10/17/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Saudi minister: imams unable to keep young people from extremism

Prince Naif asks universities to study ways to keep away ideas that distort religion and defame the nation. Studying human rights does not mean that the country lacks values.

Riyahdh (AsiaNews) - With the exception of those in Mecca and Medina, Saudi imams are unable to keep young people from extremism. The denunciation comes from the interior minister, Prince Naif. During a meeting with university professors, the minister said that "the more than 15,000 mosques in the country constitute the best forums for guidance, but the imams have failed miserably in discharging their duties."

The minister, who spoke at the opening of a seminar on human rights in higher education and intellectual security at Al-Qura University in Mecca, specified that "frankly speaking, I would like to say that the imams of mosques, with the exception of the two holy mosques, have not played their desired role (in the fight against extremism)." In fact, Saudi Arabia is officially committed to the fight against extremism, and has launched programs of various kinds, including for the rehabilitation of people involved in terrorism.

Entering more specifically into the theme of the meeting, Prince Naif maintained that "the introduction of topics related to human rights in the education or any other area of life does not mean that our society is ignorant or deficient in human values as some quarters have been portraying."

In his view, the universities have a significant role to play in keeping Saudi young people away from the danger of destructive ideologies. "Since universities are centers of research, it is their duty to study ways to root out ideas that distort religion and defame the nation." More specifically in regard to questions of security, "universities should be capable of contributing to the service of the country and it is in line with the teaching of Islam which urges its followers to benefit from fruits of learning."

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