Moderation and Reform Take Place in Independent Societies and Cities that Seek to Shape their Own Consciousness
By Ibraheem Gharaibeh, Jordanian writer and recent addition as a researcher to ARDD’s Renaissance Center
Reform programs, encouraging moderation, and opposing extremism cannot succeed without coherent and independent societies and cities that are looking for self-awareness. These programs will not be progressive, and resources will not be allocated for them, if they are not accepted and adopted by societies. Societies will not be able to absorb reform and moderation if they do not feel the need for them and are not already looking for their self-awareness, what they need and do not need, what they want and do not want. Reform is simply what we would love to be and must be.
If we believe that family is the most active institution in social work in the internet/network age and that it will carry a large part of the educational work and health and social care, it is inconceivable that the family will play a positive role in facing extremism unless it is a cohesive and successful family with sufficient awareness and skill to prepare its children. It is not enough, of course, for the family to be enthusiastic about confronting extremism if it is disassociated or does not provide comprehensive care for its children in education, care and general welfare.
The family’s role is supposed to be based on building values and ideas, partnerships with society and the state, and preparing the individual for positive participation in society and the surrounding environment. That individual should be protected by being independent and having the ability to protect oneself from negative influences in order to build individuality, independence, and social cohesion.
In the end, it is necessary for the family to contribute to the formation of a positive and independent person who has a critical mind, because if a child is not independent and critical, s/he will not be able to confront the extremist ideology independently or through participation and living in the surrounding environment. A child with no critical or intellectual skills remains vulnerable to influence even if s/he was taught or received anti-radicalism and/or positive thinking.
Perhaps the easiest part of a family's work is to help its children opt for moderate thought and have the right attitude, and to warn against extremism and hatred. But the most important and difficult part is to ensure that the environment around the child is a coherent and moderate one. The child is affected more implicitly or indirectly than through direct education.
It is important that the family closely observes everything about their children without them being aware of it, extremism is not necessarily an ideology, a view or a clear or direct attitude, but can be indicated by personal turmoil, depression, isolation, or an inability to integrate and make friends, all of which can be an introduction to extremism or crime. Sometimes families are not able to solve or face many challenges, but they can turn to social, health, and educational institutions to achieve that.
Needless to say, parents must demonstrate a model of moderation, tolerance, and proper behavior in their behavior and daily life, such as voluntarily abstaining from watching politically and religiously extremist channels, providing appropriate books at home, reading and participating in artistic and cultural activities and programs, watching beautiful films, respecting the friends of their children and cooperating with them in visits and activities, helping them to choose games and books, emotionally caring for them, and providing all that allows them a sense of satisfaction and participation.
Families need to have an active and practical relationship with the educational and guiding institutions; schools, counselors, and doctors to address any problem that may arise, even if it is not directly related to extremism, such as poor reading, concentration, isolation, depression, tension, addiction to violent games, channels, programs and bad websites. This should be all done without reproach or direct monitoring.
Social and educational institutions working with children and families need to be aware of the relationship between extremism and family/socio-economic crises, such as family disintegration and poverty. If parents are fragile or unable to recognize risks and responsibilities or break down barriers with their children and gain their trust, then the state, community institutions, and municipalities should do their best to protect children and help families to play their role.
The processes of confrontation and observation begins with monitoring and dealing with daily and routine situations that can of course be an introduction to extremism, such as school dropouts, child abuse, or the involvement of children and boys in misdemeanors and criminal and/or legal offenses. However, the work and role of social and security institutions is supposed to extend to assistance, guidance, and empowerment of families.
Teachers and counselors may notice situations that do not seem serious or alarming but can be used to observe or anticipate greater problems, such as depression, isolation, reading difficulties, poor concentration, hyper-activeness, and nails-biting. The regular humanitarian and counseling support of families automatically protects children and boys and reduces their chances of drifting towards extremism and delinquency. The social institutions and their capacity to absorb and cover these families and to support them with necessary resources are an important and essential shield in building resilience and protection from vulnerability to extremism.
