Is religion to blame for religious extremism?

Discussion Panel On Religion  Photo By: Yeon Hwang
Discussion Panel On Religion
Photo By: Yeon Hwang

According to Father Thomas Michel and Prof. Sohaira Siddiqui, professors at Georgetown Qatar and panelists at the discussion on religion and extremism, no, religion is not to blame. Though it may be a vehicle for mobilization and justification, unifying a group with the idea of “God is on our side”, it is not the root cause of extremism.

For example, in a secular society, as many participants suggested as a solution due to the significance of religious hate in many wars, there would still be many other factors contributing to violence and extremist practices. In religious societies, however, people have a unifying entity to rally around, manipulating excerpts of religious books by taking them out of context in order to put forward an agenda for extremism. Both panelists agreed that, though many religious texts have a sentiment of hate for ‘the other’ and a component of moral supremacy, the overarching message of all major religions is peace and acceptance. To take any verse or phrase as separate from the text as a whole, is to not fully understand the message of God. Furthermore, enforcing secularism, as Professor Siddiqui pointed out, will create many more problems than it will solve as it is important to recognize that the majority of religious individuals do not condone violence and will not accept their religion being forcefully removed in the name of peace.

So if religion isn’t the cause of religious extremism, what is? The panelists came to the conclusion that there are many causes, the most potent of which involve social and economic dissent. Father Tom provided Philippines, where he used to live, as an example. Initially many different religions- Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.- lived together harmoniously as neighbors. However, when economic disaster and a change in leadership struck, people began losing their jobs. They weren’t able to send their children to school and began to feel helpless. They were suspicious of the media and government and didn’t know who to trust, so they turned on their neighbours who belonged to different religions. They trusted the people they went to church or mosque with; the people they prayed with, and they began to find meaning and purpose in violence in the name of their religion and prosperity, trusting extremist groups to lead them to prosperity at a time when they were confused and had been failed by the institutions of government that they had previously put their trust in.

In 2000, on the verge of extreme conflagration, a turning point occurred. The religious leaders of the Philippines, following a massacre of 35 Muslims, decided that this could not continue. They appeared together- scholars from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism- on national television, discussing the issue and conveying the message of peace and the idea that violence is not a part of religion. Needless to say, the violence died down and the discussions between religious groups continue to this day.

However, even in cases of extreme conflict and dispirit there are many individuals who resist the need for violence and extremism. If we look at history, some of the greatest leaders, such as Mahtma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., used peace in the face of violence. Therefore, Professor Siddiqui also highlighted the importance of psychology in understanding extremist tendencies. She used the narrative of an Iraqi friend of hers, who participated in Doctors without Borders in Iraq. His childhood home was bombed while his mother was inside, and, on her deathbed, she asked her son to “do something”, supposedly about the conflict at hand. He had two options, says Professor Siddiqui, he could have fought and entered the conflict as a soldier, receiving immediate results, or he could have continued as a doctor, patiently waiting for the war to end, helping people. He chose the route of a doctor. A supporting anecdote that Father Tom shared, framed a conversation he had with three Hindu and Christian Tamils in Sri Lanka. He asked them why they pursued violence as a means to an end and they replied, “We can’t wait for everything to resolve itself. We’re young and we want to see change now!”  All three of them were killed, shortly after, in conflict. This shows two different approaches to passion for a cause, the immediate, riled up route in which violence is an option and can be justified in the moment and, the patient, contemplative route in which discussion and passive resistance is used in order to affect long term results.

Therefore, we must create long term solutions and target causes of extremism at their roots: we must create discussion spaces between religions that allow us to learn and accept ‘the other’; we must target the governments of problem countries and encourage them to do their citizens justice and not allow an environment in which there is necessity of extremism and violence; we must educate children and adults alike at home and in school about the futility of intolerance and danger of misinterpreting religious texts. Forums for discussion such as those demonstrated throughout the QLC are ideal for the creation of nuanced, educated and tolerant individuals.


Written by Anisha Pai


Taming the Tamil Tiger

Sayed Ali Moulana Photo by: Yeon Hwang
Sayed Ali Moulana
Photo by: Yeon Hwang

‘I know that it was really hard to do and peace is really hard to maintain however, after this experience I can now say that the Tamil Tiger can be tamed’

Mr. Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana is a politician and a former member of the democratic socialist republic of Sri Lanka. He attained this position from between 1944 to 2004 and he represented the Batticola district. Currently he is the mayor of Eravur. In his session The Peace Dividend he provided a wonderful insight on how he helped develop the cease-fire between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

 After the conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government (1983 – 2009); Sri Lanka was on a rocky road to recovery. Along this road were many obstacles some of which were, developing and maintaining peace between the different ethnic groups in the Eastern Province (Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims).

