Combating terrorism through culture

Doc. 10341
19 October 2004

Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur: Mr Valéry Sudarenkov, Russia, Socialist Group

For debate in the Standing Committee — see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure


Culture can play an important role in preventing the development of a terrorist mentality, in dissuading would-be terrorists and in cutting them off from wider support. Its potential, however, is still underestimated.

Culture is also becoming increasingly a target of terrorism.

No specific world, national, regional or local culture can be qualified as terrorist but extremist interpretation of some of its elements can be invoked to justify terrorist acts.

The report puts forward a series of practical measures in all aspects of culture – the arts, heritage, religion, the media, science, education, youth and sport - aimed at promoting a culture of tolerance, dialogue, understanding, respect and pluralism, in which terrorism has no place.

I.         Draft recommendation [Link to the adopted text]

1.       Faced with the growing terrorist threat in the world, the Parliamentary Assembly stresses the need for an overall approach to combating terrorism, combining cultural with political, economic, legal and social methods. It is not a matter here of confusing blind terrorism and its innocent victims with what are sometimes acts of resistance to oppression and violation of human rights.

2.       Culture in all its aspects – the arts, heritage, religion, the media, science, education, youth and sport - can play an important role in preventing the development of a terrorist mentality, in dissuading would-be terrorists and in cutting them off from wider support. Its importance in this respect, however, is often underestimated.

3.       The basis for any cultural action against terrorism lies in understanding the complex and delicate relationship between terrorism and its cultural context.

4.       The Assembly stands resolutely against attempts to qualify any specific world, national, regional or local culture as terrorist. At the same time, under certain conditions, any society is capable of producing terrorism. Extremist interpretation of elements of a particular culture or religion, such as heroic martyrdom, sacrifice, apocalypse or holy war, as well as secular ideologies (nationalist and revolutionary), can also be invoked to justify terrorist acts.

5.       Culture is, however, also becoming increasingly a target of terrorism. Beyond the physical damage or destruction of monuments, temples or symbols of a given culture and way of life, such terrorist acts target the very cultural identity of a people or a population. They also harm a cultural heritage that is common to all people in the world.

6.       Globalisation and the information society allow unprecedented contact and interaction between peoples, ideas and cultures. Some aspects of it, however, can potentially foster terrorism and the ideologies that encourage it in several ways:

i.        the gap is increasing between rich and poor nations and populations. Poverty, oppression, disrespect for human rights, the sense of injustice and lack of brighter prospects for the future are fertile ground for any sort of violence;

ii.       the world dominance of western culture in its most coMrsrcial forms based on violence, money and sex, is perceived by more traditional societies as deeply offensive and in sharp contradiction with the high democratic standards which it is supposed to reflect;

iii.       the global village created by the modern media and the Internet means that never before have terrorist acts gained such public prominence. Terrorist acts thus appear to extremists as the most efficient and “cost-effective” means of getting a message through;

iv.      modern information technologies have also allowed far better communication and networking of terrorist groups, leading to a new form of international terrorism with an “a-territorial” and “a-cultural dimension”, even if affiliation is claimed with a particular territory or culture;

v.       dependence on information technologies has led to the appearance of cyber terrorism, threatening the functioning of modern life through manipulation of computer systems.

7.       The Assembly welcomes responsible media portrayal of terrorist acts and handling of the public debate on terrorism and encourages further discussion between media professionals on relevant deontology.

8.       Greater acceptance of terrorism is linked to the acceptability of violence as a means of conflict resolution in society in general, which the Assembly deplores.

9.       It is becoming vital to consider education not purely in quantitative but in qualitative terms, as transmission not only of knowledge but also of values and as of development of a critical mind. Education should also give opportunities for individuals to participate fully in the development of a democratic, just and equitable society in which terrorism has no place.

10.     A further challenge of education is to improve mutual understanding between different groups and cultures. The main direction and purpose of any cultural action aimed at combating terrorism should be to create a culture of tolerance, dialogue, understanding, respect and pluralism. This, in turn, would reduce the heroic aura surrounding terrorists and help eradicate public acceptance of terrorist acts.

