The threat posed by extremism and terrorism is no longer limited to a country or region. Extremist organizations working across borders do not spare anyone while carrying out their hideous operations. The complexity characterizing extremism and terrorism is reflected, one way or another, in the nature of strategies adopted by countries to address these phenomena.
Countries around the world have experimented with different approaches to tackle extremism. Some attach immense importance to the security and military aspects, while others focus on the legislative and legal frameworks.
Some countries integrate political, economic, social, cultural and educational aspects as part of their anti-terrorism strategy. They involve community institutions – from families to educational and media institutions and civil society organizations (CSOs) – and also the private sector. This approach is seen as demonstrating social and ethical responsibility i.e. an integration of efforts of these institutions with those of the country to tackle extremism and terrorism.
The increased sense of social and ethical responsibility enhances government efforts and translates into a higher level of awareness among individuals. It leads to an increased realization among institutions regarding the gravity of the situation and the need to work as part of an inclusive strategy.
The UAE’s model greatly upholds these responsibilities. Efforts made by various institutions in the UAE have been integrated to address extremism and terrorism, which explains the level of stability that prevails in the country.
The UAE’s educational institutions are important pillars of the overall strategy adopted to counter the scourge of extremism and terrorism. They play a major role in preventing students from getting exposed to extremist ideologies since childhood. These institutions also collaborate with other community institutions, families, the media, civil society, and the private sector, to counter-terrorism, in a way that reinforces the government’s efforts.
This study seeks to achieve the following objectives:
The concept of social and ethical responsibility
Fundamentally linked to corporate social responsibility and private sector institutions, the concept of social and ethical responsibility was born in the West.
Two different trends define this concept:
It derives its strength from psychological studies, focusing on the attributes of a socially responsible person, most crucially, and his fulfillment of obligations toward the community. He is a reliable person Those who usually fulfill their promises, achieve the desired goals, and take into consideration their interests and those of the community, are reliable people;
The second trend derives its viability from management and PR studies. It stresses the importance of requiring facilities to uphold their social responsibility toward the society in which they operate. This has fueled interest in the concept of social responsibility of those companies (Tahon, 1990, p. 74, “In Arabic”).
The concept has undergone several changes in four important stages:
Stage One was in the 1950s and 1960s when social responsibility was linked to a company’s keenness to assume a social role in the society in which they operate and with which they interact;
Stage Two unfolded during the 1970s to 1980s, when debate about other aspects of social responsibility began to grow, including the ethical, voluntary, legal, charitable and humanitarian dimensions of taking part in assisting governments to improve living conditions of community members;
Stage Three took place during the 1990s, when companies started to take an interest, as socially responsible institutions, in preserving the environment and supporting government efforts in this respect;
Stage Four started at the beginning of the 21st century, when a trend that deals with social responsibility from a broader multi-dimensional perspective started to crystalize. Among these dimensions were commitment to society, contribution to carrying out economic and social development programs, combating dishonest business practices, compliance with the law, volunteering, protection of the environment, and adopting an approach of transparency and accountability in social practices (Shafiqur Rahman, 2011, pp.166-167, “In Arabic”).
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) shifted from a mere charitable act to practice and commitment by corporate entities towards society. Today, companies are under increasing pressure to comply with environmental protection regulations and preserve natural resources: such competition has accelerated the development of CSR. There has been a focus on the relationship between economic, environmental, and social aspects and the effects of companies’ activities on the environment, which is known as the “balanced approach” to address economic, social and environmental issues in a way that improves the situation of groups and society (International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2004).
1.1 Theories defining social and ethical responsibility
Various theories define social and ethical responsibility:
Some believe this is a set of functions that individuals and organizations should be committed to in political, economic, social, and cultural fields, so that, in their processes, social and moral values may be found, provided the individuals enjoy real freedom that makes them accountable to the law and the society – (Hossam Al-Dien, 2003, p 30, “In Arabic”);
It is argued that the individual has a social and ethical responsibility toward himself and his family, friends, faith, and his country. This responsibility is expressed through his understanding of his role in the achievement of his goals, caring for relationships, and taking part in solving the problems of the society and accomplishing public goals – (Qasim, 2008, p 33, “In Arabic”);
It can be argued that social and ethical responsibility are inseparable concepts in the sense that the objective of a responsible individual in society cannot be achieved without adherence to the system of ethical values. Such values develop in him a sense of responsibility to participate in the advancement of society and cooperate alongside other members of the community.
