[Islamabad, 9 October 2010] Khudi, recently initiated as a groundbreaking social movement that aspires to actively counter the spread of extremist ideology within Pakistan, opened their doors to conversation and dialogue on the 9th of October 2010 at an event in Islamabad. The evening featured talks from Khudi’s founder Maajid Nawaz, two prominent international activists, Noman Benotman and Oscar Morales, columnist Fasi Zaka, leading talk show host Hamid Mir, Marketing Manager of Geo Pakistan Syed Amjad Ali and Ali Abbas Zaidi who is Founder of the Pakistan Youth Alliance and also a member of the Khudi Executive Committee. As a youth-based movement, attendees of the event witnessed the launch of Khudi’s nationwide student magazine the ‘Laaltain’ (Lantern), screening of a three minute clip introducing the movement and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] between Khudi and diverse youth groups from across the nation. The Laaltain, will provide a platform for young people across Pakistan to comment on issues of social and political relevance. Furthermore, the signed MoU stipulated a statement of vision upon which Khudi and other youth groups will work towards a more progressive, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan.
In their conversations and presentations, Noman Benotman, Oscar Morales and Maajid Nawaz shared with the audience their views on tackling the extremist mind-set in Pakistan and their experiences in dealing with international and national level extremism. Noman Benotman is a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who has rejected militancy upon his realisation that the concept of jihad had indeed been perverted. Benotman has also served as a mediator between the Libyan government and LIFG members, playing a key role in the disarmament of the militant group. He talked to the audience about the importance of using Khudi as an organized platform to combat extremism in the ideological domain. Oscar Morales is an activist who founded the One Million Voices Foundation and is best known for organising the largest anti-terrorism demonstration in the world, which mobilized over 12 million people in 200 cities against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Oscar Morales told the audience how he could relate to Pakistan’s dilemma of being perceived as a dangerous and problem-ridden country and what steps could be taken by the Pakistani youth to give voice to their opinions, through the use of social media.
Members of the media, namely, Fasi Zaka, Hamid Mir and Syed Amjad Ali discussed the negative role of the media in propogating hate speech and on the other hand, its positive role in providing a platform for freedom of speech to the people. They stated that although the media has played a very positive role in Pakistan in the last few years it must act responsibly.
Present at the launch were members of almost 20 youth groups from all four provinces of Pakistan and prominent media personalities, such as Saima Mohsin and columnist/talk show host Farrukh Khan Pitafi. In an interactive session, audience members engaged in dialogue with the speakers with regards to issues of identity, democracy, the role of religion in politics and nationalism.
Speaking about the Launch and Signing of the MoU, Khudi founder Maajid Nawaz has said: “When a group of us got together to form Khudi, we felt that Pakistan currently lacks a social initiative that would boldly challenge extremist ideology as well as support the democratic values so passionately advocated by the Quaid. In this initiative we hoped to work with as many like-minded people and organisations as possible, not just to collectively strengthen our efforts but to be an example of the unity we wish to see in this country.”
Khudi has organised regular workshops, as well as partaken in public services and civil society associations and engagements, conferences and debates since its inception in June, earlier this year. The ongoing and successful initiative Pehchaan Pakistan, in collaboration with other youth groups across Pakistan, sees Khudi team members visiting students in universities across the nation addressing key issues such as identity, nationalism, democratic governance, women’s rights and regional stability, as Khudi believes these areas are integral to the prosperity and progress of Pakistan. Khudi also believes in assisting in development and relief work. Their recent fundraising efforts for Pakistan’s flood affectees saw assistance being provided through various channels and means.
Equipped with Maajid’s in-depth knowledge of the ideology, tactics and recruitment techniques of extremist organizations, Khudi is driven by a counter-extremism strategy based on the crucial principle that the prevention of extremism is far better than simply tackling its symptoms. Through its diverse initiatives and with support from the media and the public, Khudi seeks to empower the nation’s youth to reject extremism and to stand firm for the values of progress, pluralism and human rights – values on which the foundations of Pakistan were built.