Education has never been more important. We live in uncertain times where the threat of terrorism looms large. The best way we can deal with this threat is through education. This does not only refer to academic education but also education in diversity and tolerance.
Organizations like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies use research, education and investigative journalism. They use them to defend democracy and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Responding to terrorists with force will only go part way. This may remove an imminent threat. However, it will not remove the ideologies, and the underlying threat will remain.
Educating people in tolerance, understanding and respect will help alleviate some of the issues we face. An awareness of social and cultural issues is essential. Lack of understanding of faith, religion, and cultural differences can fuel violence. It creates an environment where ignorance and perceived grievances reign. This then fuels terror. It allows terrorist cells to spread misinformation and recruit vulnerable youths.
Lack of education is also associated with poverty and unemployment. Youths without access to schooling and basic amenities can become disillusioned and frustrated. In turn, they become vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai has spoken openly on this subject. In a recent interview, she talked about teaching patience, tolerance, and friendship. She spoke about how this can counter the terrorism threat. At the age of 15 Malala was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for the rights of girls to gain an education.
Lack of education goes hand in hand with poverty when it comes to fuelling terror. Extreme poverty takes away the sense of belonging. If poor people have no stake in their own future. If their countries ignore them, they grow up with a lack of identity and dignity. The need to belong is a basic human need. It is this that helps terrorists prey on the needy and vulnerable. They provide inclusion and a sense of belonging. And by supplying that need, they spread their extreme ideologies.
In some countries, many of the poorest people live in slums. However, they are not accepted as citizens. There is no legal documentation or ID system. As such, residents cannot vote or even open bank accounts. They have little opportunity to change their situation and feed their families. Their only sense of belonging comes from gangs and criminal groups that prey on their vulnerability.
Education is also required for the general population. Greater understanding and awareness of these issues is necessary. Otherwise, we are doomed to a repeated cycle of fighting violence with violence. This, in turn, will fuel the terrorists’ message and help their purpose.
In order to alleviate the continued terrorist attack, we need a change in government policies. To facilitate this, we need to lobby governments. We need to push for the changes to happen.
Until poverty and lack of education are addressed, we will continue to fuel terrorists. These vulnerable areas will continue to provide a recruiting ground for terrorist organizations. The threat to our lifestyle and freedom will continue.