11.     The Assembly notes that several Council of Europe projects have actively promoted such goals, for instance projects on education for democratic citizenship, on history teaching, on combating violence or on intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention. It also welcomes the Declaration on intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention adopted by the European Ministers of Culture in Opatija on 22 October 2003, the Declaration on intercultural education in the new European context adopted by the European Ministers of Education in Athens on 12 November 2003 and the ongoing work on a Declaration on freedom of expression and information in the context of the fight against terrorism. There is, however, a need for further and more concerted action by the different sectors of the Organisation.

12.     The Assembly therefore recoMrsnds that the Committee of Ministers:

i.        include relevant provisions on the role of culture in a future comprehensive Council of Europe Convention Against Terrorism, as already recoMrsnded by the Assembly;

ii.       ensure co-ordinated action between the Council of Europe bodies involved in the fight against terrorism and in culture;

iii.       organise a European conference on combating terrorism through culture with the involvement of other European and international bodies;

iv.      make intercultural and interreligious dialogue and conflict prevention one of the main areas of activity of the Council of Europe and provide for this in the Action Plan and in the final Declaration to be adopted by the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe;

v.       develop, or further strengthen, projects aimed at:

a.       encouraging intellectual reflection and research on terrorism and culture in order to understand further and monitor the causes and development of terrorism;

b.       developing educational prograMrss aimed at better knowledge of different cultures and religions and ensure that this extends beyond the European dimension;

c.       continuing its work on history teaching and the revision of school books and extend it to the countries neighbouring Europe in order to reduce prejudice and  stereotypes and remove incitements to terrorism;

d.       encouraging discussion on terrorism among the younger generation; supporting international youth work as a way of experiencing intercultural dialogue; further developing youth projects on conflict prevention and the promotion of a culture of peace;

e.       developing human rights education and education for citizenship, thereby creating better understanding of human rights and of the ways of protecting them;

f.        ensuring that states, in their policy towards the media and the Internet, strike the right balance between protection of human rights and the fight against terrorism;

g.       guaranteeing in all member states an appropriate legal and political framework for free expression and true representation of all opinions, political views, religious beliefs and cultural minorities;

h.       developing intercommunal cultural activities as a way of relieving tension between communities ;

i.        promoting understanding and tolerance by encouraging the distribution of cultural and audiovisual works from other parts of the world and supporting mobility and exchanges of artists, performers, scholars and scientists;

vi.      design cultural projects targeting specific critical areas of tension and potential terrorism in Europe;

vii.      support and actively contribute to the creation of international instruments on cultural diversity, co-operation and dialogue;

viii.     enhance dialogue and cultural co-operation between European and neighbouring countries, along the lines of Assembly Resolution 1313 (2003) and Recommendation 1590 (2003) on Cultural co-operation between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries.

II.       Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Sudarenkov


1.       Terrorism has become a problem of global proportions, drawing an ever growing number of countries into its orbit. Terrorism kills people, threatens democratic institutions, undermines the economy and destabilises regions.  It is not confined to individual countries.  What is needed is a unified system for combating terrorism, and it is important that any action against terrorism be comprehensive in nature. The system of combating and suppressing terrorism in the modern world must include legal, organisational, financial and security measures, but also action on the cultural front.

2.       The feasibility, importance and effectiveness of a long-term approach to cultural factors in understanding and combating terrorism are largely underestimated and considered insufficiently important.  Yet it could be said that lack of attention to the cultural side of the fight against terrorism prevents us from forming a profound and full understanding of how the problem is likely to develop in future, and hence from devising measures to prevent and suppress both domestic and international terrorist activities.

3.       Culture in all its aspects – such at least as they are now defined by the Assembly:  the arts, heritage, religion, the media, science, education, youth and sport – may be seen as a means of avoidance in the short term, and of deterrence in the long term.