Sri Lanka is now well on the path towards becoming South Asia’s leading hub. The Eastern Province of Sri Lanka consists of three districts.  Trincomalee, Batticola, and Amparai. As the war has now ended, Sri Lanka is making remarkable progress towards improving many sectors such as, the fishery, natural, educational, health, tourism sectors. In terms of health alone, 30 main hospitals have been reconstructed.

When asked about prior negotiations with LTTE, Moulana responded that they were given many opportunities to talk but each of these negotiations failed. This is because of the fact that, they made use of the negotiation time to regroup. They were making excuses to make time to prepare for WAR.

On a more personal note, due to the intensity of the events that took place during this time period Moulana also suffered when his children were almost kidnapped in 2004. He fondly looks back at one of his biggest shocks, ‘At one point this man came up to me and started kissing my feet and saying sorry, I was really confused until I found out that he had been hired to assassinate me’

 Dr. Moulana ended the session with a smile ‘Please feel free to come to Sri Lanka at any time we would be glad to have you’


Written By Hannah Akhtar and Habiba Sallam  


On the Frontlines of Advocacy

Maggie Leahy and Ben Keesey
Photo by: Yeon Hwang

“What do you care about? What do you actually care about? Not what you should care about, not what anyone else says you care about, but what you actually care about?”

In Ben Keesey and Maggie Leahy’s cases what they care about is saving masses of children from Joseph Kony’s child abducting army. For you that may be the environment, war in Gaza, feminism, poverty, incurable disease, animal rights; it could be anything, whether it directly affects you or not. But if you care about it, if you honestly feel that you will deeply regret having not contributed to this cause because your moral conscious will nag you for the remainder of your life and you ask yourself, “what should I do,” the answer is always “you must act”, Ben Keesey, from a place of experience, advised the audience, “When you are worried about what your parents will say, what your teachers will say and what your future will look like, have the courage to say yes.”

“At 21 I left a very successful job to move into my parents house because I had no where else to live. My parents were worried for me.” As the current CEO of Invisible Children. Inc, a non-profit organization that has produced massively positive results in relation to the Kony crisis, using innovative defection promotion methods, with a 93% reduction in killings and the Kony army reduced to less than 10% of its original size, Ben Keesey is an unquestionable authority on the benefits of giving your all to a cause.

Yet, with all the wonders his company has accomplished, it has not always been an uphill ride for Invisible Children. “There will be times when you will be massively depressed and frustrated but you have to stand by what you believe in, through the good and the bad.” A study Keesey mentioned proved that the leading characteristic that correlates with leadership is not charisma or intelligence or creativity, but the ability to persevere through pain.

When KONY 2012 was released, it gained 100 million views in 6 days while the company was little more than 40 strong with a PR team of a single intern. It was difficult at first, especially with all the controversy surrounding the film, as their founder can attest to, but they finally decided that “Nothing will speak louder than results”, and that’s exactly what they went out and got. With more and more defectors from Kony’s army finding their way back home, spurred on by their escaped comrade’s radio messaging and fliers, there is a nally a real possibility that the Kony army will disperse forever in the very forseeable future.

But they did not do it alone. They organized demonstrations and protests and kept on fighting until, a few months after KONY 2012 was released, Jacob, the child who was featured in the film, got to wear a suit for the first time, speak in congress and become the first person to ever testify against Kony, one of the proudest moments of Ben Keesey’s life, as he was a part of the initial team that first found Jacob when he was 11 and attempting to leave Kony for a better future. Less than a year after that, Keesey got to shake hands with Barack Obama, “I walked in and said ‘Hi Mr. President, I’m Ben Keesey’ and I was like yeah! I got my name right!” Invisible Children are people who all believe in doing what’s right and they have inexplicably proved that, “When the people lead, the leaders follow”.

Motivated by the desire to share his experience and drive for avocation and action, Ben Keesey finished his talk by reminding the audience of where they were (the QLC). “You have the opportunity, especially within the next day and a half, to meet new people from all kinds of different and novel cultures. We have a saying at Invisble Children that we like a lot: Be where you are.” So, delegates, keep learning and trying and acting and learning again, repeat the cycle and never stop thinking, never stop acting, never stop striving for what you believe is right because, as Ben Keesey reiterated, “a rote of service where you are looking out for each other and humanity is the highest possible calling.”

