Between the 21st and 26th of April 2009, the Quilliam Outreach and Training Unit (QOTU) ran a series of interactive training workshops, along with our local partner Bargad, in the 3 major cities of Pakistan, namely Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The workshops included students from a wide range of academic backgrounds as well as a mix of males and females. As well as the main cities like Karachi, Quetta, Hyderabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad we also had students from more remote areas like Swat, Buner and Azad Kashmir.
The workshops discussed extremism and radicalization on campuses in Pakistan and a number of key issues were highlighted. Many students expressed concerns about their campuses being hijacked by bigoted thugs who suppressed students and created an intimidating atmosphere on campuses in the name of religion. The students also expressed fears about the increasing imposition of a more intolerant and highly politicized form of religion on Pakistani society by a minority of hardliners who respond to any form of challenge with violence. The students were keen to emphasize that such a hard-line view of religion was alien to the Indian subcontinent and a relatively new phenomenon. The impact of political events in the region, including drone attacks and Western policy in general, were also discussed in great detail.
The workshops ended with most students agreeing that more needs to be done to tackle the menace of extremism on campuses in Pakistan and to project a positive image of Muslims and Pakistanis in the world today.