The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy organized a successful awareness and outreach campaign to engage all segments of Tunisian society, especially young people, in the fight against violent extremism. The campaign, which is part of the Hand in Hand Project, built on the Center's work to highlight enlightened Islamic concepts that promote peaceful values and oppose violence.
The awareness campaign lasted six weeks, starting on August 1 and concluding on September 15, 2018. It included several awareness-raising activities, such as discussions in mosques and other public spaces, the projection of a short film produced for the campaign, information stalls, intellectual seminars and distribution of leaflets in six regions (Bizerte, Greater Tunis, Kairouan, Kasserine, Sfax and Medenine).
The campaign was launched in the town of Ben Guerdane due to its geographical significance. The town is on the border with Libya and has suffered a number of terrorist attacks, as well as being a conduit for smuggling groups. A panel discussion was held during which the short film "No to Terrorism" was aired, followed by a discussion on the behavioral warning signs of extremism with the psychologist Dr. Fethi Touzri and Professor Sami Brahem, an expert on terrorist groups. The discussion was enriched by real-life testimonies from young people who had had direct experiences of extremism or terrorism. The event was attended by a number of young people, local religious actors and civil society activists.
The second event took place in the streets of Ben Guerdane, where the project team engaged with around 1400 people visiting the town's weekly market. The team distributed leaflets and engaged the public in a discussion around the importance of developing religious discourse to confront the phenomenon of violent extremism. The team also distributed leaflets in what is known as the "Big Market" (or "Libya Market", one of the biggest markets in Tunisia).
The next destination was Beni Khadech, also in the Medenine region. Faisal Ammar Chamekh, a young imam and certified trainer with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, organized a panel discussion titled "Diversity in Islam". The event was attended by more than 100 people who engaged actively in the discussion and commended the choice of theme. The project team distributed leaflets and invited attendees to discuss the various Islamic concepts they contained, which help spread moderate religious discourse. Following the seminar, the project team distributed around 2500 leaflets around the city center.
In addition, the project team regularly distributed leaflets in front of three mosques before Friday prayer in Medenine City, Beni Khadech and Ben Guerdane.
The project team organized three different activities in the region of Sfax. The first was a street campaign, during which the team members engaged directly with local residents from all walks of life and distributed project leaflets. The second activity was a seminar, moderated by Dr. Hmida Enneifer (Chair of the Hand in Hand Steering Committee), aimed primarily at women to raise their awareness of the serious phenomenon of violent extremism and their important role in countering it.
In view of the important role of educators in combating extremism and terrorism, the third activity was a symposium attended by more than 200 young men and women from the Institutes of Education and Science, which emphasized the central role of educators and the education system in combating extremism through entrenching the values of citizenship tostrengthen young people's resistance to extremism. The symposium featured a number of speakers, including Dr. Mohamed Chtioui, a member of the Hand in Hand Steering Committee and professor at Zaytouna University, and Ms. Imen Abid, professor of personal development and communication. Over 3500 leaflets were distributed in the region.
A special team also carried out the campaign "Ambassadors Against Extremism" in Sfax 2, organizing a series of activities that were successful in attracting large audiences. The activities were as follows:
1 - Panel discussion with members of local associations in the region of Sfax, held at the Youth Complex in Sfax, which attracted15 activists from women's and youth associations. The short film produced for the campaign was aired, followed by a discussion of the root causes of violent extremism and the behavioral warning signs of radicalization,as well as proposed solutions to the problem. The event was attended by a number of preachers, members of the Municipal Council and civil society activists from various associations. The project team distributed leaflets, as well as other materials relating to the campaign.
2 - Panel discussion in partnership with the local Scout and Girl Guides group ("Fatima Al Zahraa") at the Scouts Headquarters in Saqiet al-Zayt, attended by 30 Scouts, Girl Guides and members of the Municipal Council. The discussion, featured a psychologist, religious preacher and a specialist in private law, who began by discussing how to define violent extremism. The expert in psychology presented the psychosocial factors that contribute to radicalization, and Ms. Tayseer Boudabbous, a religious preacher, presented a religious response to the phenomenon. The legal expert then spoke about the elements of terrorist criminal offences. The event concluded with a discussion of potential solutions, such as support for the creation ofactive citizenship clubs within educational institutions, the production of awareness-raising films by Scouts, and programming activities and projects aimed at raising young people's awareness of the dangers of violent extremism. The attendees also received project leaflets and gave very positive feedback on the event.
A street awareness campaign was organized in the center of the city, which included dialogue with members of the public and distribution of project leaflets. There was a very good turnout and high level of engagement by the public, with more than 2500 leaflets distributed during the morning alone. A significant number of leaflets were also distributed to worshippers coming out of Friday prayers at the Uqba bin Nafi Mosque.
The team engaged with over 80 local shop owners and traders. The project team also went to the Old City where a large number of local residents gathered to find out about the campaign, and around 1,800 leaflets were distributed. There were lively discussions and very positive engagement between the young people and imamswithin the team who had been trained to lead the activity, and members of the public.
