Magharebia (Washington DC)

North Africa: Pan-Arab Security Conference Highlights Education

Riyadh — An international forum this week in Riyadh focused on the role of civil society institutions in combating terrorism and promoting security.

North African security analysts gathered this week in Riyadh for an international conference on how terrorism impedes social growth.

Representatives of 16 Arab states and eight international organisations attended the 3-day event, which wrapped up on Monday (November 26th).

The conference examined successful counter-terrorism models and discussed the "humanitarian, educational and intellectual dimensions" of the security and counter-terrorism issues, Dr. Adnan al-Dabsa said.

Security is a vital issue for scholars, intellectuals and officials throughout the world, the political sociologist and conference participant noted.

"Adopting a principle of comprehensive security will enhance the role of civil society in combating terrorism," al-Dabsa said, adding that such a role would involve political, intellectual and even food security aspects.

The forum, which was organised by Naif Arab University for Security Sciences and the General Secretariat of the Arab Social Affairs Ministers Council, also focused on activating the role of social institutions in confronting terrorism, al-Dabsa said.

Moroccan analyst Abdelillah Lahcen spoke about the responsibility of citizens in maintaining security.

"There is no doubt that societal security is of prime concern to all segments because it is directly linked to everyday life and [affects the thought processes of] its younger members and adolescents," he said.

Lahcen added that "individuals should also act like security officers by protecting themselves, their society and their nation".

"The security of citizens means the security of the nation," he said. Ideological security - protecting true cultural heritage in the face of suspect ideologies - also plays a role in protecting social identity and safeguarding educational and cultural institutions, Lahcen said. Collaboration is essential, he said.

"It is important for security services to create and strengthen ties with scientific institutions, centres and organisations, through memorandums of understanding and co-operation," the security expert added.

According to researcher Abdullah al-Sheikhi, public education plays an important role in reinforcing ideological security and fighting deviant ideologies.

Ideological security is no less important than public security, al-Sheikhi said.

"It is important to detect signals of extremist thinking among children," he said. Families should learn to spot indications of extremism in children that ring alarm bells, he told Magharebia.

Educational institutions, as well as civil society organisations, must also play their full role in guiding the younger generation, al-Sheikhi said

"There is a real connection between security and education," al-Sheikhi said. "Security based on sound thinking that is far removed from wrong-doing, will undoubtedly prove successful."

He also commended Saudi efforts to combat terrorist activity. Their success, he said, "proves the fairness and humanitarian nature of true Islam, a religion that opposes radicalism, extremism and terrorism".

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