The ethical dimension of social responsibility covers several elements:
First, individuals’ adherence to their duties toward society;
Second, social upbringing in which different social responsibility stakeholders take part, from families to schools, CSOs, and the media;
Third, self-awareness and cooperation among community members in any emergency or problem facing society – (What do we mean by social responsibility? Eleiwi, barq-rs.com, 2016, “In Arabic”).
In light of the above trends, many researchers agree that the dissemination of social and ethical responsibility in any society is extremely important for its growth. The continuity of any organization in society, irrespective of its specialization, requires directing its activities to serve and develop it. Social responsibility also plays a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the lives of individuals and societies, as it maintains the social systems, protects its laws against infringement, particularly when all individuals and groups discharge their duties and take responsibility for the society in which they live – (Al-Ameri, 2006, pp. 51-54, “In Arabic”)
At the same time, social responsibility is a crucial requirement to prepare the youth to play their role in the future and participate in building the society. An individual’s value is measured by how much responsibility he takes for himself and others, provided that the responsible person must be psychologically safe and sound (Shreet, 2003, p 25). Social responsibility has thus become an important standard and an indicator of the development of society. It is a mission that cultural and educational institutions are undertaking and a task of building that the society, especially the youth, must carry out (Hegazy, Confronting Extremism and Terrorism is a Collective Responsibility, 2019, “In Arabic”).
2.1 Toward a comprehensive concept
If previous trends focused on a certain aspect of social and ethical responsibility, there was a trend that had started to crystalize in the past few years. This trend regards social and ethical responsibility as a holistic concept, with developmental, societal, security, political, ethical, legal and charitable dimensions – (Yasin, 2008, p. 33, “In Arabic”).
According to this trend, social responsibility is a social need, since the entire society, with its bodies and institutions, needs socially responsible individuals. A strong sense of corporate social responsibility in individuals and their adherence to it is the yardstick used to judge the growth and development of society. Developing a sense of responsibility in community members is incumbent on social institutions assuming the responsibility of individuals’ upbringing and education – (Amer, Social Responsibility and its Role in Building and Stabilizing Society, 2019, “In Arabic”).
Based on the above trends and theoretical definitions, the scholar argues that social responsibility is a holistic concept, in terms of its general objectives, which is no longer limited to a narrow social aspect intertwined with the concept first developed in the West. It encompasses many other economic, cultural, environmental, pedagogical, educational, and security aspects in connection to the parties concerned with this concept. Unlike the traditional view, which confined social responsibility to the private sector, particularly corporations and business enterprises, social and ethical responsibility is now seen as fundamentally a shared responsibility within which the efforts of individuals, society, and institutions are integrated with those of the country.
Furthermore, the dissemination of social and ethical responsibility in any society is proof of its ability to grow and solve different challenges, most notably extremism and terrorism. At the same time, it embodies the cohesion of that society. This is because cooperation among all parties (family, school, CSOs, and the media) in carrying out the country’s general anti-extremism and anti-terrorism strategy contributes to solidifying the overall national security.
Second: A key approach in countering extremism and terrorism
Social and ethical responsibility is one of the crucial approaches in countering extremism and terrorism and completing the efforts made by countries in this field. This is because social and ethical responsibility is a shared responsibility in which all institutions in society commit themselves to play their respective roles. For example, when individuals are more aware of the gravity of extremism and terrorism, they become much more able to identify, filter, and therefore choose not to adopt, the extremist ideologies that terrorist organizations seek to disseminate.
When a family plays its part in bringing up children properly, it enhances their self-confidence and develops a deep sense of responsibility toward the society, enabling them to participate in the development of the society and defend it against any challenges threatening its security and stability. When educational institutions play their role in building the personality of students and forming their public perceptions, they protect them from extremist or subversive ideas. And when the media plays its role, it contributes to enlightening the community members about the gravity of extremism and terrorism, and the need for a national mobilization to counter them.
