Fifty Iraqi Imams and Preachers graduated from a religious training and counter-extremism programme hosted by the Mosul University.
In Iraq, the military war against ISIS has come to an end. Although the group maintains the capacity for an insurgency, the loss of its territories heralds the end of the war. Although what follows has been frequently referred to as the “post-ISIS era”, the fact remains that the group’s pervasive ideology is still a threat to the country. In a bid to mitigate the dangers presented, the University of Mosul hosted a series of workshops to provide Imams and Preachers with ideological training.
These workshops represent a very important facet of combating ISIS’ ideology. The group’s ideologues were experts at interpreting scriptures to their own ends and selectively using passages and hadiths to justify atrocities while dismissing those that implored mercy and tolerance. As Sunni Islam lacks a central authority, many Imams and Preachers were self-taught and lacked the means to effectively counter the claims made by ISIS militants on how “true Islam” is supposed to look like.
The workshops, hosted by the Scholar’s Forum, thus seeks to equip a new generation of Iraqi Preachers and Imams with the means to fight the ideological battle against ISIS’ version of Islam and promote a version that shows that moderation, tolerance, peaceful coexistence and the pursuit of knowledge are all legitimate Islamic values.
The efforts of the fifty Imams and Preachers who graduated here will initially focus on the children of Mosul. Many children in the city were forced to attend schools operated by the militants, inducted into the group’s infamous Cubs of the Caliphate unit of child soldiers or simply exposed to ISIS’ ideology as a result of living in the city. Undoing the damage done upon these children is the immediate priority. The authorities in Mosul seek to work alongside the parents of these children to achieve the best outcome.
It is hoped that as reconstruction progresses, other, vulnerable parts of the Iraqi society will also be targeted by outreach programmes. The undertakings here in Mosul are not unique. Other cities that have been occupied by ISIS militants, such as Fallujah, are also seeing similar counter-extremism programmes in a bid to ensure that the militant ideology never returns.