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OPINION

An Approach To Countering Violent Extremism

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Tafakhur is an Arabic word that literally means to ponder or to reflect. In Islam (Qur’an and Hadith), its root comes from fikr-thinking and to meditate or to think deeply. It is used in numerous verses (Ayaat) in the Qur’an where man is commanded to ponder on the creation of Allah, to think deeply on the Ayaat and to be considerate of whatever is in the cosmos (Aflaak). Surah 6 Verse 50 states, “is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Do you then not ponder?” Indeed a blind follower is not the same with an intellectual follower.
Tafakhur is used in this sense in the Qur’an to interrogate the action of those Muslims who kill and destroy the society in the name of jihad. A great majority of these Muslims are blind and ignorant followers. Ignorant and blind followers are the followers that are vulnerable to ISIS and Boko Haram narrative. This is largely because of misinterpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith.
They do not use their intellect to understand the proof, signs, evidences, revelations, and Talim of the Qur’an. Surah 13 Verse 3 invites us to purposive thinking on the creation of the earth, mountains, rivers, every kind of fruit as well as night as a cover over the day. The only way to save these ignorant followers is to give them access to the authentic knowledge and teach them to ponder (Tafakhur).

Tafakhur was incorporated in the curriculum of the USAID/NERI North East Intellectual Entrepreneurship Fellowship program to help the Fellows to think for themselves, through reviewing and understanding the nature of the message of the Qur’an and Hadith. The Tafakhur session was designed to help the Fellows to understand the facts and triviality in the discourse of violent extremism and to serve as preventive or countering violent extremism (P/CVE) intervention mechanism. This again brings to the fore the knowledge-base of the field practitioners who goes to the field for de-radicalization programs. How knowledgeable are they to be able to answer correctly those questions that have been misinterpreted. These issues consequently makes the need for Islamic knowledge key in preventing and countering violent extremism. It therefore explains why the USAID/NERI made Tafakhur a critical component of the North East Intellectual Entrepreneurship Fellowship program. Similar strategy is being used by the Cairo Centre for Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa (CCCPA). The CCCPA developed the Preventing, Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism (PRELT) in Africa training program in which Nigerians mainly from the North East have benefited.

The training program is designed to enrich participants with Islamic knowledge especially in understanding concepts like Jihad, Just-War in Islam, fikr, among others. The main objective of the program is to empower practitioners especially local Mallams and traditional rulers with requisite knowledge about Islam in order to learn to engage radicalized Muslims in discourse that would lead to them understanding Islamic religion better and appreciating humanity within the precepts of Islam.
One of the best approach to preventing/countering violent extremism is to empower practitioners with knowledge. The requisite knowledge will help practitioners to scale up the voices of the local Mallams which is a familiar and trusted voice. Therefore, empowering the local Mallams with knowledge and encouraging them to engage in Tafakhur becomes essential in our de-radicalization program. This is in recognition of the Qur’anic admonition that one should understand the message of the Qur’an from the authentic sources and then do Tafakkur in its Talim in daily life. The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) could be used by the government to coordinate and produce a Tafakhur curriculum for all the local Mallams and traditional leaders within the various affected communities in Northeast Nigeria. Such a gathering will afford the Mallams the opportunity to ponder on issues that affects the Ummah in Nigeria.

–Mamud a CVE Expert, writes from Abuja

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