Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has initiated a series of workshops for the students of religious seminaries or madrassas to help them differentiate between jihad and terrorism so as to address the mindset behind militancy, extremism and religious isolation.
The representative body of religious scholars also plans to conduct workshops at army and police training centres to counter radicalisation in armed forces.
According to sources in religious organisations, only last year around 3,700 students from various madrassas of Punjab visited militant training camps in tribal areas during their annual vacations.
“The workshops will help counter radical and extremist school of thought,” PUC Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi told reporters on Wednesday.
He said 150 students participated in the four-day training workshop held last week.
“The ulema council engaged journalists, psychologists, scholars who tried to broaden students’ views on topics sensitive to religious mindset like interfaith harmony, tolerance, women’s rights and women’s education, difference between terrorism and Jihad, extremism, radicalisation and soft image of Islam,” he said.
He said on July 5 and 6, a workshop would be held in Islamabad, followed by similar trainings in Gujrat, Multan, Mardan, DG Khan, Bahawalpur and other cities.
He said workshops are the first step in altering the thought process of the madrassa students. In the next stage their syllabus would be improved.
He said due to his efforts, incidents of sectarian terrorism in Punjab have declined as he helped resolve conflicts between Shia and Sunni sects.
Ashrafi said if the government wants to counter religious terrorism, it should establish specialised cells where students should go through series of workshops to de-radicalise them.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.
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