Anti-ISIS ideology campaign under way in Anbar
By Saif Ahmed in Anbar
Anbar's local government is conducting a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) ideology.
The campaign, launched in early February in collaboration with education directorates and tribal leaders, calls on province residents to reject extremist ideology and help Iraqi forces maintain security in the liberated areas.
The month-long campaign is covering Ramadi, Fallujah, al-Qaim, al-Rutba, Heet and Haditha during its first phase, Omar al-Thiyabi, an official from the Anbar governor's office, told Diyaruna.
It will continue in al-Amiriya and al-Habbaniya displacement camps, he said.
"The war is now being fought at the ideological level against extremism and crime," he said. "Everyone is responsible for fighting terrorism in all its forms through raising awareness and providing guidance for youth and students."
This includes children living in displacement camps, he added, pointing out that ISIS has targeted financially vulnerable members of society for recruitment.
The group also has a history of manipulating religious texts in order to use them as a means to recruit youth to fight in its ranks, al-Thiyabi added.
"In collaboration with the Sunni Endowment, tribal leaders, religious scholars and professors from the University of Anbar, we have held seminars, conferences and meetings to shed light on the facts of terrorism," he said.
The aim of these events is to make it clear to all participants that ISIS attempted to destroy Anbar "by spreading hatred and sectarianism", he added.
Mosques combat ISIS ideology
Anbar's mosques also play an important role in countering extremist ideology, said Sheikh Hammoudi al-Nouri of Ramadi's Sunni Endowment directorate.
ISIS elements used mosque pulpits to propagate the group's extremist ideology, he told Diyaruna, noting that "ISIS emirs who took over mosques and places of worship delivered sermons and issued takfiri fatwas".
"The mosques play an important role today in raising awareness through Friday sermons and prayer circles, as we seek to reveal to civilians the dangers of extremist ideology and how we deal with it," he said.
"Anbar has been subjected to high levels of destruction and displacement of its population over more than three years, resulting in unending suffering," said Abdullah Mizaal, who teaches at the University of Anbar.
This is a result of spreading "ideas that are foreign to religion, Islam and humanity", he told Diyaruna, noting that ISIS "believed in killing your father, mother or brother if they rejected its ideology and opposed the fatwas it issued".
These included edicts such as those "banning the drinking of cold water or eating pickles", he said, pointing out that the group even "issued a fatwa against putting cucumbers and tomatoes together".
"What kind of beliefs are these?" he asked.
In addition to spreading false fatwas, ISIS destroyed educational buildings and curricula in the areas of Anbar that were under its control, he said, warning that "we have to exercise caution if we do not want to go back to square one".
Supporting security, stability
"Women have an important part to play in all areas, and indeed play a significant role in the current stage in supporting stability," said Sana Abbas of the Ramadi education directorate's women and society department.
"We focused on visiting displacement camps in al-Amiriya and al-Habbaniya where certain forms of thinking are still persistent in the minds of children, such as that ISIS has the authority of the state," she told Diyaruna.
The awareness campaign has been making sure camp residents are fully apprised "of the reality of terrorism and its true goals", she said.
"The mid-year break was an important period for the awareness campaign, as teaching staff held meetings with parents during this time and advice was given on how students should spend their time," Abbas said.
"The participation of all segments of society, including scientists, teachers, writers, tribal leaders and intellectuals, has given this campaign momentum," said Shakir Ayoub al-Rawi of the Lawyers Syndicate in Anbar.
"Security is everyone's responsibility, and the people of Anbar have to protect their homes, neighbourhoods and cities from the deviousness of ISIS as it tries to exploit simple-minded people and children," he told Diyaruna.
"The security forces have a broader and important mandate, but it is vital that information is passed on to them in the event that someone is trying to spread rumours or use social media to incite sectarianism and violence," he added.
"This is where the campaign comes into play," al-Rawi said.