Educational institutions play a vital role in promoting the concept of social and ethical responsibility, by safeguarding community members against extremist ideas, as well as enlightening them and increasing their awareness regarding the threats posed by extremist groups and organizations. These educational institutions also cooperate with other community institutions in performing this crucial role.
In recent years, education has become increasingly important in countering extremism and terrorism, with political and ideological movements appreciating more and more the value of education as a means of instilling their values on society. Extremist movements abuse education by providing fanatical interpretations of religion and culture, exacerbating intolerance toward others. They also incite violence and hatred. Therefore, there is an urgent need to integrate education with a proactive strategy to counter violent extremism – (Anderlini, Education, Identity and Rising Extremism, 2017, P. 8-9).
Utilizing education as a means to prevent and combat extremism and terrorism has become a growing international trend leading to a deeper understanding of extremism and terrorism. There is growing interest in making efforts to tackle the environment that helps extremists spread their ideologies and recruit. Many countries across the world have become convinced that education is one of the most important tools for youth outreach as it changes their perception and safeguards them against extremism. As a result, governments are funding measures to combat violent extremism as a part of education programs. Besides, the World Bank recommends boosting cooperation among governments and the development of partners to identify various ways in which education can be utilized to build resilience and curb extremism – (Samantha de Silva, 2016, p9).
Education can be utilized efficiently in addressing extremism and terrorism in many societies. This can be done by implementing educational programs to mold the perceptions of the youth and protecting them against extremist ideologies. Quality education would dry out any fertile environment exploited by extremist groups to spread their ideas. Furthermore, education contributes to bringing up the youth with a positive values system that sensitizes them toward co-existence, moderation, and acceptance of others, helping them reject fanaticism, extremism, and terrorism – (Bin Qaqqa, Education as the First Line of Defense against Extremism and Terrorism, 2017, “In Arabic”).
Developing the education system can thus provide a strong buffer against this extremist ideology. This is why many experts call for ongoing improvement of plans, programs and awareness campaigns in schools; to edify both students about the risks of radicalization, extremism, and terrorism, and to speak to them in their language and enlighten them about the dangers of radicalization – (Al-Zayed, Immunizing the “Minds of Youth” is the Responsibility of Education .. Terrorism Doesn’t Snatch Them, 2014, “In Arabic”).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stresses the role of education as a powerful tool of persuasion, in combating violent extremism, especially if it seeks to address the underlying conditions that drive people to join violent extremist groups. In 2018, UNESCO issued a guide for policymakers, demonstrating how education contributed to creating an environment of anti-extremism through instilling and building adequate awareness in the minds of students, enabling them to address and combat extremist ideas, opinions and beliefs and fight radicalization (UNESCO, 2018, p. 4).
All stakeholders in the educational process have a responsibility to counter extremism and terrorism. Schools (headmasters, teachers, and supervisors), for instance, play an important role in adopting a moderate dialogue-based approach on constant principles, which safeguards the patriotism and loyalty of the youth and helps develops their religious and national responsibilities. (Al-Zayed, 2014, “In Arabic”).
Universities too have been required to link university education outputs to the actual needs of society, and contribute to solving its problems, including terrorism. University environments should also contribute to activities that eradicate terrorism and violence. This can be done through developing training programs to develop teaching and administrative staff in higher education institutions, in the areas of pedagogy and leadership – (Al-Tweini, 2010, pp. 212-263, “In Arabic”).
At the same time, teachers can provide a major role in spreading awareness among students of the dangers of extremist thinking. This requires subjecting teachers to apply high standards to evaluate their intellectual balance, moderation, and ability to promote manifestations of affiliation and loyalty and spread positive values. Teachers, in the pedagogical sphere, have ample room to form the conscience of youth (Al-Zayed, 2014, “In Arabic”).
Besides, teachers can represent a bridge among schools, families and the wider local community to ensure that all stakeholders work for a common goal to support and assist vulnerable learners – (UNESCO, 2018, p. 44-46).
