No religion is responsible for terrorism. The underlying cause of terrorism is failure by governments to address grievances of their citizenry. “Terrorism is not just job-seeking by another name. It’s driven by deep-seated problems and personal frustrations in a society or government. When governments oppress their people, deny human rights, or marginalize ethnic and religious groups, or favor certain religious groups over others, it sows the seeds of extremism and violence. Governments should therefore endeavor to observe human rights, provide education and create employment and economic opportunities to prevent would-be terrorists from taking up arms,’’ these were some of the views of Afghan-born strategist Haron Aloko in his presentation delivered at a public dialogue that was organized by the Department of Religion and Peace Studies in memory of the 147 students killed in the attacks on Garrisa University in Kenya. The public dialogue was held in Senate Conference Hall at Makerere University on Tuesday, 14th April, 2015 under the theme; “Religion, Insurgency, Terrorism and New World Order: Sharing Experiences from Afghanistan”. This and other dialogues to be held in due course are aimed at initiating research and academic thinking to develop strategies to strengthen the frontiers of peace, prevent crime, terrorism and insurgency.
Mr. Aloko decried the rate at which terrorists, regardless of their religion, are disguising as Muslims. This, he said, has been escalated by the wrong picture portrayed by the media linking Islam to insurgency. “Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith. This misrepresentation of Islam calls for dialogue and further research on the causes of terrorism. Islam calls for justice, peace, tolerance and respect towards others,” he explained.
He said terrorism had been intensified by the advancement in technology that had resulted into exposure of vulnerable youth to propaganda videos, online magazines, social media and terror twitter accounts. “We must focus on prevention through education and dialogue -- preventing groups from radicalizing, recruiting or inspiring others to violence. We also need to dialogue with the terrorist groups to establish their grievances,” he advised.
The discussant, Mr. Wilberforce Seryazi, reiterated that failure by governments to provide for their citizenry was the leading cause of terrorism on the African Continent. He also argued that the proliferation of small arms in the East African region as a result of many civil wars had greatly contributed to insurgency. He called for regular dialogues with extremists as one of the ways of minimizing insurgencies. “We need to work towards new world order by creating peace with enemies/terrorists,” he appealed. Mr Seryazi is an Advocate and a student of M.A Peace and Conflict Studies in the Department of Religion and Peace Studies, Makerere University.
Tempers rose in the course of the dialogue when some participants directly accused Muslims of being behind the ongoing terror attacks. Quoting Hadiths, Muslim students explained how Islam is a peaceful religion that encourages love for one another. They condemned the stereotypes against Islam, arguing that there are more Christians engaging in acts of terrorism and disguising in their religion. They noted that the number of Muslims that have been killed in terror attacks is higher than that of Christians. They called for extensive research on the perpetrators and the causes of terrorism. The participants warned that language and communication are key aspects in the prevention or perpetration of violence.
The Deputy Principal, Prof. Abasi Kiyimba, expressed dismay over the rampant closer of Madrasas (schools for Islamic instruction) and mosques without establishing facts. “There is need for dialogue to establish the underlying causes of terrorism before concluding that Muslims are behind the attacks. If you don’t create redress, you re-invent the cycle of grievances. History has proved that if you don’t dialogue, you continue the cycle of violence,” he advised. He commended the Department of Religion and Peace Studies for “pulling off” a successful event and said CHUSS was best placed to advise Government on matters that affect humanity.
The Dean of the School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni, re-echoed the significance of dialogue in solving community problems. He noted that there is power in working as a team to solve pressing challenges and called for more dialogues within the College, University and the nation at large in a bid to create a world that is more tolerable and progressive.
The Head of the Department of Religion and Peace Studies, Dr Paddy Musana, described religion as peaceful and a unifying factor that should not be misused by extremists for individual gains.
In his remarks, the Principal of CHUSS, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, said the College, through the students of M.A Peace and Conflict Studies, would organize more of such dialogues to educate students and the wider community on the dangers and possible causes of terrorism.
The event ended with a moment of silence in remembrance of the 147 students who died in the attacks on Garrisa University in Kenya.
It was coordinated and moderated by Assoc. Prof. Deusdedit R.K. Nkurunziza, from the Department of Religion and Peace Studies and graced by among others the, Chairman, MUASA, Dr Mohammed Kiggundu.
See Mr Haron Aloko's presentation below