U.S. Army Central chaplains partnered with members of the Kuwaiti military and Directorate of Moral Guidance and Public Relations in a bilateral, theater security cooperation seminar focused on countering religious extremism May 1-4 in Kuwait City.
Both the United States and Kuwait have experienced the effects of violence driven by religious extremists. For Kuwait, it was as recent as June 2015 when a suicide bombing at a mosque shook Kuwait City.
The seminar gave USARCENT chaplains a forum to learn from their Kuwaiti partners and have an open discussion about misconceptions and misunderstandings created by religious extremist groups, like Daesh.
“Our Muslim partners are very willing to get up and say these acts by extremist groups are a misrepresentation of Islam and the group needs to be defeated,” said Col. Jeffrey D. Hawkins, the USARCENT command chaplain. “It’s great to experience our Muslim partners being energized to speak out.”
According to Hawkins, the seminar was a step in the direction toward future multilateral engagements with partner nations in the region focused on religious extremism.
“We would speak with one voice with our Muslim partners in the lead stating that Daesh is a misrepresentation of Islam,” said Hawkins, a native of Monticello, Illinois.
Since a key leader engagement last August, partnership with the Kuwaiti military has progressed and now the partners are working together to develop ways to counter religious extremism and discrediting groups like Daesh, said Hawkins.
The four-day seminar featured an opening dinner followed by two days of dialogue and discussion about the way ahead, said Hawkins. It concluded with a cultural exchange trip to the grand mosque in Kuwait City.
Sheikh Abdullahh M. M. Alshoreka, the secretary of the Supreme Commission for the Promotion of Moderation was a guest speaker during the seminar. He spoke of what Islam is, what it represents and the way Muslims should follow.
“Discussion is the first step to dealing with extremist thoughts,” said Alshoreka. “We all are in the same ship. Islam can work together with other religions and move forward with them.”
USARCENT consistently partners with regional nations to maintain peace and stability in the region. A multilateral symposium has been proposed which would see more Middle East and Gulf Cooperation Council partners involved, said Hawkins.
“Our commander’s vision is to cultivate and accelerate partnerships,” said Hawkins. “We are doing this to protect national interests and readiness by countering religious extremism.”