HE the Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani has reiterated Qatar’s stance, rejecting all forms of violent extremism and supporting the international community’s efforts to uproot the phenomenon, while underlining the state’s belief that extremism poses a serious challenge for all societies, with youths and children paying a hefty price for it.
The minister made the remarks during the High-Level Thematic Conversation on Children and Youth Affected by Violent Extremism, which was held at the UN headquarters.
HE Sheikh Mohamed said that rooting out this global phenomenon required a collective commitment and a long-term strategy to deal with the circumstances leading to it before they were exploited by terrorist organisations, while taking into account the particular circumstances of each environment in which extremism arose.
He said that extremism was not an outcome of a particular religion but rather resulted from social, economic and political distortion that produced groups misinterpreting religion in order to achieve specific goals that undermined the efforts of the international community in fighting this phenomenon.
The minister reaffirmed Qatar’s rejection of any attempt to single out a religion and accuse it of violent extremism and terrorism.
He noted that attempting to exploit individual incidents of violence in order to link extremism to a particular religion foiled efforts to address the real reasons behind terrorism, adding that abusing religious symbols constituted a pretext for extremists to recruit more supporters of their ideology.
The minister underlined the role of religious figures who preached tolerance and humanitarian values as well as the role of civil society organisations and intellectuals in spreading a spirit of forgiveness and tolerance and searching for compromises rather than imposing opinions on others.
During his speech, Sheikh Mohamed referenced the story of Ahmed, a 25-year-old young man, who was the subject of harassment in his younger years from his peers because of his religion, so he became ill-mannered and unable to hold a discussion, prompting his school principal to report to the police that the young man’s friends were afraid of his extremist behaviour.
Ahmed could feel the society’s discrimination against him and how his friends labelled him a “terrorist” until he found himself among a group of extremist youths who convinced him of travelling to a certain country to join one of the violent groups, the minister said, adding that the police summoned Ahmed as part of an investigation and referred him to one of the centres that held dialogues and meetings aimed at dissuading young people from joining these organisations.
Later Ahmed said that without these meetings, he would have been in Iraq or Syria seeking “revenge”.
Sheikh Mohamed said this was not a fictional account but rather a true one of a young man’s experience that hundreds of other youths might have gone through.
The minister, however, noted that cases similar to that of Ahmed remained the exception for Muslim youths in the West because the state there possessed several mechanisms to prevent the aggravation of anger and gave youths relative freedom to express themselves as well as the legal and social tools to address their problems.
If that was Ahmed’s situation in a Western and developed country, the minister urged the audience to imagine how it would be like for youths whose prospects were blocked and who were prevented from expressing themselves, got subjected to humiliation and jail and went through the experience of torture in prisons of states under dictatorship.
The minister pointed to the aspiration of youths to find a meaning to their lives and to express themselves, noting that dictatorships simply prevented them from that, which when added to unemployment, the blockage of prospects and facing any protest against this with violence, the result became that the accumulated anger turned into violence, and there were religious and non-religious political forces that were on the lookout to woo the angry youths to their ranks.
In this regard, the minister brought attention to “what is going on in our region in terms of sabotage, destruction, killing, displacement and denial of rights feeds extremism and provides pretexts to influence youths”, adding that the result was that they lost hope and trust in the ability of the international society to resolve conflicts and settle disputes.
He asked: “Has not the time come to put an end to violations and policies aimed at people who demand freedom and human dignity?”
In his address, the minister said that despite the numerous crises in the Middle East, Palestine remained the core issue that could not be ignored because the existence of occupation and the continuing repressive practices against the Palestinian people, including children and youths.
The minister reiterated Qatar’s stance that ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories, freezing settlement activity, dismantling settlements, respecting the legal status of Jerusalem and achieving the two-state solution would reflect positively on the people of the region, liberate children and youths from fear and despair, eliminate one of the main causes of extremism in the region and give children and youths hope in a secure future.
Realising that youths were the human fuel used by extremist groups to achieve their goals, the minister said that Qatar had warned of the danger of neglecting the role of youth and not providing them with the healthy environment to develop their capacities and be part of drawing their own future.
He added that suitable opportunities should be introduced to benefit from the capacities and abilities of youths who had a leading role down the history in building their homelands.”They are the source of their (homelands’) strength, the makers of their glory, the valve to their life, and the address of their future, and the fate of every nation relies on its youths,” HE the foreign minister said.
In his address, HE Sheikh Mohamed considered that protecting youths from extremism should be a priority for the international society, which, he noted, couldn’t be attained without providing them with opportunities to draw their future in a way that ensured a decent livelihood for them.
In order to achieve the objective of combating violent extremism, the minister said that Qatar had adopted a strategy that instilled a spirit of tolerance and constructive dialogue and openness to others at the national and international levels.
He pointed out that Qatar was one of the founders of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and was one of the major contributors to the fund “which pays special attention to the protection of young people from the ideologies and schemes of extremist and violent groups”.
He stressed that Qatar had supported dialogue of civilisations and coexistence among different faiths and cultures and established towards that end national institutions to spread the culture of dialogue, tackling extremism and rejecting violence.
One of these entities, the minister said, was the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue, which enhanced the exerted efforts to combat extremism and hatred and extend bridges of co-operation and understanding between followers of religions, civilisations and cultures.
Qatar, he said, had also established the Hamad bin Khalifa Civilization Centre in Copenhagen in 2014, “which deepens the understanding of the Islamic faith, supports international efforts to combat extremism and promotes peaceful coexistence and love among religions, cultures and peoples”.
Sheikh Mohamed added that Qatar believed in the role of education in ending regional conflicts and problems.
He said that this fact raised questions about the fate of children and young people inside and outside Syria who were deprived of education, constituting a shattered generation that threatens of a lost state controlled by terrorist groups.
He pointed out that Qatar was keen to protect Syrian children and young people displaced by the strife and conflict and had allocated significant financial resources to provide education in refugee camps.
He also added that Qatar had worked closely to implement important programmes in this regard with the relevant international organisations.
As important as the efforts exerted by Qatar and other countries were, the minister said they were not enough to put an end to the suffering of Syrian children and youth and protecting them from extremism, calling for the need to reach “a political solution for the Syrian crisis that achieves the legitimate demands of the Syrian people and preserves the unity and sovereignty of Syria”.
He noted that Qatar continued to offer all kinds of humanitarian support for the Syrian people directly and through regional and international organisations and in line with the international law and international humanitarian law.
Sheikh Mohamed said that tackling and uprooting violent extremism depended also on building solid and effective partnerships that involve governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations and communities.
In light of the importance of such partnerships, the minister said: “I’m pleased to announce the State of Qatar’s support for the partnership between Silatech Foundation in Qatar, which is present today with us, and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force of the United Nations to implement a joint venture whose main goal is the protection of young people from extremism and strengthening their abilities, based on Silatech’s role in the Arab region.”
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