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Experts root for inter-religious dialogue to combat terrorism

01 May 2015, 10:07

Nairobi - A healthy dialogue among faiths and ethnic communities should be reactivated in order to help combat youth radicalization and terrorism effectively in Kenya, experts have said.

Kenyan experts, who spoke at a public forum on Wednesday, said the war against terrorism and violent ideologies can only be won if the government, religious and community leaders settle for dialogue.

Mustafa Ali, secretary general with Global Network of Religions for Children, said dialogue has been an effective tool for winning the hearts and minds of radical elements.

"We need to take bold steps and commence dialogue revolving around militancy. The faith community has no option but to debate candidly on the reasons behind the current wave of youth radicalization in the country and the region,"Ali said at the forum.

Kenya has suffered a series of terrorist attacks since 2011 when the East African nation deployed its troops inside Somalia to root out Al-Shabaab militants.

Radical groups that pose grave security risks in Kenya and the Horn of Africa region continue to thrive despite a coordinated military offensive against them.

Ali said governments in the region must review their approach to combat terrorism effectively since military strikes had only limited success.

Read Also: More than 148 died in Garissa, Kalonzo claims

"Since 2011, Al-Shabaab has killed both Muslims and Christians as they distort religion to justify heinous crimes. The terrorist network does not represent Islam and should be condemned by people of all faiths," said Ali.

The April 2 macabre killing of 148 people in Garissa University College by Al-Shabaab militants has reignited the search for long- term solution to terrorism by faith groups.

Ali regretted that terrorists have perverted the Islam faith to justify killing and maiming of innocent people.

"In Somalia, Al-Shabaab has always killed innocent Muslims, while in Kenya they selectively eliminate Christians and moderate Islamic preachers. Their vile conduct has no place in a civilized world and that is why a united front from different faiths is crucial to fight violent extremism," he said.

The conflict resolution expert has mediated talks between governments and radical groups in Uganda, Sudan and Libya.

Ali said the war against terror launched by the United States and its allies after the September 11 attack at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had minimal impact.

"Terrorist groups like Al-Qaida and the Taliban have only been mutating despite sustained military strikes in their hideouts. These organizations have established franchises elsewhere,"Ali said.

He regretted that poor judgment by governments, ethnic and religious strife as well as historical marginalization have provided a fertile ground for extremists to thrive.

Kenyan religious leaders must shed off suspicion and mistrust in order for inter-faith dialogue on tackling violent ideologies to succeed. Ali stressed that religious leaders will help deconstruct the narrative used by terrorists to kill innocent people.

"The inter-faith dialogue should extend beyond the Kenyan borders since terrorism is a global crisis. There is no faith that sanction killings in the name of a deity," said the secretary general.

He revealed that religious leaders and elders in Somalia and northeastern Kenya have reached out to Al-Shabaab militants in the recent past.

"There has been back channel communication between Al-Shabaab, Muslim leaders and clan elders. The overriding message aims to convince them to abandon their cause and integrate back into their community,"he said.

The militant group has cleverly exploited age-old grievances like landlessness, poverty and marginalization to lure Kenyan youth.

Ibrahim Lithome, a Muslim scholar emphasized that economic empowerment for the youth and improved governance will seal loopholes exploited by terrorists.

"There are push factors like poverty, corruption and marginalization that should be tackled head-on to cushion the youth from joining militant groups," said Lithome.

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- Xinhua


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