Third: Responsibility of institutions – The UAE model
The United Arab Emirates serves as a model for advancing social and ethical responsibility among individuals and various social institutions. This is one of the most important components of the country’s strength, explaining its current development, progress, and stability on all fronts.
Commitment by members of the society and different institutions including families, schools, the media and CSOs to their responsibilities entrenches the cohesion of the society they live in and enhances its ability to counter various challenges, the foremost of which is the threat of extremism and terrorism.
The following features are among the most prominent manifestations of the spread of social and ethical responsibility in combating extremism and terrorism in the UAE:
Increased social awareness of the dangers posed by extremism and terrorism, as confirmed by the results of many recent polls. The results showed a high degree of awareness in the country regarding the gravity of this phenomenon and the importance of addressing it. A poll published in May 2019 on the role of individuals in eliminating extremist ideology indicated that out of the 15,852 participants, 36 percent agreed that tolerance and openness were among the most important means of combating terrorism as individuals. Meanwhile, 30 percent deemed it a necessity to report any suspicious activity, 25 percent agreed to take part in awareness campaigns, while 10 percent said that there were other means by which individuals can contribute to the elimination of extremism. The poll was conducted by Sawab Center – a UAE-American initiative to counter online extremist propaganda and promote positive alternatives – (Abed, Fostering Tolerance is One of the Most Important Ways of Combating Terrorism, 2019, “in Arabic”).
The results of another poll by Sawab, published in July 2019, concluded that 91 percent of participants believed that combating extremism begins with the family and society since both can enhance the individual’s role in such respect. Nine percent, out of the 3,000 participants in the poll, believed that combating terrorism is a collective responsibility – (Abed, Sawab Identifies 5 Ways to Protect Our Children Against Extremist Ideology, 2019).
The results of such polls emphasize several important issues:
Fourth – Social responsibility of the UAE educational institutions:
The UAE recognizes the role of education in combating extremism and terrorism, especially considering education is the foundation that shapes the youth and frames their intellectual perceptions. When the system of education keeps pace with the latest developments and is opened to world cultures, it leads to development and enlightenment of sound personalities capable of confronting extremist ideologies. The UAE’s Ministry of Education was early to realize that extremist ideas can find its way into the education system, particularly as extremists continue to try to infiltrate into education systems by various means (Symposium on Education, Extremism and Terrorism, Ministry of Education, UAE).
The UAE’s educational institutions play a pivotal role in countering extremism and terrorism by cooperating with other institutions such as family, media, and religious institutions. The idea of this study arises out of the UAE’s experience in combating extremism and terrorism as a matter of social and ethical responsibility shared by numerous institutions.
The UAE has launched several education initiatives aimed at confronting extremist ideology and raising awareness about the risks of terrorism. The most notable of these initiatives include:
There is also the Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism, a bilateral initiative between educational institutions in Abu Dhabi and the Hedayah Center for Countering Violent Terrorism. The initiative focuses on means and methodologies that can be applied to utilize educational concepts as one of the resources for preventing and combating violent extremism that can be employed by policymakers, teachers, educators, local community organizations, NGOs, parents and the family. (Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism, pp. 1-2)
This memorandum is a reflection of the role educational institutions play alongside various institutions to confront extremist ideologies. The memorandum emphasizes the need for various segments of society to participate in the education process and confront violent extremism. Such sectors include the government, private sector institutions, NGOs, the media, CSOs, the family, and local communities. Dialogue between educational institutions and these entities leads to effective programs for combating violent terrorism (Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism, p. 2)
This memorandum asserts that confronting extremism and terrorism is a responsibility shouldered by society’s institutions as a whole. For example, public sector institutions have at their disposal several tools that can be utilized in supporting the government and schools in their efforts to reform curricula and strengthen the ability to withstand recruitment and prevention of extremism that leads to violence. Also, the media can undertake a vital role in enhancing curricula related to combating violent terrorism by working to uphold important views and values that contribute to the enlightenment of students and immunize them against extremist ideologies. Meanwhile, the local community can also play an effective role in reaching schools. It can coordinate efforts to further the discourse that counters violent extremism narratives, amplifying its voice in local communities besides presenting lessons received by students in official educational environments. (Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism, pp. 6-8)