Participation in social networks, personal pages, and forums can be sources to identify many crises and problems that can be an introduction to extremism, crime, and/or deviation or reveal a suicidal tendency, deep depression, or despair that may lead to suicide or individual isolated terrorist crimes. In a changing environment dominated by migration, mobility in residence and study, as well as globalization and of socio-cultural or personal trauma or difficulties in integration and participation.
Education remains the primary entry point for reform and activating societies. However, it should be noted that the school is losing its former centrality in the face of the family's rise, but school remains a major and fundamental link to education and building the personalities, friendships, and professional futures of the pupils. At the same time, schools are a dangerous theater for vulnerability. A large proportion of children lose their social immunity or creativity in schools, however, schools are still the main space in which children spend most of the day and remain associated with even after their return home, and although the future physical relationship between school and pupil is expected to change, schools can still perform a major and deciding role in building immunity and confronting vulnerability even if in many cases schools can be held responsible for vulnerability, stereotyping, loss of creativity, and basic life skills.
Through its mission, schools should activate or increase its work with talent, creative skills, and life in writing, arts, music, theater, sports, volunteering, and community service. In addition, schools should freely promote critical thinking, dialogue, and open debate, listening to the ideas and opinions of the students whatever they are and to paying attention to them while encouraging positive thinking and constantly emphasizing moderation, tolerance, cooperation, and respect for all people of different nationalities, religions, and cultures.
Schools in the Arab world have been mainly teacher-based. Psychological, social, and educational guidance has not taken an important place, but we are at a stage of change in the role of schools and families and their attention to life skills, talent, and social interaction and the importance of mentoring, coordination, and communication with families and social institutions. Importance and attention must also be given to the attitudes of the students and the interest in the networks and the relationship that they create with the mentors, with students and families increasing as well their engagement with network sites and platforms, this educational curricula must be subject to constant review and observation with regards to extremism, moderation, and tolerance.
In recent decades, religious institutions have stepped up, both in their physical state (places of worship, educational institutions, guidance, and preaching) and on the internet and satellite channels, which appear today to be the weakest part of protecting against extremism the and most dangerous link to extremism and hatred. Mosques and religious activities represent the most important and attractive arena for extremist groups in search for supporters. A large part of religious thought and content that is available and accepted in religious and political life represent also an essential source of extremism, in particular, advocacy and recruitment for terrorist groups.
The religious establishment can play an active and important role in confronting extremists and providing the public with important religious resources and incentives to respond to and confront extremists, as well as in promoting tolerance and moderation. However, this requires advanced religious awareness. Although much of the religious discourse in mosques, schools, and satellite channels is sponsored by countries that are supposed to fight extremists and to be against extremism, this discourse goes against these public positions and encourages extremism and hatred.
We must not rely mainly on moderate religious discourse, despite its importance, but emphasize the linkage of terrorism’s confrontation to national interests and confront enemies whoever they are, addressing risks to the state and its citizens and interests from any source.
There is a great fear that extremists will beat moderation with their religious discourse because they are more diligent in explaining their ideas and attributing them to the evidence adopted in mainstream and traditional religious discourse.
On the other hand, neglecting or neutralizing the religious role would cause the confrontation with terrorism to lose catalysts that can give forces of confrontation a strong positive impetus and show extremists as supporters of religion instead of enemies of religion. But if it was possible to combine the moderate and tolerant religious role and direct the public and citizens to national and global interests as they are and as they should be, this would strengthen the confrontation of extremism.
In this regard, we need to regain respect for rational and moderate readings of religion that have been excluded and prosecuted by the political authorities, such as the works of Nasr Hamed Abu Zayd, Ali Abdel Razek, Mohammed Arkoun, Ibn Rushd, and Taha Hussein, whose content may be intellectually advanced and difficult for a large proportion of the public, religious people, and youth. However, these ideas can be further simplified, annotated, and converted into digestible and assimilable content for schools, mosques, and the public.