Terrorism as a social phenomenon

4.       Terrorism is the targeted, systematic use of large-scale, socially dangerous and socially significant force or the threat of its use against society, the state or individuals in order to force them to comply with the political, religious, national/ethnic, territorial or other demands of those carrying out the terrorist acts.

5.       The nature and objectives of terrorism have radically changed in relation to their earlier forms.  Deeply embedded in the modern world, terrorism reflects some of the worst problems of society and targets the most sophisticated aspects of that society using state-of-the-art methods.  Modern-day terrorists employ a wide range of technologies against a hi-tech world.  Another important new departure is that terrorism now has a dual, “a-territorial”, “a-cultural” dimension, even though it may claim affiliation with a particular territory or culture.

6.       As a social phenomenon, terrorism is an ideology, policy and social practice adopted by groups or individuals with a view to attaining a particular goal through unlawful, violent methods.  Social problems, if left untreated, can lead to the emergence of a deep social divide, wide disparities in material welfare and human rights and can serve as a precondition for public frustration, social disadvantage and marginalisation.

7.       One of the main trends in modern-day terrorism is the expansion of its social base, the involvement in terrorist activities of a significant number of people from various sections of society, the emergence of fairly stable groups of “sympathisers”, ie persons who, to a greater or lesser extent, share the political aspirations of certain terrorist organisations and are prepared to lend them their support.

8.       Contemporary conditions and the purposes for which terrorism is employed in political struggles at national (state) and international levels have led to an important change in the nature of terrorism, characterised by:

i. the intensification in some countries and even regions of inter-ethnic conflict, leading to a sharp rise in extremist and separatist forms of nationalism,  involving wide sections of the population;

ii. the spread in various parts of the world of inter-faith conflict and the emergence of religious and political extremism, leading to the development of persistent sources of political conflict between states and within states, involving large numbers of ordinary men and women;

iii. the intensification in many parts of the world of regional separatist movements, the emergence of multiple armed struggles aimed at bringing about a change in the state system in a number of countries, changes in the constitutional status of these countries, unlawful changes in the internal borders of a number of existing states and often too in their international borders;

iv. the spread of drugs and arms trafficking and rising crime; the convergence, interpenetration and in some cases even the merging of terrorist activities with transnational organised crime.  This is helping to greatly enhance the financial, material and purely operational capabilities of terrorist organisations, and to strengthen their infrastructure.

9.       Increased migration flows have sparked negative reactions from some sections of the population, leading to intense interethnic conflict and the rise of extremism.

10.     An extensive system of terrorist organisations is emerging.  This system is based on well-thought-out, long-term strategic goals derived from the ideology of terrorism, and is designed to ensure the utmost effectiveness in accomplishing those goals.  Within the ranks of the terrorists themselves, we are seeing a growing number of mercenaries, i.e. professional killers who have undergone special training and offer their services on the international terrorism market.

11.     Some contemporary terrorist organisations choose to operate under a religious banner, playing on people’s faith and appealing to the most sensitive and profound elements of the human mind.

12.     There is no such thing as religious terrorism, only terrorism disguised as religious dogma.  Cases where religious dogma is used as a pretext for committing large-scale criminal acts sharply highlight the need to build an adequate and effective system of measures to counter this threat, without, however, resorting to violence or intimidating entire populations.

13.     One very important and dangerous trend in contemporary terrorism is the increasingly close link between state, international and domestic terrorism.

14.     Terrorist acts are like theatrical events. All the features of the “performance”, being an integral part of the act, constitute a means of presenting a particular terrorist group to society.  Organisations operating as a source of terror are always very concerned with the public’s response to their actions.  The sources of terror that pose the greatest threat to society are those which have a subtle understanding of the information sector, and are highly sensitive to any changes in this area.

Open questions about a complex relationship

15.     A number of questions need to be addressed, the brief answers to which may afford us a better insight into the complex relationship between terrorism and culture.  Five such questions may be asked:

i.        Is culture one of the foundations of terrorism?

ii.        Is culture a primary target of terrorism?

iii.       How does cultural globalisation foster terrorism?

iv.       Can culture be used as a preventive weapon against terrorism?

v.       Can culture play a specific role in the aftermath of a terrorist attack?

i) Is culture one of the foundations of terrorism?

