Japan’s education system and its aid for education elsewhere in Asia could help in the international fight against terrorism, according to a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies.
Speaking at a university campus in California via teleconference to audiences in various parts of Japan on Friday, Donald Emmerson said Japanese economic assistance programs in general can play an important role in the region.
He said such aid would not only help reduce poverty — considered a major breeding ground of terrorism — but also provide proper education to people who otherwise may not have a chance to learn how to counter temptations to join groups that advocate violence.
“Critical thinking is essential to one’s ability to resist conspiracy . . . and propaganda from terrorist organizations,” said Emmerson, a specialist on Indonesia. “It is easy to take an uneducated individual and twist their mind.”
He gave an example of the situation in Pakistan, where he said there is “a direct causal relationship” between violence and the proliferation of extremist educational institutions.
Good education systems such as Japan’s can help prevent such teaching from spreading, Emmerson said.
“We know that the Japanese educational system, particularly at an early level . . . has been extraordinarily successful,” he said. “In many respects, American educators admire the accomplishments of that system.”
The Japan-born researcher said Indonesia is fortunate in that the vast majority of its largely Muslim population is moderate and that extremist education there is less rampant than in other countries, such as Pakistan.
He said Japan and the United States can cooperate in providing education and economic improvements to people living in poverty around the world who may join terrorist groups just because “they have nothing to lose.”
As for efforts to deter terrorist activities, Emmerson said multilateral cooperation is essential for dealing with people willing to die for their beliefs and will likely think little, if at all, of threats of force against them.
He emphasized the importance of private-sector representatives taking part in diplomatic efforts to counter terrorist activities, because they can contribute a great deal to policymaking and coordination among states.
Emmerson, who received his doctorate and graduate degrees in political science from Yale University, was connected by videophone with Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.
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