A group of Imams and religious scholars in Fallujah are equipping themselves with the means to counter extremism using religion.
A group of religious scholars from across Iraq have gathered together at a conference that discusses ways that religion and religious literacy can be used to counter extremism. Extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda often twist and weaponise religious scriptures to justify their atrocities and crimes. However, these scholars hope to train the next generation of scholars and equip them with the knowledge and the means to counter extremist arguments.
This initiative was begun by faith leaders in the city of Fallujah, who aim to rid the city of extremism and help promote tolerance and moderation. These group of scholars including members of the Rabbat al-Mohammadi, a local organisation made up of Sunni Imams from the province of Anbar and Baghdad, are leading the way in building bridges between different communities and countering the propaganda espoused by the likes of ISIS.
In the years after the 2003 invasion, Fallujah gained a reputation as a hotbed of extremism and terror. The city was at the heart of the insurgency against the Iraqi state and its people. For years, Fallujah was al-Qaeda’s self-declared capital, as militants infiltrated every part of the city.
Despite being supposedly rooted out by local Anbari tribes during the Anbar Awakening that eventually defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq by 2009, terrorist sleeper cells were still deeply embedded in the city, and militants continued to recruit people from the city.
Over the years, extremist groups managed to regroup in the city and grow. This culminated in the fall of Fallujah at the hands of ISIS in the beginning of 2014 following widespread anti-government protests in 2013. Once again, the city became a ket base for extremism to flourish under ISIS, until the city was eventually liberated in 2016.
Now, these religious leaders are determined to improve the image of Fallujah and Anbar by rooting out extremism using religious arguments and scriptures.