By Yvonne Levardi, Marshall Center Public Affairs
AMMAN, Jordan – Fighting extremist ideology is the complicated topic that brought seventy-five participants from 23 countries, including nine Marshall Center alumni, to Jordan for a conference Sept. 28-30.
Entitled “Exploring Dimensions in Countering Ideological Support for Terrorism,” the conference examined efforts underway in the Middle East for combating militant extremist ideology.
Building on a previous six conferences which have addressed the topic since 2005, this meeting was co-organized by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and the Royal Jordanian National Defence College.
Dr. Sharyl Cross, professor of national security studies at the Marshall center, said the importance of the topic to both parties is emphasized by the shared focus of the progressive Middle Eastern nation and the Marshall Center in organizing the conference.
“Together with our colleagues of the Royal Jordanian National Defense College, we were able to provide a forum for rigorous discussion with respect to countering militant extremist ideology,” she said. “We’ve focused on the importance of candid dialogue and building sustainable professional networks for combating extremist ideology. The rich national and professional diversity among our participants brought the synergistic mix of experience that we need in addressing this challenge.”
Participants looked at efforts within Middle Eastern nations to counter the appeal of extremism and terrorism; courses and research that address the topic in professional military education programs; and worked to define cooperative global approaches for Middle Eastern and Western countries.
“International cooperation is the best manner to fight the challenge of terrorism,” said Brig. Gen. Ahmad Eid Al-Masarwah, commandant, Royal Jordanian National Defense College. “Instead of using terms of ‘killing’ and ‘eradication’ to divide people into moderates and extremists, we need new terms to face this challenge like ‘cooperation’ and ‘dialogue.’
“We need recognition that pluralism and respect of what other civilizations have is the key to understanding and coexistence with security and stability,” he added.
Conference opening speaker Ambassador Robert Beecroft, U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, agreed with the need for cooperation, citing President Obama and the secretary of state.
“(President Obama) has also said, as had Secretary Clinton, that to be effective we must find new ways to meet this challenge, ways that build on dialogue and partnership with our allies in the Middle East region, ways that reject absolutism and rigid ideologies, ways that are practical and utilize the tools of diplomacy and development, as well as the military,” Ambassador Beecroft said during his opening remarks.
Dr. Abdulrahman Alhladlaq, director of ideology security for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, said the conference was valuable to him in that he got to know experts in the field.
“I think this is a very good idea, to share experiences, and more importantly, how are the participants going to use the information and knowledge they gained here,” Dr. Alhadlaq said.
“It was also good to see the seriousness of the participants. We had some long sessions, but it was a professional program and everyone gained knowledge. I also saw that people were really participating, asking questions and sharing experiences,” he added.
Dr. Cross said organizers hope the conference helped participants gain a greater appreciation for the complex range of factors that must be addressed in attempting to de-legitimize ideological support for terrorism.
“The opportunity to exchange experiences in implementing various legal, societal, educational, social-psychological strategies in Jordan and throughout the Middle East region is invaluable for these participants,” she said. “Our hope is this will enhance regional and international cooperation in addressing this challenge.”