Prof. Dr. Gaber Nassar Presents a Working Paper in the Twenty-Fifth Conference for the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs

Prof. Dr. Gaber Nassar Presents a Working Paper in the Twenty-Fifth Conference for the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs

Prof. Dr. Gaber Nassar, Cairo University President, addressing the 25th conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs: The danger of extremist ideology in the modern age is that it is no longer an ideology adopted by individuals or limited groups, but it has become an industry supported by groups, interests and policies of states that employ terrorism for their interests. Facing this thought can never succeed with the security confrontation alone, but it should be through deconstructing the rocket launchers of extremism that are directed at the brain of society and youth.

This was stated in the working paper presented by Prof. Dr. Gaber Nassar, Cairo University President, to the 25th conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs which convened at Luxor city. It is sponsored by the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt in cooperation with the ministers of Islamic Endowments, scientists of religion and ideologists from 40 Arab, Islamic and foreign countries on renewing the religious speech and deconstructing extremist ideology.

The working paper presented by Prof. Dr. Gaber Nassar, Cairo University President, is entitled The Role of Educational Institutions in Deconstructing Extremist Ideology

Extremism is one of the most dangerous challenges that face societies in all ages for it represents a threat and aggression on the aspects of life, the matter that requires us to mobilize all efforts to address this threat and nip it in the bud before it deepens and takes hold of individuals and society.

As such, it is imperative for all the institutions, which form modern state, to carry out their obligations and responsibilities. There is no doubt that educational institutions are the most important institutions that would be responsible for countering that threat. This is because extremism is firstly an ideology, upbringing and environment, which nurtures this aggressive behavior, before it becomes. Thus, the role of the educational institutions is determined in the following aspects:

First:  Distinguishing between Extremism and Terrorism:

The main difference between extremism and terrorism is that extremism is an ideology but terrorism is an action. However, this distinction does not mean they are separate, as they are linked to each other like a cause and effect. Extremism is the main introduction and the main reason for terrorism industry.

Based on this understanding, a framework can be concluded. It is represented in that extremism is an ideology that necessarily leads to terrorism. This is because the idea, which holder have gone to extreme in understanding and belief until the extremist thinks he/she have the full truth and absolute right, necessarily leads the extremist to think in the mechanisms of imposing it, which can never be without using violence, power and oppression, hence, terrorism emerges. According to this understanding, extremist thought brings with it the potential of its transformation into an act that is destructive to life and homelands. When extremist thought is transformed into a terrorist act, it actually remains the nursemaid and justification of its crimes.

No doubt that the most dangerous kind of extremist thought is extremist religious thought because it employs a sacred text in a way that violates its diction, meaning and legal framework. At the same time, it also exploits the feelings of the non-sophisticated persons and the need of the poor in convincing them that the extremist thought is the true religion, thus, terrorism, including murder and sabotage, becomes a part of religion.

Extremist thought in modern age is dangerous because it is no longer ideology adopted by individuals or limited groups, but it became an industry supported by groups, interests and policies of states that employ extremist thought for their interests even at the cost of other states, stability and lives of their people.

Second: Confronting Extremist Thought with Moderate Thought:

1.      Facing an idea with an idea and an argument with an argument to demolish the basis that the advocates of this thought rest on in presenting and spreading their thoughts and perceptions. This is out of applying the Quranic methodology in facing thought with nothing but thought. Therefore, the Holy Quran urges the necessity of asking the purveyors of a delinquent ideology to provide evidence of what they say, out of applying His saying: {Say, produce your proof, if you should be truthful.} [2: 111]. This is also out of applying Sunnah in which the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) faced thought with thought. It was narrated from Anas bin Malik that there was a group of the Companions of the Prophet, one of whom said: "I will not marry women." Another said: "I will not eat meat." Another said: "I will not sleep on a bed." Another said: "I will fast and not break my fast." News of that reached the Messenger of Allah and he praised Allah then said: {what is the matter with people who say such and such? But I pray and I sleep, I fast and I break my fast, and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my Sunnah is not of me.} In this way, the first attempt of extremism and exaggeration in religion was terminated.

2.      Presenting moderate thought which represents the essence and truth of religion. This requires reconsidering the curricula that present religious sciences to filter them from whatever considered a source for this extremist thought. Secondly, presenting moderate thought requires presenting the right religious thought supported with the religious texts that calls for dialogue, tolerance, and the culture of coexisting with the Other and respecting his/her choices.

3. Filling in the vacuity that represents a typical environment where extremist thought expands and its flags rise, for vacuity (especially mind vacuity) is one of the main reasons and means through which aberrant ideology comes softly.

        Filling in this vacuity happens through several means; such as; reading, attending free seminars, participating in cultural competitions and joining scientific and recreational trips.

4.Employing the weapon of purposeful art is necessary, for art with its strong and effective tools represents one of the pillars of reasonable character. It refines human beings and move them to the world of light, goodness and beauty, thus, it is obvious why extremist thought antagonizes all the forms of meaningful art.

5. Spreading scientific culture as well as literary culture is needful, for culture broadens horizons and minds, spark beneficial interests, and creates critical awareness that distinguishes between moderate and extremist thought.

6. We should courageously stand up to the issues which extremist thought and its claims are grounded in; such as, the relation between religion and state, jihad, caliphate and citizenship.

7. We should reconsider the methods adopted by official religious institutions in dealing with the phenomena of terrorism, violence and extremism, for these methods beautify the status of extremists for a large number of people.

