Doing our bit to end the hatred

30th November 2007 at 00:00

It might seem glib to quote John Lennon's line "imagine no religion" when thinking about some the atrocities committed in the name of Allah - but Lennon's vision certainly seemed more attractive after the London bombings of July 7, 2005.

As colleges reflect - albeit belatedly - on the radicalisation of the teenagers in their midst, they need to be careful to avoid creating a McCarthyite atmosphere in which Muslims are made to feel guilty by association simply because of their legitimately held beliefs.

After all, Christianity has also played its part in inspiring bloodshed in the name of imposing a superior creed - a motive which, rightly or wrongly, some Muslims would say was behind the invasion of Iraq.

When conflict exists, the role of colleges is to provide an oasis of sanity where students can learn to respect each other regardless of the political interests that may separate them in other walks of life.

If it seems naive to believe colleges can perform this role, one only has to look at FE in Northern Ireland, which successfully integrated Catholic and Protestant students long before politicians got their act together.

But colleges must go beyond simply learning to spot potential terrorists on campus. The learning environment must be used to create better awareness of different cultures, customs and political opinions.

In the armoury against extremism, the most devastating weapon is understanding between people, and colleges are in a perfect position to instil this.

This issue reminds us, once again, that FE is not just about preparing people for employment. It is about building better communities.

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