The important role shouldered by the UAE’s educational institutions also includes working to promote the positive value system contributing to students’ personality building, enhancing their faculties and strengthening their critical thinking capabilities that can discern extremist and false ideology which does not represent the pillars of the true Islamic religion, ignoring the specific characteristics of the Arab and Muslim societies, which by their nature tend to be religious. This issue was recognized by the Aqdar World Summit, which was hosted by Abu Dhabi in 2017 under the theme (Nourishing Minds, Flourishing Nations). In its final communiqué, the summit called for the establishment of specialized national institutions to tackle the issues of extremism and deviant behavior, as per scientific and educational methodology based on foresight to identify ethical and value factors that help in combating intellectual extremism and moral deviation. This is achieved through a commitment to collective work, and establishing partnerships among world governments, private sector institutions, and the society as a whole, to confront challenges facing the world. In addition, the United Nations institutions and UNESCO continue to play an important role in their regional offices around the world. (Seliem, 2017)
Meanwhile, and in cooperation with entities responsible for safeguarding the UAE students studying overseas against ideological tidal waves, the UAE educational institutions are keen to meet and listen to students’ concerns. This is achieved by organizing a series of periodical forums in the most notable capitals where Emirati scholarship students live. It can also be achieved by organizing seminars and workshops on how to manage ideological and cultural risks abroad, as well as protecting UAE students through the use of national and religious principles (Belhoul, 2017).
Fifth – Perceptions of UAE elites
This study is based on a field survey of 300 UAE elites using a probability sample on four groups:
A – Media professionals
B – Politicians
C – Academics
D – Administrators
The study applied the questionnaire methodology in data collection of the elite’s standpoints and perceptions regarding the nature of the dissemination of social and ethical responsibility, and its impact on combating extremism and terrorism. The questionnaire was categorized into several axes reflecting the standard theoretical approach toward the social and ethical responsibility as a comprehensive concept already indicated in the theoretical framework of the study.
The questionnaire focused on clarifying the nature of social and ethical responsibility of educational institutions in combating extremism and terrorism, given that its vital role not only integrates but also overlaps with those of other institutions, such as the family, civil society, media, and the private sector.
Based on the study’s adoption of a comprehensive concept for social and ethical responsibility, a general question was asked to measure the role of the government, individuals, and social institutions as a whole in assuming their social and ethical responsibility. The results were as indicated in the following table:
|Very significant role||Significant role||Minor role||No role|
|Public benefit organizations||35%||38%||10%||17%|
Regarding the role of educational institutions in countering extremism and terrorism, the following question was posed to the respondents: to what extent do the UAE Ministry of Education’s curricula conform to the state’s policy in countering extremism and terrorism?
The answers – as shown below – indicate that six out of every 10 surveyed elites are of the view that the Ministry of Education’s curricula complies with the state’s policy in countering extremism and terrorism, while 40 percent respondents believe that educational institutions have to make additional effort to reconcile their educational programs and policies to achieve such an objective.
These results reflect the changes that have taken place in recent years in terms of educational policies, including curricula, teaching methodology, and employment policies in this sector. The content of many dimensions related to education and values, such as civil and religious education, has been subject to changes, and new aspect, such as moral education, has been introduced. Besides, several initiatives and protocols with community and government institutions (i.e. Ministry of interior) were implemented to raise awareness among the youth and protect them against the threat posed by extremism and terrorism.
Given the above results, we conclude that an emphasis on the importance of working toward developing the social and ethical responsibility of educational institutions is needed, given that they play a key and effective role in countering terrorism. This is especially relevant as such institutions have to cooperate with other institutions in the society while carrying out their role, which reflects the paramount importance of such measures in constructing any overall strategy to counter extremism and terrorism.
Educational institutions therefore play an important role by focusing on safeguarding against extremist ideologies. They raise students’ awareness about the threat these ideologies represent and entrench the system with positive moral values that protect them against extremist ideas or practices alien to society.
References in Arabic translated into English
References in Arabic translated into English