Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fighting violent extremism by teaching tolerance

Doug Bandow,

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Although terrorism understandably has become the focus of U.S. foreign policy, the problem of religious intolerance and violence is far broader. As Islamic extremism has erupted throughout the Middle East, most dramatically in Iraq and Syria, Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities are being driven from their historic homes.

What to do? U.S. “public diplomacy” [JB emphasis] has been ineffective, essentially attempting to put lipstick on a pig in terms of selling American foreign policy. Washington has spent millions on foreign aid to promote education and provide social services for supposedly at-risk Islamic youth, without any evident impact on violent behavior.

America’s military response has turned into endless war, which appears to create as many terrorists as are captured or killed. Indeed, America’s multiple interventions and wars have both spawned violent extremists and created chaos in which they thrive.

However, the fact that there is no simple, quick answer doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. The group Hardwired, run by Tina Ramirez, a former Capitol Hill staffer, engages in what it calls “rights-based education,” which has had notable if so far small-scale success in building support for religious tolerance and liberty.

I witnessed the group’s approach at a conference held in Erbil, Kurdistan. Hardwired brought together people of varying, even contentious faiths and backgrounds — most of whom had suffered persecution at the hands of Islamic radicals. Although divided in beliefs, they came to recognize their shared interest in respecting the rights of others. ...

In Erbil I watched Christians, Yazidis, Sunni and Shia Muslims, and even a Jew, who had lost a hand in a terrorist bombing, work together. Personal transformation offers the only sure, long-term answer to build a more tolerant, less violent world.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics.

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