 And if you really don’t know what your heart of hearts believes in, get involved with something; anything! You will find your passion. Get involved, in fact, with invisible children, right here in Qatar by going to


Written by Anisha Pai


Invisible Children: VOICE OF THE OPPRESSED

“Wherever you are be ALL THERE– pay attention and do YOUR thing- You can see how this has worked for a group from California who discovered their passion…”

   “Inspirational”, “liberating”, “affecting” and of course “poignant” these are just a few of the terms, which were heard pouring out the mouths of awestruck participants, reluctantly filtering out of room 105.

Photo by: Luma Mansi
Photo by: Luma Mansi

  Ben Keesey and Maggie Leahy’s “Life on the Frontlines” instantly implemented an aura of intrigue and fascination, it’s utilization of the word “life” in conjunction with the word “frontlines” suggested a notion of a much more involved, extreme approach to concept which we are commonly acquainted with every day.

  Unfortunately life as we know it is extremely limited; Keesey’s and Leahy’s passionate session assisted us in moving away from the limited scope, and slowly exposing ourselves to what is present, but not always prevalent.

  Ben Keesey and Maggie Leahy, worked on the hugely acclaimed worldwide phenomenon the Kony 2012 video, both are members of the Invisible Children campaign, with Keesey attaining the role of its CEO.

  Keesey, as the best in his class as a high school student and subsequently studied in UCLA (University of California at Los Angles) subsequent to a brief Finance job in the company Deloitte & Touche; he was completely changed at the age of 21.

   One evening, at a gathering of his friends and family he had had the opportunity to view a documentary, which his friends had produced. The documentary detailed information on the life of a young LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) victim, who had been abducted, forced to work under Kony, and had managed to escape to freedom.

  Jacob had a dream of one day becoming a lawyer; unfortunately it was extremely difficult for him to fulfill this as he was constantly hiding away for fear of being abducted. Fortunately due to the help that he received through the awareness raised by the campaign, Jacob was able to attend school.

  Moved and touched by this, Keesey made a life changing decision, and left his prestigious job, in order to help with the honorable cause; which encompassed a variety of different issues concerning children.

  One of the main issues at hand was the abduction of children in Africa, and unwilling conscription into the LRA.

   Leahy,  first heard about the cause at the age of 16, where she was also deeply moved and touched by the campaign. She has been involved in the cause ever since.

  Invisible Children, created a documentary entitled “Invisible Children” in 2004, detailing the horror of the LRA.

When asked about the difficulty of raising awareness, Keesey responded “ When you are pursuing things you will be depressed, because it will not always work.”

  Leahy added “ But don’t ever think that you cannot make a change, you are all capable of changing the world”

  The Invisible Children campaign worked thoroughly in the field of protecting the children.

  Those who were in captivity were terrified of the prospect of returning as they were aware of the fact that they could be killed or imprisoned upon return home. In addition to this, they were petrified of the possibility of their family rejecting them and killing them.

  In addition to the various actions Invisible Children took against the LRA movement, they created flyers (including information on how to escape- complete with maps/routes), radio stations, and also developed an Elikya rehabilitation center, designed to help children who had directly been affected.

  Once children had been rescued, they would broadcast messages on the radio such as “we are safe, please come home, everything will be fine”, to those who were still in captivity.

  Fortunately, the campaign has not been in vain, as the results are substantial.  Originally, the LRA group consisted of 2,000 children, and today there are only 200 who are still in captivity.

   Keesey and Leahy concluded with describing the whole process as “crazy but needed”.

  Keesey added with a powerful message “There are a lot of needs in this world; and everyone has the ability to change the world for the better.”

Written By: Hannah Akhtar 

Imagining the ‘Other’

A Delegate watching Dr.Dauodi's presentation about the Holocaust  By: Luma Mansi
A Delegate watching Dr.Dauodi’s presentation about the Holocaust
By: Luma Mansi

“The holocaust is a rumor”, proclaimed a Palestine student from the screen of Professor Mohammad Dajani Daoudi presentation, using the Arabic word for rumor, “ishaa”. A concept that is known to some Palestinians about the Holocaust.

