Education’s Role In Combating Terrorism, Violence and Extremism in Iraq
Author: Majid Ahmed Salih
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 04/08/2013
I am a student researcher at the University for Peace in the Department of International Peace Studies. My name is Majid Ahmed Salih, and I am living in Salah AL din Governorate where the Iraqi EX – President Saddam Hussein used to live, which is the most deteriorated and dangerous district in Iraq since the American Occupation in 2003. I have certifications and experiences as follows: Russian Language, English language, civil aviation, I was a journalist and I also have 12 years of practical field experience as a Field Monitor with World Food Program and the United Nations. I am honored to be one of the peacemakers and those who work to withhold terrorism all over the world, especially in areas of turmoil & instability such as my country, Iraq.
Unfortunately, my family, my self, other close relatives, and the majority of Iraqis have been directly affected by the horrible effects of terrorism. Due to my work with the UN as a Field Monitor for more than 12 years, many attempts were made on my life. I have written about these attacks in previous articles. There are thousands of people with the same story all over Iraq.
Having had the opportunity to be educated outside Iraq I have learned the value of education to transform attitudes and actions of people. I have already seen how education can work in my country. I found through my work in the Iraqi schools that the Ministry of Education could play an important role in preventing and combating terrorism. The Ministry is capable of imposing a standard method for teaching in the primary and middle schools that includes almost all Iraqi students ages 6 – 15 years since they are required to attend school. I want to work to educate Iraqis about terrorism in order to help change the current situation in my country. I am inclined to find analyses and theories on the causes of terrorism so I can help the young people in Iraq learn about terrorism and preventing violence in the world. Having come from Iraq, a country with a bloody, violent history, and on-going terror, it will be the subject for my analysis of theory; my humble study will focus on this issue with some details.
Many Definitions of Terrorism
Each nation, people, religion, sect, ethnic group, government and even individuals have their own specific definitions for terrorism from their own points of view, according to their traditions, cultures, or interests. Below I offer a few recent definitions for terrorism:
· From the point of view of Islamic Sharia, which is the law of all Muslims on the globe, taken from what God says in the Quran, “Don’t trespass that God does not like aggressors” (Qura’an).
This means that Islam rejects aggression and intimidation of others. Islam does not support terrorism, rejects and denounces it, and does not accept committing terrorism among Muslims or between Muslims and other peoples regardless of religion or nationality, as long as they respect the Muslims or did not start an assault. Muslim countries have agreed in principle with the Islamic law in the fight against terrorism and discarded and rejected terrorism in all its forms.
· Terrorism is the systematic assault of an individual, group or state against human souls, or public or private funds and properties by intimidation, harming, terror or killing the others unlawfully.
· Terrorism is a tool or a means to achieve political goals, whether internal or outside the state, to force governments to change or edit its decisions and policies.
· The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or correct a government (Kushner, 2002).
The Question and Theory of my Research
When I deal with the problems of terrorism and violence in Islamic and Arab countries, one of my questions is: How can the educational system change the perspective of people to prevent terrorism? More specifically, how can the subject of terrorism be incorporated in the education system of Iraq, particularly in regards to primary and intermediate schools? Thirdly, what are the important aspects of terrorism as a subject matter that should be considered as a compulsory part of the curriculum?
A Brief History of the Educational System in Iraq
The educational system in Iraq has been free and compulsory since 1968. From the age of six, children are expected to join the primary level that lasts for six years. Then students move to three years at the intermediate level and afterwards to another three years for general secondary schools, which includes scientific, social, agricultural, vocational, industrial, and religious study. Finally, some students study at the University level, and beyond.
I would like to emphasize teaching the subject terrorism in the primary level because it will create a new generation of youth who can understand the ill effects of terrorism in the society of Iraq. Also, shaping the minds of these children at a very young age is desirable because it is known that young people are more adventurous and more willing to move beyond the traditions of the older community.
The school is considered second most important institution after the family that imbues social and cultural values in society. If the school fails to encourage positive social values, society loses the second line of defense against crime. This is the security role that educational institutions (primary schools) play in combating terrorism, violence and extremism. This function has become necessary at the present time in Iraq, and it will be vital in rebuilding Iraqi culture and society in addition to the security dimension.
