Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 18th, 2019

Ulema Should Play Role in Promoting Peace

With the extremist militant groups raging war and violence across the country, a government initiative organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs is seeking the religious scholars’ help for tackling extremism in Afghanistan. The ministry has organized a three-day conference in Kabul on the phenomenon of extremism in the country, with about 400 religious scholars and clerics participating from across the country. Speaking at the conference, the minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs, Faiz Mohammad Osmani, said that extremism is expanding in the country and the efforts for curbing the problem have yielded no tangible results. The minister called on religious scholars to provide information to the public through mosques over extremism and the consequences of extreme activities. The religious scholars declared the Taliban insurgency and atrocities of the Islamic State militants against Islamic principles and human rights.

It is for many years that the government is pursuing efforts to encourage religious scholars to fight the very root causes of extremism and the thinking and ideas promoted by extremist groups in Afghanistan. However, the initiative has had no unfruitful results. President Hamid Karzai started the initiative by convening conferences of Ulema from Islamic countries to get help from the religious scholars in the efforts against the militant groups in the country and to discourage the mainstream form being inclined towards extreme beliefs. In their meetings in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere over violence in Afghanistan, the religious scholars from many Islamic countries called the deeds of the extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic State as non-Islamic. The Afghan government has been determined to promote the trend as a sustainable campaign against the way of thinking of extremist groups to prevent Afghan youths from being recruited by the insurgent groups.

However, the efforts has failed to encourage the religious scholars’ community to do more to fight extreme beliefs in Afghanistan so to prevent the youths from joining the Taliban and other terrorist groups.  The fact is that even the religious scholars themselves have conflicting positions over the trend of extremism and terrorism in the country. There are thousands of mosques and religious schools across the country, some of which are centers of promoting violence and extremism. There are thousands of clerics across the country engaged in activities related to religious affairs.

This is while there is no control from the government over activities going on in those centers and mosques.

In the past, the some preachers played an undeniable role in promoting extremism and terrorism in the country. Due to negligence and poor performance from the authorities, there are still mosques across the country being used by preachers to promote extremism and tacitly approve the actions of the extremist groups such as the Taliban. Despite the importance of oversight of the activities of preachers in the mosques, there is a lack of concerted efforts from the government to monitor activities of preachers promoting violence and hatred. Alongside, the efforts to convene meetings of religious scholars to get their support in the efforts against extremism and insurgency in the country, the government need to tighten control where pro-Taliban groups promote extreme ideas and conduct anti-government activities.

There are many reasons for the failure of the efforts to encourage the religious scholars’ community to fight against extreme ideas of the terrorist groups. In addition to the lackluster performance from the government to promote and sustain a cohesive approach over the issue, the religious scholars have also been unwilling to take a bolder stance against the militant groups.

The Ulema community in the country has been under heavy criticisms at times for not taking a clear stance against the bloodshed of the Taliban and other militant groups. Many from the public, the activists and some politicians have been criticizing the religious scholars including the Ulema Council for not condemning bombings and suicide attacks.

However, there are conflicting views over the activities of the extremist groups such as the Taliban among the religious scholars. While many of well-known clerics and religious scholars have been vocal in their opposition to the Taliban and actions of the terrorist groups, there are many others tacitly support the Taliban and are in line with the extreme ideas of the extremist groups. In general, the religious scholars have been largely unwilling to take an apparent stance over the deeds of the extremist groups in the country due to fears from the militants. The recent efforts by government or conducted spontaneously by the religious scholars and the Ulema council is a step forward in the efforts to fight the ideas and the way of thinking of the extremist groups.

The government needs to promote the efforts further and help pro-peace and pro-government religious circles to step up the spiritual fight against the militant groups. The government needs to devise comprehensive plans for overseeing religious centers. The government religious bodies should redouble efforts to encourage the religious scholars to promote peace in Afghanistan.