Removal of all content in textbooks that may propagate communalism, practicing religious and moral values in family and social life, and teaching children about safe internet use are key in preventing youths from getting involved in violent extremism, speakers at a roundtable said yesterday.
They also recommended addressing youths’ alienation, engaging them in cultural activities and teaching them tolerance towards differing opinions.
Madrasa students have religious knowledge but they are financially disadvantaged, while private university students have no financial problems but lack religious knowledge. The militants know very well how to motivate target groups
Towhidul Islam Junaeid
Event Exposure, an event management organisation, in association with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and The Daily Star arranged the programme titled “Role of Families and Religious Values in Preventing Violent Extremism” under the Sampreeti project at The Daily Star Centre.
“Communal content was added in our textbooks.... Who was behind it? This is not how things are supposed to be, especially in this day and age,” said educationist Rasheda K Choudhury.
A student is learning to distinguish between people based on their faith. “I’m Muslim, he is Hindu, and he is different from me -- this is what they are learning,” she said.
She further said students are getting certificates in the exam-based education system but time has come to ask whether they are at all acquiring knowledge.
“Our children have to go through four public exams to go for higher studies.” This system does not leave adequate time for healthy cultural practices and playtime, she opined.
Highlighting the role of family and educational institutions in preventing extremism, security expert Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid also questioned how and why communal content made its way into textbooks.
“There is concerning patronage of extremism from home and abroad. We must stop this,” he added.
Former Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said most of the arrested militants were motivated online.
He stressed the need for strong counter-narrative against militant propaganda on the internet, particularly social media. These messages should also be disseminated in families, society, schools, colleges and religious institutions, he recommended.
Emphasising on social cohesion to prevent extremism and violence against woman and children, MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said youths are not inclined to extremism. A quarter with vested interest is driving them to militancy, mostly through social media propaganda.
“We have to address their alienation, their despair in family and social life,” she said.
She stressed on teaching children to accept diversity, including religious and social backgrounds, in educational institutions and society.
The government has reined in militant activities after the Holey Artisan attack in 2016. “We have to root it out for good, so that not a single person gets involved with it,” she added.
Prof Dr M Shamsher Ali of Southeast University suggested parents to spend more time with their children. He further recommended not broadcasting any advertisement that fuels discrimination among religions.
Mahmuda Sarwar Shraboni, a student of Pharmacy department at Southeast University, said, “Our country was liberated with secular values, but now communalism is finding its way in. We are not hesitating to attack another person for their religious beliefs just because of a photo on Facebook.”
Towhidul Islam Junaeid, a second year student of Al Quran and Islamic Studies at Govt Alia Madrasa, said, “When it comes to religion, we are highly passionate but lack knowledge.”
Madrasa students have religious knowledge but they are financially disadvantaged, while private university students have no financial problems but lack religious knowledge. The militants know very well how to motivate target groups, he said.
Md Shafiqul Islam, senior executive of Quran Research Foundation, said “We have to acquire proper knowledge of religion as no religion instructs its followers to become extremists.”
Under the Sampreeti project, activations were conducted in 12 educational institutions -- including eight universities, three madrasas and a public college -- and the total number of precipitants were 212,” said Ashoke Ranjan Dutta, chief advisor of Event Exposure.
The Daily Star’s Associate Editor Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan moderated the roundtable while Dhaka University Prof Sukomal Barua, Daffodil International University Prof Farhana Helal Mehtab, writer and actor Khairul Alam Shabuj and Asian University of Bangladesh student Sumaya Siddiqa, among others, spoke.