Defusing religious Extremism: Building the capacity of conservative religious communities as key partners in counter-terrorism efforts

The 25th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) was convened on 23 - 27 May 2016 in Vienna under the thematic discussion criminal justice responses to prevent and counter terrorism. On this occasion, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco, the International Centre for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), and the UNODC Civil Society Team organized a side event under the theme Defusing religious extremism: building the capacity of conservative religious communities as key partners in counter-terrorism efforts to discuss the vital role of religious communities and religious leaders in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts.

Dr. Mr. Mohammed Slaoui, Alternate Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the UN in Vienna 

The event was attended by 65 participants and presented an important opportunity to exchange ideas about counter-terrorism efforts that need to happen off the battlefield and be taught through peace instead of conflict. As such, new steps have been taken to introduce religion as a key factor in the fight against terrorism.

At the event, the work of the UNODC's Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) was presented, including the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, particularly pillar one of the strategy - addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism - and the Secretary General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

Ambassador Mohammed Slaoui of Morocco called for the individual's responsibility to end discrimination and ignorance of religion and appealed to people to "gain a better understanding of the Muslim world". The Ambassador also pointed to the outcome of the Marrakech Conference which took place on 25-27 January 2016 to discuss the rights of religious communities in Muslim countries, as a good reference to the true faith of Islam as it clearly states the responsibility of Muslims to respect any life, even that of the enemy. The Ambassador concluded by saying that as far as Islam is concerned, peace and security are the norm for interaction between faiths.

"Religion is part of the solution, and not part of the problem" said Mr. Douglas Johnston, the President of the International Center for Religion and Democracy (ICRD) in his intervention. Mr. Johnston explained that "once you penetrate the vein of rage and hostility and engage the concerned people, not only do they understand, but many of them become champions of your message at great risk to themselves". He provided examples of the work ICRD has done on education projects with leaders of the Madrassas in Pakistan, which are based on cooperation, ownership and mutual understanding, to demonstrate how the Muslim faith is one of peace, and the reason why ICRD projects have been successful where others have not.

The overall message of this event was that, yes, there are individuals who do not see beyond their own perceptions. The solution for this is reform through education. Not only teaching those who are not of the Muslim faith about the Muslim community, but teaching those who believe they fight with the Islamic faith that the religion values, above all else, human life. By looking at passages in the Quran that appeal to this belief, some have begun to teach that being closer to the Quran and the faith takes people in radicalized areas further away from terrorism.