The Women’s Leadership for Peace Conference in Rabat encourages discussion of women’s role in countering radicalism and promoting peace.
Rabat – The Women’s Leadership for Peace Conference opened in Rabat yesterday. The two-day conference brought together scholars, ambassadors, security experts, and theologians to discuss the theme of “Women’s Leadership for Peacebuilding, Countering Terrorism, and Religious Radicalisms.”
The conference, organized by the Interfaith and Peacebuilding Research and Training Center in collaboration with the Mohammadian League of Ulemas, Morocco’s highest body of Islamic clerics, is meant to be a platform for exchange and collaboration.
In his opening speech, Ahmed Abbadi, the Secretary General of Mohammedian League of Ulemas said that the conference was an opportunity to face the goals of countering hate speech and building a more peaceful, more sustainable society.
Women as peacebuilders
Women occupied a prominent spot during discussions. They sought to understand the ways in which women can strengthen peacebuilding capacities and contribute to the fight against terrorism.
The UK government contributed to funding the two-day event. When asked about the conference, the British Ambassador Thomas Reilly stressed the importance of associating women to the fight against radicalization.
He explained, “Women make up 52 percent of our population and if we leave that part of our society behind we leave behind a whole range of possible solutions to countering radicalization, countering violent extremism, and countering terrorism.
To have women involved in that fight, in that generational struggle, is an absolutely essential part of achieving success.”
Through presentation of research results, discussion of personal experience, theorization, and debates about politics and theology, the conference’s participants worked towards answering questions relating to women’s role in peacebuilding and security activities.
Aicha Haddou, director of the Morocco Interfaith and Peacebuilding Research and Training Centre and one of the conference’s main organizers, spoke about the emergence of women as major players in mobilizing for peacebuilding. Women, she explained, are increasingly engaged in fighting against extremism and populism.
Haddou argued, however, that there currently exists a narrative vacuum regarding women’s role in non-violence and peacebuilding activities. She maintained that, in order to move forward, it is necessary to re-write history to give women their rightful place.
Building upon this idea, Sarah Sayeed of Women in Islam Inc. emphasized the importance of giving Muslim women a seat at the table where they are so often the topic of conversation. She argued that in order to create the most successful solutions to the issues at hand, Muslim women must have a hand in policymaking and in shaping their own narrative.
In addition to discussions of women’s role in policymaking to deal with the radicalization crisis, there was analysis of research which seeks to understand the radicalization of women themselves.
Radicalization of women
Bahija Jamal, an associate professor of international law at Hassan II University in Casablanca addressed the situation of women in Morocco in relation to extremism.
According to Jamal, of the 1664 individuals who have joined ISIS from Morocco, 300 have been women.
Jamal’s research did provide clear-cut answers about female radicalization, but she advised against viewing radicalized women as a homogenous bloc. She proposed nuance in dealing with radicalized women, warning that any solution that essentializes extremism would be incomplete.
Participants discussed varying responses to terrorism and radicalization across many countries.
Jamal explained that the Moroccan response to terrorism involves coherence between three pillars: the reinforcement of security governance; the fight against poverty and social inequality; and the promotion of religious values of tolerance, moderation, and coexistence.
Others called for embracing a new way of practicing spirituality.
For Dr. Ramin Jehanbegloo of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Non-Violence and Peace Studies, values like moderation and tolerance are of utmost importance in curbing the proliferation of extremist ideas.
Proponents of tolerant and moderate spirituality argued for an emphasis on spirituality and the re-interpretations of religious texts as means of countering the spread of extremist thought.
Jehanbegloo spoke passionately about the crisis of spirituality facing the world at large. “Religion without nonviolence is lame and nonviolence without spirituality is blind,” he said.