Jordanian and Arab youth taking part in a recent counter-extremism conference in Amman worked to conceptualize and develop technological solutions to combat the kind of ideology that can lead to acts of terrorism.
The 8th Annual Youth Tech Festival, which was organised by the Sisterhood is Global Institute Jordan (SIGI) and concluded August 1st, focused on youth countering extremism and terrorism, and advocacy efforts to end violence against women and girls.
During the conference, 60 young men and women from across the kingdom and region, from countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco, discussed ways to prevent extremists from recruiting youth to carry out acts of violence.
They also worked to develop targeted initiatives designed to positively impact communities, using an advocacy approach that upholds human rights and fosters a culture of peace and security, organisers said.
Experts presented working papers on relevant topics and refined the definition of terms and concepts related to extremism and terrorism, as well as exploring the relationship between these concepts and women's rights.
Other topics included international and regional efforts relating to youth and their role, and the role of technology, in fighting terrorism and extremism.
Highlighting the role of youth
The conference spotlighted the role of young people in countering extremism, SIGI Jordan executive director Munir Du’aibis told Al-Mashareq, adding that participants came up with several outstanding initiatives in this area.
These included a mobile phone application for young people to raise awareness about religious issues, as well as a computer game for children to teach them solid values and how to distance themselves from bad friends.
“Most of the participants in the conference will create their own social media pages, such as on Facebook, to promote sound thinking and raise awareness," Du’aibis said. "Some of these initiatives will target youths, while others will be directed towards parents."
During the event, experts stressed the key role that schools and universities play in raising an educated and aware generation that can fight deviant ideology.
Participants identified the need for reputable clerics to take part in regular workshops and awareness campaigns to offer clarity about the meaning of religious texts and dispel extremist thinking.
“Unfortunately, there are some clerics who misunderstand religion and are taking advantage of youths [to propagate] their own extremist ideas," Du’aibis said.
Introducing new tools
The initiative helped introduce young people to new tools they can use to defeat extremism, said conference participant Saja al-Habashna, a 23-year-old nurse.
She and many others will “create a Facebook page where they can interact, discuss and engage in dialogue on a variety of religious and everyday life issues in an attempt to raise awareness, co-exist and accept the other”, she told Al-Mashareq.
“The goal is to shed light on the tolerant and moderate Muslim faith," she said.
The event was “an opportunity to exchange innovative ideas, to incentivise young people and to inform them of their important role and what they can do in terms of initiatives and contributions to fight extremist and terrorist ideas”, said Jordan Joud Foundation director Arafat Awadh, who took part in the event.
The participants focused on families, the role of parents, and the importance of closeness to children, he said, particularly since terror groups directly target young people via social media.
They also highlighted the importance of addressing unemployment and poverty, he said, as these conditions play a key role in pushing youth towards extremism.