A two-day dialogue event was organized in a private venue to delve deeper into the contents of the leaflets and the important messages and ideas they contain that raise the reader's awareness of values of tolerance in Islam. Three days of activities were organized in the Aghlabid Fasqia (old water cisterns), aimed at encouraging residents to read the Hand in Hand project leaflets and engage with their ideas and values. The project team distributed the leaflets in association with the Aghlabid Sports Association for All, which has more than 200 active members, at one of the organization's sports events.
The team used innovative methods to distribute the brochures and encourage participants to read them. On the first day, they organized a treasure hunt where participants were given a map and each had to find the 10 different project leaflets that had been placed by the project team in various places around the Fasqia. After the treasure hunt was finished, the project team verified that each participant had the full number of leaflets before distributing a paper containing 10 multiple-choice questions, which participants answered after reading the leaflets. On the second day, the participants' completed quiz papers were marked, and prizes were distributed to the three winners.
In addition, a symposium was organized for imams and muezzins (mosque staff who make the call to prayer) on countering violence and extremism, and the important role of mosques in dealing with these phenomena and educating people on diversity and respect for difference. The symposium featured three teachers of Islamic education in secondary institutes. A total number of 4500 leaflets were distributed.
A group of 10 imams, preachers and young people were trained to manage the awareness campaign in Kasserine and distribute more than 3,000 leaflets in public spaces over the course of two days. The group of imams and preachers also agreed to organize an awareness-raising day during which they went to cafés and other public spaces, where they engaged directly with members of the public to discuss the phenomenon of terrorism and ways to prevent it, while distributing the project leaflets.
In addition, the local campaign included three interventions by Imam Abdelaziz Amri on local radio stations to introduce the project and discuss ways to combat extremism. Three discussions were also held at the Youth Center in Kasserine, moderated by Ghaith Misawi, a young imam. Each discussion was attended by over 20 young people. An information tent was also set up on a weekly basis over the course of a month to engage directly with the public, and especially religious actors.
The project team set up an information tent on the beach in Bizerte, where they distributed leaflets to holiday makers. Many engaged in conversation with the imams in the team regarding the dangers of extremism and the need for concerted efforts to address it. On another visit to the region of Bizerte, the team headed to Bilal Mosque in the center of the city of Bizerte, which is one of the largest mosques in the region and regularly attracts around 1200 worshipers. The team engaged with worshippers after prayer and distributed the 10 project leaflets, with over 4000 distributed in the region as a whole.
In addition to the regional activities, a daily visit was made to the city's cafes at night, where imams and local religious leaders engaged with young people. They answered their questions and presented the behavioral warning signs of extremism and ways to address them and prevent them from escalating. In addition, weekly visitswere made over the course of a month to the local toll station at Menzel Jemil, which large numbers of people pass through to get to Bizerte's popular beaches. The response from members of the public was overwhelmingly positive, and they expressed their thanks to the project team for the initiative.
In Greater Tunis, the campaign began in Ariana, where an information tent was set up on the main street of the city. Members of the public were highly engaged and feedback was very positive. Dr. Hmida Enneifer was present to answer people's questions about complex Islamic concepts.
In the city of Hammam Lif in the region of Ben Arous, a tent was set up in the middle of the weekly market in the presence of youth, imams and religious leaders. The team distributed 1400 leaflets and spoketo market-goers about their views on how to tackle the phenomenon of violent extremism and limit its spread.
A seminar was organized in Al-Mourouj 1, titled "Diversity and Peaceful Coexistence", featuring three speakers. The seminar began with a presentation by Imam Sheikh Mohammed Belhaj Omar, President of the Zaytouna Mosque Alumni and Supporters Association followed by the religious affairs inspector for the region of Ben Arous, Mr. Ridha Khaireddine. The seminar was concluded by Sheikh Noman Omari, author of the book "Diversity and Unity". During the seminar, a number of leaflets were distributed to the audience. The seminar ended with an open debate where attendees interacted with the speakers and raised a number of challenges relating to combatting extremism in Tunisian society.
The next activity was an information tent at the Quran Society building in Mornag, adjacent to the weekly market, where 1,000 leaflets were distributed. The team engaged with the public, an opportunity to reach those who do not attend seminars and meetings, andconvey to them the values of mutual respect, how to manage differences and the art of dialogue and acceptance of one another. Some activities targeted women in particular, to raise their awareness of their important role in building a healthy and balanced society, how dialogue techniques can help move children away from the use of violence, and how parents can give children the opportunity and skills to express their opinionsfrom a very young age.
The awareness campaign was concluded on Sunday September 16 at the weekly market in Mhamdia, where the team engaged with shoppers and handed out project leaflets. In addition to these main activities, a large number of leaflets were also distributed outside mosques and at all large public meetings in order to spread these values of tolerance and non-violence that help society to progress. Altogether, more than 7500 leaflets were distributed in the Greater Tunis area.
Video Campaign Summary