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Cultural Activities At Educational Institutions Can Help Counter Extremist Tendencies In Students

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There have been several incidents of violent extremism involving individuals from renowned educational institutions. Violent extremism is the actions and beliefs of the people who support people to motivate violence to achieve radical, religious, or political ideologies.

Violent extremist views exhibited along with a range of issues, including politics, religion, and gender relations. No societyreligious community,  or worldview is immune to violent extremism. Several violent extremist groups gave strength to students or youth by providing them support mechanisms via in-person or virtual peer groups.

In the most recent incident of violence initiated by student, Professor Hameed at a Bahawalpur University was stabbed to death by one of his students, Khateeb Hussain, for holding a non-segregated event on campus. However, Hussain’s classmates said they never heard any anti-religious remarks from Professor Hameed during the class lectures. We need to start having courses on countering violent extremism (CVE) in our schools, colleges, and universities. These initiatives promote peace in educational institutes, which ultimately result in a peaceful society.

Farahnaz Ispahani (Media advisor to the President of  Pakistan) shared her view; “The population of Pakistan’s religious minorities has declined from 23% in 1947 to around 3-4% of the population today. In 2011 religious intolerance was reported to be at its height; Islamist fundamentalist extremists were killing hundreds of minorities, women, journalists, and liberals. While the Government pf Pakistan acted as a silent spectator, only making statements that condemned the ruthless acts of violence by the extremists. They proposed no law against such ruthless counter-violence in society.”

The twin resolutions on sustaining peace recognize that peace and security, development and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. According to the report of the UN Secretary-General on and sustaining the international human rights framework, in particular, member states’ obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide a critical foundation for sustaining peace.

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The VE groups continued to influence and recruit vulnerable youth by providing them support mechanisms, through in-person or virtual peer groups. They played upon cultural, social, religious, or economic divides among the targeted youth, fueling hate and intolerance.

There have been several incidents of Violent Extremism involving individuals from renowned educational institutes of Pakistan. When we explore the causes of the growing influence of Violent Extremist groups in universities, it can be partially traced to the banning of student unions/societies.  These unions provided an open platform for dialogue and debate and often promoted tolerance and an appreciation for diversity. Violent Extremist groups often filled the vacuum created by the absence of unions. The university unions encounter religious encounters in the universities.

At Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, the different student councils of the university resisted the political and religious violent extremism in the university. The different cultural activities performed by these councils made the university environment peaceful and no external violence extremist group attack on the university multicultural peaceful environment. As a participant-observer student council in QAU always stood against the religious groups who wanted to stop the cultural programs and activities in the university.

Student unions have been banned for the last 30 years, and this absence of leadership gave rise to many political and religious tensions in colleges and universities. This is why there is a sheer need for functional student societies and clubs, which can give opportunities to engage in positive peer activities.

Student peace clubs can play a vital role in promoting peace and harmony. The state should take the responsibility of training them and getting them notified from the administration as a regular peace society member. In order to ensure the sustainability of peace-building initiatives and to strengthen the work of already existing peace club and establish new institutional networks in the educational institutions, the administration should be in a leading role. The trained students mobilize new enrollments and engage students via social action projects. They should also have given different platforms where club members can also share their experiences and social action plans with other societies.

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The government needs to deliver new policies in the educational institutes, which would build new student councils or clubs. These students’ clubs and councils will promote peace-building activities and co-existence for the healthy environment of the universities and other educational institutes. The critical element that administration of the institutes shares the knowledge and best practices with students and scholars through holding regional events of debates, panel discussions, and conventions.

Last but not least, administrators of the universities ought to create space for peace clubs and councils. They should establish offices and assigning roles in developing their understanding regarding their scope of work, which results in a nonviolent and peaceful society.

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