16.     Clearly, the use of religion by the promoters of contemporary terrorism gives cause to suppose that a certain type of aggravated, instigated terrorism, open to all manner of manipulation, is inspired by particular cultural reference points, and that these elements of a particular culture may serve as a basis for terrorism.

17.     Although this phenomenon is extremely difficult to identify and define, and although it would be more accurate to speak in terms of terrorists rather than terrorism, it is undeniably the case that some forms of absolute, ultimate commitment are founded upon a culture of sacrifice.  This is fuelled by a conception of the role of the individual as a victim and operates on the axiom:  “I will die a martyr:  by my act, I am contributing to the victory of my cause and becoming a part of a culture shared by those who fight by my side or support me”.  Such attitudes give rise to what experts refer to as a “suicide culture” (based on a philosophy of action and constructed upon a culture of violence).

18.     In the light of the above, it is also clear that once culture begins to operate as an ideology or, in other words, to provide grist for the mill of militant commitment, it becomes a platform, the basis on which certain terrorist acts may be justified.  Such cases, however, cannot be used to support the theory of a clash of civilisations.  There is no culture of death or terror that is exclusive to one particular civilisation (if this term is to have any meaning and, from a scientific point of view, it does not).  All societies are capable of producing terrorism, including forms based on religion.  It goes without saying that this aspect is by no means specific to Islam.

ii) Is culture a primary target of terrorism?

19.     Without wishing to delve more deeply into the reasons that might explain why culture is a primary target of terrorism, the answer to this question will be given simply in the form of a number of examples.  It will be seen that while the targets were always human or material and the aim was to create a climate of fear through an act of terror, in every case there was also a secondary objective or subtext, namely culture.

20.     First example: on 17 November 1997, a group claiming to be members of the radical fundamentalist group, Gama’a Islamiya, killed 58 foreign tourists in the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt.  The aim of the attack was clear:  to stem the flow of tourism revenues into Egypt in order to destabilise the government of President Hosni Mubarak.   There was, then, a political agenda behind the atrocity, but this philosophy of action had two starting points:  religion (the reference to radical Islamism to justify the act) and culture (the attack was carried out in a place that is part of the world cultural heritage).

21.     Second example: on 24 October 2002, a group of 41 Chechens took 800 members of the audience hostage in a Moscow theatre during the performance of a musical comedy.  The choice of target was clearly not random:  the presence of many foreigners in the audience that evening guaranteed worldwide media coverage, but once again, culture served as a backdrop to the attack.

22.     ?hird example: attacks on places of worship.  These are proliferating. If, however, it is agreed that religion and religious practices are components of culture in general and that guaranteeing their existence and freedom of expression is an element of human rights, one can only observe to what extent terrorism, whether or not it claims allegiance to a particular belief or religion, takes as its target a central element of culture:  another religion which needs to be terrorised.

23.     Fourth example: on 1 September 2004 a barbaric terrorist act was committed in the town of Beslan (North Ossetia, Russia). More than 1100 school children and their parents were taken hostage. According to recent information, more than 330 people died.

iii) How does cultural globalisation foster terrorism?

24.     Since over the past fifteen years or so the world has experienced a sharp increase in exchanges and the boom in new information and communication technologies has turned the planet into a global village, in which everything can become instant hot news, it is tragically logical that terrorism and the culture of the iMrsdiate should be constructing a complex dialectic with dramatic effects.  There is no need to expatiate here on the showbiz society and its cultural ramifications.  Let us simply agree that in such a context, in a visual culture where image is all,  what will prevail is the aesthetics of television and the endless broadcasting of images of one event or another.  Naturally one thinks here of 9/11 and the repeated broadcast of the planes crashing into the World Trade Centre.  Henceforth the perpetrators of any terrorist action know that they must take care to stage-manage their attacks.  Particularly revealing in this respect has been the ongoing polemic about the video recordings that Islamist extremist groups in Iraq make when they execute hostages and their subsequent showing, or not, on television and on the Internet.