Future Vision for the School’s Security Role
My vision of the role of the school in combating violence and terrorism starts from the following aspects:
- It is incumbent on all social institutions, both formal and informal, to begin preparing new generations of youth who are educated to prevent violence through cooperation, dialogue and effective openness between educational institutions and security institutions.
- Much of the curriculum and educational methods must be reconsidered with a mentality of openness to build the desire, ability, power and material resources to adopt what is necessary and appropriate for the data age in the era of globalization.
- New approaches to the prevention of crime and delinquency through experiential and internationally focused learning should be adopted.
- School activities should be related to the community. Activities should not be confined to activities within the corridors of the school only. These programs can be activated through the establishment of a council called Security Council for the Prevention of Crime and Delinquency, which would consist of security officials, teachers, community elders and specialists in psychology. The task of this Council should be to educate and mobilize both community members and students about the dangers of crime, violence and delinquency (Abed al Aziz).
The process for preventing terrorism, violence and extremist ideology in schools is interdependent on the student, the teacher, the curriculum, and the school environment.
For the Student:
The education style currently practiced in Islamic and Arabs countries is “education banking”. The student is given information that he is expected to save in his mind and then he evaluated through an exam. Thus, the student is a receptacle for receiving information without fully understanding it or scrutinizing its meanings. This type of education makes people docile and more easily accepting of radical ideas and more stringent in their applications without thinking or discussion.
Thus, students should be exposed to education based on critical thinking and creativity that encourages the mind of the student to reflect of the information they receive. This is important so that they can learn to see the truth from more than one angle and is one way to help prevent them from becoming easy prey for radical ideas and calls for violence.
For the Teacher:
The teacher is the main player in this theory. He/she should be professional, high-end, intelligent, and capable of delivery of information skilled performance, and reject all forms of extremism and violence, as the personal character of the teacher contributes to shaping the personalities of students as the teacher’s attributes are often reflected in pupil’s conduct.
The School Environment:
Students cannot receive quality education unless there is a suitable environment that encourages creativity and stimulates thinking. The school environment must be correct if we expect the student pay attention to all that is new and useful. For this, we should not follow the ready templates and old theories, but I argue that there must be these new elements:
- Modern methods of education, such as the use of computers.
- A specialized library having all the modern references and technical means such as the Internet.
- Good classrooms and all the requirements of a modern school.
- Space for the students to engage in discussion, dialogue and creativity. Creativity promotes difference in the atmosphere of the dialogue, but it dies in the strict atmosphere dictatorship.
The curriculum is the backbone of the educational process is one of the pillars of this theory. The curriculum should cover material on the theory of terrorism as well as other subjects required for the purpose of preventing violence. This is needed to draw them as much as is possible away from the thinking patterns of violent extremists.
Terror and violence scare people by terrorizing their minds. Terrorism and extremism can affect any person whatever his place in society. I am one of those who has suffered from terrorism. We have to talk about the issue of terrorism and its catastrophic effects in every time and place. The schools are a good place to start talking about the issue of terrorism and I believe they are the most important institutions for preventing terrorism in the future.
List of References
Abed al a’al, Muhammed. The Crime of Terrorism. Comparative Study. Cairo: Dar al Nahda, 1994. 22.
Abed al a’al, M. (1994). The Crime of Terrorism. Cario
Abed al Aziz, Abdullah. Prevention of Delinquency. 2001. Cairo University: Art College,
Kushner, H. (2002). Encyclopedia of terrorism. (p. XX). Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Press.
Linton, M. (2006, August). History Today: Robespierre and the Terror. Retrieved from http://www.historytoday.com/marisa-linton/robespierre-and-terror
Miller, A. (2006, August 23). Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/arthur-miller/mccarthyism/484/
Sura Al Bakara vers. 190.
Surah Al Ma’aeda. vers. 27 -30.
Sanad, Najati. Political Crime Theory in the Civil Laws and Sharia. Comparative Study. College of Rights/ Zakazeq University: p18 -19.
Bio: Majid Salih, UPEACE, MA in International Peace Studies 2013.