Dr. Daoudi, a Palestinian nationalist, who believes in the significance of learning about human suffering and standing up for the truth because “history cannot be erased and it is important to honour all victims”, took a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz and Israeli students to refugee camps to study the impact of evoking empathy for “the other”. Volunteers found out about this controversial trip by word of mouth. It was kept relatively low-profile to avoid the public pressuring these students against going. Unfortunately, the day before they set out, Palestinian and Israeli newspapers published articles about the event and there was public outcry, accusing the Professor of treason for propagating Israeli propaganda.

However, some students still travelled; they began to empathize with the Jewish people who had been gassed and cremated yet remained defensive, arguing that they were still Palestinian nationalists and felt distress only for the lapse in humanity that occurred at these sites, as opposed to identifying with the Jewish people. Fortunately, as Dr. Daoudi has shown, one can still be a great supporter of Palestine while accepting the holocaust and the Jewish people’s suffering. “In reconciliation, you must bring the best out of a person.”, he says, reiterating that the only way to solve conflict is to understand both sides.

Dr. Daoudi came to this conclusion after experiencing two profound events that lead him to understand the value of “imagining the other”. First, when his father died and second, when his mother died. Both were treated by Israeli doctors who Daoudi had initially been dubious of, for fear of being discriminated as Arab. Yet, when his father was cared for extensively by Jewish doctors in a Jewish hospital, he first began to respect the idea of unity and; when an Israeli military hospital immediately opened their gates, ordered an ambulance and performed an emergency procedure on his mother as she was dying of an asthma attack, he realised that it was not ‘Us or Them’, it was instead ‘Us and Them’. His mother died that day, but the empathy and unconditional aid the Israeli doctors and soldiers offered, brought out the best in him; he was reminded how frail life was, as he mourned his mother. Since then, he has been fighting for peace between Israel and Palestine.

“Fight against the tide and keep putting more energy into what you believe in” he professed.

Reminiscent of the plenary speaker, Mr. Peter Dalglish’s memory of a young boy who was denied help from a doctor who had taken the hippocratic oath because he was unable to pay, Dr. Daoudi’s talk addresses the need to learn about narratives and continuously gain knowledge, for “it is the light, for good or bad”. He talks about how prior to the holocaust, there was much incitement against the Jewish people, and how history must be told so that it is not repeated, outlining the parallels between 1930 Germany and present day Palestine where there is much incitement towards Palestinians. As Romeo Dallaire, who saw the Rwandan genocide coming and attempted to stop it, we must also acknowledge the imminence of disaster in war zones if we don’t take action soon.

Dr. Daoudi left us with a powerful quote from a fellow Palestinian nationalist, “I will not remain a bystander even if the victims of suffering are my oppressors.”


Written by Anisha Pai


TABOOS – Truthful or simply Terrible?

Dr.Daoudi – Breaking Taboo’s
Photo by: Luma Mansi

  How can you prevent yourself from being a bystander if you do not take the risk of standing out from the crowd?

  Thursday 16th October 4:15, saw two eager journalists; awaiting the commencement of Breaking Taboos by Proffesor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi. Amongst all of the sessions taking place at the same time, Daoudi’s appealed the most; as it’s concept was both emotionally and stirringly intriguing.

  Dr. Daoudi is a holder of a B.A degree in communication from the American University of Beirut (1972), two Doctorate degrees from the University of South Carolina, Columbia (1981) and the University of Texas at Austin, Texas (1984). In addition to this, he is also the founder of Al-Wasatia moderate Islamic movement in Palestine.

   He also joined Al-Quds University in 2002 where he attained two positions; the position of Director of Libraries and the position of the founding director of the American Studies Institute.

   At the end of the session, the empty room, which the moved journalists had entered, had now completely filled with a sense of awe and respect for the Professor. The curiosity and the intrigue, which had plagued the minds of the journalists, had now been completely and utterly quenched. They had anticipated, and he certainly delivered.

  Daoudi began his presentation with the question “ What is the difference between a leader and a politician?”

   Pausing momentarily; a blanket of silence descended upon the room, as all of the inhabitants paused to contemplate the suggested notion.

   Breaking the palpable tension, he answered the question with the interesting information, “Leaders may HAVE to break taboos, on the other hand, Politicians have to tell the people what they WANT to hear. Politicians must filter and adapt the information, which they are conveying in order to persuade those listening to agree with them. Manipulation is applied; which sufficiently reduces the reliability and value of the information.

   However, in contrast to this, Leaders have already achieved the position that the politicians were striving to attain. Therefore, it is possible for them to leave their personal opinions as they are and use them in order to lead their communities- whether or not the people agree with the leader does not stop them.

