Tiga Cheick Sawadogo
Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso) (EFE).- While Burkina Faso has regularly suffered jihadist attacks since 2015, in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in this African country, a private Franco-Arab university fights against the radicalization fueled by these terrorist groups.
Called the As Salam Institute, which means “Peace” in Arabic, it teaches Islamic sciences, modern literature and translation, among other subjects, and its goal is to counter hate speech that can emanate from terrorism.
In the wide courtyard of the As Salam Institute, the wind known in the West African region as “harmattan” blows and raises a light cloud of dust, and in front of a newly built mosque stands a large two-story building: the classrooms .
In one of them, Amadou Sanogo, founder of the institute, teaches a class on peaceful coexistence between religions. The students are attentive and participate in the discussion.
This private university has been around for almost four years and, according to Sanogo, it was a response to a current need.
“Radicalization and extremism are on the rise in Burkina and, in fact, the finger is being pointed at those who speak Arabic,” Sanogo explained to EFE.
“That is why we did not want our new high school students to fall into unknown hands that could radicalize them,” adds the founder.
Teaching a tolerant Islam
The institution has opened three faculties of Modern Literature, Islamic Sciences and Translation, where they offer language courses, Koranic studies, history of religions and French and African literature.
The founder of this university is convinced that the students, once they finish their training, will be good preachers and good teachers who carry the message of peace and contribute to the development of the country.
Before the creation of the institute, Franco-Arab baccalaureate students were forced to go to Arab countries to continue their studies and returned with foreign values that were often in contradiction with the realities of Burkina Faso.
The founder affirms that it is the students who returned from studying in other countries who imported radical and intolerant Islam.
“In Burkina Faso we do not have enough Arabic-language colleges and many young people emigrate to Arab countries to continue their studies. Often they can come back with different doctrines from ours, ”says this professor.
«We want students to stay in the place of their training so that they are in tune with themselves and their environment. In this way, they can preach without contributing other doctrines that get them into trouble”, he adds.
An umbrella against indoctrination
Aboubacar Konané is an Ivorian enrolled in Islamic Sciences who decided to enroll in this university to reinforce his religious knowledge.
Here we learn that those who spread terror are not really Muslims, but impostors. Once the training is finished, even in our preaching, we know what speeches to make in the direction of peace,” Konané told EFE.
Abdramane Niamba received his doctorate in Saudi Arabia. He teaches at the As Salam Institute and believes that it is ignorance that encourages jihadism.
“I think after three or four years of training, our students will not be radicalized and they will be good at Islam because we have programs that can protect them well.” assures EFE Niamba.
“We fight against the radicalization of children and all our programs are based on tolerance, on knowing how to live together,” he adds.
Another of As Salam’s professors, Oumar Dao, told EFE that young people who go to university are safe from manipulation because they know Islam better and are more tolerant.
“Radical Islam came from outside. We are not going to single out any country, but everyone knows that this intolerance in Islam is not an African practice,” Dao said.
According to those in charge of the academic establishment, some students who have left the university have opened Franco-Arab schools throughout Burkina, where they perpetuate the tradition of a peaceful Islam open to other religions.
They regret, however, the lack of state support for these schools, which could constitute a barrier against the indoctrination of young people who join jihadist groups based on a poor understanding of Islam.