Campaign targets seeds of extremism

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Kuwait

The government has invited education advisers and teachers to help turn young men away from terrorism. They will join a panel of clerics, sociologists and psychologists to examine how young people can be educated against extremism.

The panel is expected to recommend a detailed study of the content of school curricula, and in particular how Islam is taught to young people in religious establishments. The aim will be to eliminate classes that encourage religious or racial intolerance.

Jasim al-Shankani, a panel member and social affairs expert, said: "We want to encourage free and open debate among students and other young people, and encourage them to listen to other points of view."

The problem of extremism was highlighted when 12 Kuwaitis were arrested by the Syrian authorities in mid-October as they tried to cross the border into Iraq to take part in fighting around Fallujah. Kuwaitis fear that this was not just an isolated incident involving a handful of disaffected teenagers.

While the government of Kuwait is a strong ally of the West, many young people sympathise with militant Islamic groups. Police recently uncovered a network of groups sending young people to join the Iraq insurgency.

The authorities are concerned that some teachers might try to inculcate students with radical interpretations of Islam.

Now, according to a diplomat in Kuwait, the government has decided to "purge the education system of anything that could give encouragement to the kind of ideology preached by the militants".

Kuwait's Islamic affairs minister, Abdullah al-Matuuk, said that extremism had reached a "dangerous level". "While its magnitude in Kuwait, thank God, is very small, we do not underestimate anything," he said.

The panel is being asked to campaign against what the government calls "deviant religious ideas" and to "protect young Kuwaitis from dangerous extremist ideology". The panel will also monitor preachers, some of whom have publicly called the insurgency a jihad, or holy war.

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