GUST par­tic­i­pates in P2P: Chal­leng­ing Ex­trem­ism Ini­tia­tive

Kuwait Times - - WHAT’S ON -

Gulf Univer­sity for Science and Tech­nol­ogy (GUST ) is one of 45 schools world­wide par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Peer to Peer (P2P): Chal­leng­ing Ex­trem­ism ini­tia­tive. The pro­gram, spon­sored by the US Depart­ment of State, and fa­cil­i­tated by EdVen­ture, an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to de­vel­op­ing in­no­va­tive in­dus­try-ed­u­ca­tion part­ner­ship pro­grams, tasks stu­dent teams to cre­ate dig­i­tal me­dia con­tent that em­pow­ers net­works of youth to counter the so­cial me­dia pres­ence and ef­fec­tive­ness of vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists’ on­line mes­sag­ing.

This pro­gram is a path­way for young peo­ple, so­cial net­works, and en­gaged com­mu­ni­ties to help counter vi­o­lent ex­trem­ist mes­sag­ing and re­cruit­ment. By en­list­ing tech-savvy, dig­i­tally aware stu­dents from through­out the world to cre­ate and im­ple­ment cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant and cred­i­ble dig­i­tal cam­paigns that en­gage civic minded univer­sity stu­dents and hope­fully cre­ate progress with so­cial im­pact.

As part of the ini­tia­tive, un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents at GUST have formed a stu­dent-run agency to de­velop and im­ple­ment a cam­paign aim­ing to build among Kuwait’s univer­sity stu­dents the will­ing­ness to speak openly against ex­trem­ist violence on so­cial me­dia chan­nels. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy de­vised by GUST stu­dents is dubbed “Raise Your Words”, and is de­signed to em­power the silent ma­jor­ity, while em­pha­siz­ing no­tions in­clud­ing sol­i­dar­ity with vic­tims, hu­man­i­tar­ian val­ues, and rais­ing aware­ness of the threats from vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism.

Dr Fa­had Al-Su­mait, Head of the Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Depart­ment at GUST, said, “Mo­bi­liz­ing against hate and em­pow­er­ing the silent ma­jor­ity to come to­gether to voice their dis­ap­proval of what is go­ing on in the world, in an or­ga­nized and mea­sured way, is a move­ment we hope will grow and be the cat­a­lyst of change we des­per­ately need right now”.

Re­sults of a sur­vey con­ducted to sup­port GUST’s Team in the global P2P cam­paign shows that 62% of Kuwaitis col­lege stu­dents be­lieve that vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism can af­fect their life; 30.5% are high or very con­cerned about this is­sue, while only 22% feel to­tally free to dis­cuss the topic with their friends. Fur­ther­more, 61% agree that open pub­lic dis­cus­sion on so­cial me­dia is im­por­tant in coun­ter­ing vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism.

The cam­paign mounted by the stu­dents was mul­ti­fac­eted. Two Skype con­fer­ences with lead­ing ex­perts on the Mid­dle East were or­ga­nized. One with Dr F Gre­gory Gause III from Texas A&M Univer­sity, and one with Hugh Nay­lor, the Mid­dle East Ed­i­tor for the Wash­ing­ton Post. The stu­dents also or­ga­nized a fun af­ter­noon whereby well-known graf­fiti artist, “Mon­stariam”, was in­vited to cre­ate a mu­ral on the sub­ject, and GUST’s very own DJ TRQ spun tracks from a set list specif­i­cally put to­gether for the oc­ca­sion.

The top three par­tic­i­pat­ing schools will be in­vited to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. in Jan­uary 2016 to present their re­search, plan, and re­sults to se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and in­dus­try lead­ers at the US Depart­ment of State, to de­ter­mine the P2P: Chal­leng­ing Ex­trem­ism win­ner. The top team will re­ceive a schol­ar­ship prize of $5,000, fol­lowed by $3,000 for sec­ond place, and $1,000 for third.

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