A Mar­shall Plan to de­feat global ter­ror­ism

Trump can be­gin with re-ed­u­cat­ing in­doc­tri­nated youth

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Tina Ramirez Tina Ramirez is the pres­i­dent of Hard­wired Global and trav­els to Iraq reg­u­larly. She is a con­tribut­ing au­thor and edi­tor of “Hu­man Rights in the United States: A Dic­tionary and Doc­u­ments” (ABC-CLIO, 2010 and 2017).

Global ter­ror­ism is spread­ing like a dan­ger­ous can­cer that knows no bor­ders. It can­not be de­feated by the mil­i­tary alone. As the Is­lamic State’s grip on Mo­sul is fal­ter­ing to­day, so must its grip on the young minds of Iraq through in­struc­tion in re­li­gious free­dom and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. But it will take a form of Mar­shall Plan for the minds of trau­ma­tized and scared youth to ac­com­plish the task. Though the chal­lenge is daunt­ing, fail­ure to act and car­ry­ing on the sta­tus quo dooms the re­gion to con­tin­u­ous re­li­gion-in­spired blood feuds. We must break this never-end­ing cy­cle of vi­o­lence by ad­dress­ing the root causes of this dan­ger­ous ide­ol­ogy through re-ed­u­ca­tion of Iraq’s youth.

Pres­i­dent Trump has an op­por­tu­nity to end the “geno­cide of our gen­er­a­tion” and put to rest cen­turies of pent-up re­sent­ment and sec­tar­ian ha­tred that has cul­mi­nated in the rise of the Is­lamic State, also called ISIS — the most ni­hilis­tic man­i­fes­ta­tion of re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance wit­nessed in re­cent history.

He can start by help­ing the real vic­tims of the on­go­ing re­li­gious war — the chil­dren of Iraq. For the past 14 years, they have grown up only know­ing vi­o­lence and ha­tred but that can and must change for Iraq and the sur­round­ing re­gion to know peace, pros­per­ity and lib­erty.

The most egre­gious ex­am­ple of this threat­ened gen­er­a­tion is the so-called “cubs of the caliphate” — which, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions As­sis­tance Mis­sion for Iraq, in­cludes at least 900 chil­dren who were ab­ducted, in­doc­tri­nated and forced to fight for ISIS.

One Yazidi woman who res­cued her son from ISIS shared with me how he had not only for­got­ten his family, neigh­bors and school­mates, but they had be­come his en­e­mies. With­out ed­u­ca­tion in the val­ues of re­li­gious free­dom, he will be lost for­ever to hate.

Then, there are 600,000 chil­dren who lived un­der ISIS in Mo­sul for the past two-and-a-half years. Youth were taught to jus­tify vi­o­lence in the name of re­li­gion, and were forced to wit­ness be­head­ings and pub­lic at­tacks on any­one who failed to com­ply with their re­li­gious rules.

And fi­nally, there are mil­lions of dis­placed chil­dren scat­tered across the re­gion who, along with lo­cal chil­dren, are be­ing in­flu­enced by ISIS, of­ten with­out even re­al­iz­ing it. The ter­ror­ist group’s power over the hearts and minds of these chil­dren is chill­ing.

One Iraqi teacher de­scribed to me how she found a group of stu­dents pre­tend­ing to be­head one another on the play­ground. Sadly, this ex­am­ple is not unique, and teach­ers do not know how to re­spond.

Disas­so­ci­at­ing the hearts and minds of chil­dren from iden­ti­fy­ing with ISIS and their rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy will take a unique ed­u­ca­tional model — one that not only teaches chil­dren to tol­er­ate one another, but rather to value the in­her­ent dig­nity and re­li­gious free­dom of others and de­velop the skills and in­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tions that will en­able them to re­spond dif­fer­ently when con­fronted with in­tol­er­ance and ex­trem­ism.

Nearly a year ago, a United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­port on chil­dren in the Is­lamic State rec­om­mended that spe­cial prepa­ra­tion be made for re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the chil­dren liv­ing un­der ISIS.

Chil­dren who have been forced to fight with ISIS must be de-rad­i­cal­ized im­me­di­ately. But re-ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams can­not be limited to those chil­dren most at risk of ex­trem­ism. Chil­dren across Iraq and other coun­tries in the re­gion are equally at risk of be­ing in­flu­enced by the ideas that lead to vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and need help.

Ed­u­ca­tion in the value of re­li­gious free­dom is al­ready yield­ing re­sults and should be ac­cel­er­ated to re­al­ize Iraq’s full po­ten­tial and res­cue an en­tire gen­er­a­tion from hate and ter­ror.

Last year, the Le­banese-based Adyan Foun­da­tion worked with 50 gov­ern­ment lead­ers in the re­gion to de­velop new guide­lines for ed­u­ca­tional re­forms that would pro­mote re­spect for re­li­gious free­dom and help cre­ate so­ci­eties re­silient to ex­trem­ism.

In Fe­bru­ary 2017, my or­ga­ni­za­tion, Hard­wired Global, launched the first ini­tia­tive to de­velop ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams with teach­ers in the re­gion based on re­li­gious free­dom. The pro­grams are help­ing teach­ers re­ha­bil­i­tate youth in­doc­tri­nated by ISIS and re-ed­u­cate the broader youth pop­u­la­tion.

Chil­dren are learn­ing to de-con­struct and chal­lenge the nar­ra­tive of ex­trem­ism and de­velop new ways of think­ing about the in­tol­er­ant be­liefs taught by ISIS.

These pro­grams are help­ing youth re­di­rect their feel­ings and re­lease their trauma in a safe en­vi­ron­ment where they can be­gin to find new ways of ex­press­ing them­selves through pos­i­tive emo­tions that build re­spect for the rights of others.

Pres­i­dent Trump can and should adopt a Mar­shall Plan to re­shape the hearts and minds of chil­dren in­doc­tri­nated by ex­trem­ists. He can be­gin by di­rect­ing the De­part­ments of State and De­fense to de­vote a small por­tion of U.S. aid to­ward help­ing these chil­dren value re­li­gious free­dom for all.

Af­ter spend­ing tril­lions to fight ter­ror­ism in Iraq with no end in sight, it is time to try some­thing new or this will not be the last it­er­a­tion of ter­ror Iraq — and the world — will face.

Chil­dren across Iraq and other coun­tries in the re­gion are equally at risk of be­ing in­flu­enced by the ideas that lead to vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and need help.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH

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