The religious institutions must be reorganized both at the administrative and organizational levels in their relationship with the society and the state to play a real guiding role that accommodates the goals and values of the state and society. Or at the level of scientific qualification, the imam, preacher, and mufti should have the basic and necessary scientific content and be able to provide the public with moderate traditional thought and jurisprudence. Religious workers and preachers should be provided with skills and knowledge in psychological and educational counseling to be able to understand the individual needs and problems of the mosque audience and to observe the social and psychological trends and motives of extremism, and imams and preachers should be provided with scientific content to be able to respond to extremist thought, especially on the issues of governance, atonement, jihad, and apostasy. And the relationship between the religious institution and its employees on one side and the educational, social, developmental, and media institutions on the other should be developed to form plans and programs to counter extremism and to work in an integrated and coordinated manner to ensure that the institutions of the state and society do not contradict each other.
This paper proposes broadening the objectives and vision of media action to go beyond confronting extremists to a broad umbrella of goals and policies, such as gaining public trust, targeting extremism not just extremists, and creating a cultural and social environment that promotes positive core values that protect against hatred and extremism, build partnerships with communities, and correct positive participation in the global community.
The discourse based on the expansion of criticism of extremism and terrorism includes an expansion in the dissemination of news that may move the extremists in the opposite direction of extremism. A review of media discourse that expands on content, information, and knowledge services can contribute to the building of positive values such as beauty and tolerance, as emptiness is a fundamental motive for extremism.
The media is facing a major crisis both in its ability to adapt to the internet age and in terms of the content it offers, but talking about its mission and the need to develop it remains necessary. Although we do not know where the media institutions are heading and this uncertainty is confusing, that should not prevent us, frustrate us, or make us wait, because by participating in its development and review, we define the future. Media organizations’ futures are not certain, and there are appropriate trends for news networks, such as specialized media in terms of content or target groups. Social networks form new communications and influence channels that are taking an important role in media. Even major media organizations resort to social networks to increase and activate their services and messages.
A favorable state for social work would be achieved through the transformation of cultural and educational programs as well as activities to focusing on social interests and profitable commercial investments that can be sustained, such as publishing houses and children's stories, and will go on become successful investments, some of which can be supported or whose services can be purchased such as theaters, movies, drama, books, stories, art, and music. To form a market around them and those interests would attract various generations and the public as a whole.
The main conclusion of this article is derived from the necessity of both the independence of societies/cities and their active participation with authorities and markets. Reform and moderation are a true and effective environment for family, markets, culture, social institutions and official departments of community services, education, and religious affairs. Education, health and social care, cultural institutions, crime, satisfaction and confidence in individuals, the markets, national institutions, consumption, and cultural and artistic production can indicate an active community that is immune to extremism and vulnerability. Although these are not directly indicative of moderation and progress, they are indicative of an effective and capable society and of good individuals who are satisfied and willing to participate and integrate into the state and society.
Plans to confront extremism suffer from the problem of globalization as much as they benefit from it, the world must unite in the face of extremism, with every country protecting its citizens and societies from extremism, crime, and poverty and adopting policies to prevent extremism and fragility. Any failed state can be a safe haven for extremists. Violence and extremism are a globalized phenomenon, which means that its confrontation needs global solidarity and the states who fail in this context are a haven for extremists, making combating extremism harder.
In this regard, we can only begin to introduce ideas and skills that help children and young people to acquire moderate thought, values of citizenship and global participation, and monitor ideas and courses that promote hatred and extremism. It is possible to develop a manual that is subject to constant updating and review, one which will benefit teachers, preachers, media professionals, and heads of households and social and executive institutions to observe and monitor the ideas, values, terminology, and concepts presented in the curricula, mosques, and the media.