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We will fight extremism at home and abroad: Musharraf

By Suman Guha Mozumder at the United Nations
September 15, 2005 10:24 IST
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Pakistan President Musharraf on Wednesday said that he is trying to start a program of 'Islamic Muslim Renaissance' in the country in a bid to fight extremism both at home and abroad.

Musharraf, who made a distinction between terrorism and extremism, said that Islamabad is taking both short term and long term measures to contain extremism, including IMR, to curb the tendency.

"What I mean by that (IMR) is that we have left the understanding of our religion to the semi-literate persons who did not understand religion in its true essence. We need to take it from those persons and project Islam in its true values and essence in terms of developing a person's character, responsibilities towards the society and the family," Musharraf told reporters outside the Security Council during a brief question-answer session. "That is all I mean by Islamic Renaissance and real Islamists from all over the wold are ready to come to Pakistan to start this," he said.

Musharraf, who faced questions from reporters following his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said as far as Islamabad understands, there was a difference between terrorism and extremism.

"We need to treat terrorism and extremism separately without going into the semantics," Musharraf said. "Terrorism has to be dealt with military force, which, we have to apply, immediately and we have to cooperate for that internationally, both in terms of exchange of intelligence and freezing of underworld financing for terrorism," he said. "And this is what we are doing," he said.

According to Musharraf, extremism is a state of mind, "a hearts and minds issue" that has to be dealt with separately "through hearts and minds". Musharraf said that Pakistan has adopted a three-point strategy in the short-term to deal with the issue, that include banning extremist organisations in Pakistan from resurfacing or to collect any funds, to stop spreading of hare literature and prevent mosques from misusing loud speakers to spread hatred and militancy.

In the long term, he said, he would like to amend the syllabus and curriculum in schools that in the past have been focused more on rituals than learning, asking madrassas to teach all subjects and not just religion so citizens can become educated and skilled to take professions other than just being religious teachers, and Islamic Muslim Renaissance.

Musharraf's assertion came just on the eve of his address to the 60th General Assembly in which he raised the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, saying it is essential to find a solution to the problem. In that speech, he also said that one needs to understand the motives behind terrorist acts. "These many not justify terrorism, but they explain it," he said.

Earlier in the day, President George Bush, who came very hard on the issue of terrorism, said in his address to the UNGA that targeting and deliberate killing of civilians and non-combatants by terrorists cannot be justified or legitimised by any cause or grievance.

Blair, who also fielded questions from journalists alongside Musharraf, said that on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the UK would do everything to support the discussions between Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that can lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

"That is what we want to see or any sensible person wants to see," Blair said, adding that, "there are signs in respect of what has happened in the past few months (in terms of talks between India and Pakistan) and that has given us a great sense of possibility and hope."

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Suman Guha Mozumder at the United Nations