” the 21-year-old added.

Participants at the gathering agreed that a detailed national strategy should be developed to combat extremism, combining the efforts of both civil society and the government.

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