8.      We should reconsider the method of handling the issue of religion by media starting from Friday Sermon and ending to the programs presented to people via the different means of media. This is because it is a method based on clichés and platitude that neither present thought nor analysis that lead to positive religiosity, however, this leads to negative religiosity that involves hostility for religion itself.

Finally, there must be strategic vision for participation in standing up to this danger. Extremism is a social, educational and institutional system that derive its reasons and streams from hatred, poverty, ignorance and ugliness. This issue can never be dismantled except through a comprehensive and alternative system of multi-faceted reform, namely, the reform of culture, education, life style, social behavior and a life that enhances the humanitarian nature of human beings and maintains their dignity.

Third – Dismantling the Infrastructure of Extremism (Cairo University as a Model):

The framework of extremist thought that develops into terrorism targets the fragmentation of society and seizing it and its destinies. It passes through a parallel way that creates incubating organizations for extremist thought, breeding extremist groups that cut deep into the sides of society. Extremism framework adopts objectives and methods that differ from the objectives and methods of society.

The danger of the mechanisms of extremist thought industry lies in that they are the same mechanisms which society relies on in its establishment and development, which means that this destructive thought uses the same mechanisms that society uses.

It is concluded from what is mentioned above that the state as an organization started to face, inside its institutions, an enemy that works on demolishing it and fires extremism rockets onto the minds of youth, resulting in terrorism and violence. Confronting this thought can never succeed with security confrontation only; it succeeds by deconstructing the extremism rocket launchers directed at the brain of society and its youth. No one can deny the efforts of facing this thought by some state authorities; namely, Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Islamic Endowments. The Ministry of Islamic Endowments lead the process of seeking freeing many mosques from the tentacles of terrorism, as many mosques were seized by some of these groups. Those mosques were representing the platform of extremism industry in all directions.  Such efforts also included developing and changing the curricula in which Al-Azhar traveled a long significant road. Confronting extremist thought is not only the cause of government, but also the cause of people.

The statehood as a region, authority and people is threatened by the consequences of this extremist thought, therefore, it should not be underestimated. The duties of each official in a ministry or institution should include plans for confronting and deconstructing this thought.

Cairo University actually had a path-breaking experience in deconstructing extremist thought by a group of procedures that were successful in preventing the spread of this thought among students.

1.      Closing the distracted small prayer rooms of all areas at the university campus and hostel. Those prayer rooms were multiplied in one building in accordance with the multiplicity of extremist groups.  The initial observations was that acts of violence were being launched from those prayer rooms where the students who belonged to this extremist thought were gathering, and they had organizational roles according to their belonging to terrorist extremist groups. They were gathering students, recruiting them, might offer them services so as to approach them, and they often exploit the need of some of them in attracting and recruiting them.  The foregoing is related to the existence of some elements of those who belong to these groups among the employees of Youth Care and Student Affairs at faculties. These employees harness the services offered by the university to these students.

There is no doubt that those prayer rooms were far from the supervision of the university due to their excessive number. It was impossible to provide serious supervision for them from either the Ministry of Endowments or the university. Therefore, the decree was issued by Cairo University for closing those prayer rooms and establishing a great mosque that gathers students and staff members. The people who want to pray in congregation, should walk to the mosque of the university, which is the matter also happened at the university hostel.

The reality we live is represented in that extremist thought generated terrorism that devours states with the support of other states that are unaware of its nature and evils.

This issue is no longer in need for evidences to be validated. We live in terrorism now totally surrounded by its evils. These scenes of Daesh which are seen by people mostly unbelieving what they see were not imagined by any one to take place in real life, but, unfortunately, they became a reality which robust regular armies failed to confront whether in Libya, Syria, Yemen or Iraq. These extremist or terrorist groups became a genuine dilemma which must be dealt with through science and jurisprudence so as to pave the way to its termination if God Willing.

Terrorism and all relevant acts of violence and destruction can never be confronted except with power, whereas the matter is different when we come to confront extremist thought.

2.Opening up to arts and culture is an essential component that many institutions especially universities miss in its orientation for students and youth. This kind of openness represents extremism and terrorism diverting framework and provide distinctive cultural satisfaction for the minds of youth. In the academic year 2013-2014, Cairo University presented a great cultural season together with Selim Sahab Orchestra and Egypt Children Choir Project. The university also presented on its stages not less than 50 purposeful theatrical shows, produced by the State Theater. In 2014-2015, the university presented a new cultural season, together with Cairo Opera House, through which two distinctive ceremonies are presented monthly on the university stage.

3. Holding open theaters on the religious and national occasions, like the celebration of the birth day of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon him) (Mawlid), Islamic New Year, and folk art like Taghribat Bani Hilal, at the yards of the university to attract the largest number of students.

4.  Holding an open cultural competition, entitled Read – Think – Win, in which the university determines three books for students to read and present a study on them, then the arbitration is conducted, and then the winners are selected to distribute among them monetary awards that reach 50,000 EGPs as well as in kind prizes.

5. Encouraging students to participate in self-initiatives of protecting activities like models activity, scientific innovations, trips and camps, without imposing the views of the university on the track of the trip. The role of the university is confined to regulatory framework, and students are required to abide by law and regulations

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Prof. Dr. Gaber Nassar Presents a Working Paper in the Twenty-Fifth Conference for the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs - Cairo University