 Further on in the session Daoudi mentioned that he had taken 27 students to Auschwitz, in order to deepen and enlighten their personal understanding of the holocaust. Both Palestinian and Israelis went on this trip, and this exemplified the possibility of peaceful relations between the two.

  When asked what the ideal dream be, rather than suggesting having a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, he suggested having them both live together in peace and harmony; for now and coming generations.

   Despite having been heavily criticized, he responded to accustations with a peaceful state of mind, firmly believing that taboos needed to be abolished and that enlightenment was vital for those blinded by propaganda.

 He concluded the session with the words “ The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.”

Written By Hannah Akhtar and Habiba Sallam

Heading Towards Your Fears

Opening Ceremony

The QLC began with great poignancy, encompassing themes of impeding journeys, anticipation and, of course, leadership. Anticipation is an ambiguous feeling; it can contain undertones of a variety of emotions, from trepidation to excitement and, today, the participants of the QLC experienced the full range as Secretary General, Arsalaan Muhammad, reminded us of the gargantuan task ahead of us as the next generation of world leaders; journalism professor, Andrew Mills, imparted the advice and knowledge he has gained from his own exposure to confronting and embracing his fears and; Head of THIMUN Qatar, Lisa Martin, shared her past experiences of the QLC and its humble beginnings as the brain child of Mr.Cameron Janson.

Backed by his history of journalism, a field that requires spending as much time as possible outside ones comfort zone, Andrew Mills, shared an evocative, revolutionary tale of his two month canoe journey across the Arctic; a journey that propelled his life along a course that constantly motivated him to pursue what he fears most, from telling his father he had chosen a career in Journalism to quitting a prestigious position in one of Canada’s top newspapers in order to set up a new life as a Middle East correspondent.

He embarked on this journey at age 17, back in 1997, whilst we, the current participants of the QLC, were all either developing or recently developed fetuses, still on the journey towards body-hood. And now, at the age of setting off across the arctic of beginning life away from home with scarce knowledge of what our futures hold and many choices ahead, we are approaching a time of great trepidation in our futures; soon we will become, or in many cases have already become, the leaders we look up to and respect. As Arsalaan Muhammad, a shining example of leadership in himself said, “the QLC is important because it creates a unique space where participants can build skills that will develop them as the leaders of tomorrow- skills that will be essential to solving the ever-present challenges humanity currently faces, from the onslaught of Gaza to the continuation of the Syrian Civil War.”

These speeches strongly affected those privileged enough to hear them, from the teacher sitting next to me, whose little gasps of awe and relieved laughter peppered the presentation, to Shanthanu Rao, a participant, who as we filed out of the hall gushed, “Andrew Mills had inspired me! My future has always been that white collar authoritative figure he described but I’ve realized now that if you’re not exploring and discovering new things then you’re not pursuing your future so now I’m thinking I’m going to go ahead and do journalism, as I’ve always dreamed.”

So, for the coming three days and the years that lie ahead of you, in college and in adulthood, continue to head towards your fears and remember the wise words of Andrew Mills, “If you don’t find yourself outside your comfort zone, you’re doing something wrong”.

 Written By: Anisha Pai


CMU partners with THIMUN Qatar for Film Fest Submission Program

THIMUN Qatar IT Coordinator and CMU students meet weekly to discuss the FIlm Festival submission program under development.
THIMUN Qatar IT Coordinator and CMU students meet weekly to discuss the FIlm Festival submission program under development.

As most of you know, THIMUN Qatar in partnership with Northwestern University in Qatar organizes the annual Film Festival. High school students from virtually any location on earth can participate in this festival and submit their short films. It’s been an ongoing annual tradition ever since its birth in 2010. Several successful short films have emerged as a result of this and have gained recognition internationally. The project that I’m working on is an online film submission system with which students can seamlessly upload their application forms, films, posters and all other materials needed seamlessly onto our databases. We have the privilege of working with seniors from the Information Systems at Carnegie Mellon University Qatar on this project and hope to come up with a new system in time for our upcoming festival. Previously, film submissions were accepted in physical CD’s and flash disks. Moreover, the registration forms were all hand-written and then converted to digital format manually for processing. More recently, the THIMUN Qatar office implemented online submissions for films alone and received about one half of the submissions through a temporary online platform. The variable file upload speeds in different countries is perhaps the biggest challenge that the project faces. Using secure file upload systems and ensuring data integrity, we hope to come up with an effective film submission system by the end of the year.