25.     There is another element that associates cultural globalisation with terrorism:  the conflict between universalism and particularism.  As soon as cultural globalisation appears de facto, even in a totally caricatured way, to be a homogenisation of cultures which in reality means the domination of cultural behaviour by the country producing this culture (film industry, music, ways of life), groups hostile to this process develop a strategy of estrangement, aimed at destroying the external, ostentatious signs of the imported culture.  The latter becomes the embodiment of the super-power, and salvation is seen to lie in its destruction.

26.     This problem is compounded by the fact that the dominant Western culture, or at least the one which is the best exported, is increasingly viewed by the rest of the word as being based on violence, sex and money. It may well be hailed as a beacon of human rights, but in its most coMrsrcialised form, prompted by globalisation, it is often viewed as deeply offensive and unacceptable to more traditional societies. This “cultural shock” is a potential source of violence and the world has already witnessed attacks against symbols of Western culture and way of life.

iv) Can culture be used as a preventive weapon against terrorism?

27.     Obviously, the purpose of this report is to answer this question in the affirmative, but if one looks at how things are in reality, rather than in theory, one iMrsdiately realises how abstract and formal this same affirmative answer may be. One point which needs to be emphasised, even if it makes it still more difficult to deal with the question of terrorism, is that the international terrorism of which the most spectacular attacks of the last ten years can be said to be examples, requires a high degree of logistical and technological expertise.  Investigation into the backgrounds of those responsible for the 9/11 attacks soon confirms one hypothesis:  most of the suicide attackers involved in the operation were well-educated intellectuals and many of them had attended American or European higher education establishments.

28.     Admittedly, this is an extreme case, but it is one that eloquently demonstrates that culture cannot guard against everything, and that just as architects, conductors and professors have been used to implement state terror, so too, in order to mount attacks, terrorism can mobilise cultivated people whose philosophy of action has consisted in pitting their culture against another culture, their world against another world, represented as a single enemy.

29.     In the majority of cases, however, where attacks are committed simply by suicide bombers and do not require meticulous, complex planning, the perpetrators tend to come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds. Their situation is one conducive to desperate acts encouraged by a few inspired leaders.

20.     The shameless imbalance between rich and poor countries and between rich and poor within individual countries in the Third World, and the monopoly on power exercised by a few oligarchies over ever poorer civil societies, societies increasingly condemned to extreme poverty, makes such societies highly responsive to the first call for liberation made in their direction and ready to enter into armed conflict with the enemies pointed to as oppressors.  The same effect can be achieved through persistent and systematic violation of a population’s human rights.  Terrorism then becomes the preferred weapon.  It is undeniable therefore that terrorism finds in extreme poverty and lack of essential culture the fertile soil it needs in order to develop.  It feeds on ignorance and intellectual, cultural and psychological poverty.

31.     The conclusion to be drawn from this is that culture as a weapon for preventing terrorism must be part of a coherent, co-ordinated public policy.  That is the thrust of the Declaration on intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention that the ministers responsible for cultural affairs, representing the member states party to the European Cultural Convention, adopted in Opatija on 22 October 2003.

v) Can culture play a specific role in the aftermath of a terrorist attack?

32.     The assertion by the German philosopher Adorno that there could be no culture after Auschwitz is striking and fascinating.  Could it be transposed to a particular terrorist act?  The central question at issue here concerns the management of the aftermath, both for the victims who have suffered physically and psychologically and for those close to them, and more broadly for the peoples, generations and social groups who have witnessed such indefensible acts.

33.     It is worth emphasising how important it may be to use all forms of culture in order to try again to pick up the severed threads of dialogue in the aftermath of such events.  The more existing tensions between communities are exacerbated by terrorist acts committed by individuals or groups from one of those communities, the greater the need to create more spaces where the communities in question can meet, and expand the opportunities for getting to know the culture of the community simplistically associated with a particular act of terrorism.

34.     When the risk that one culture or another may be stigmatised arises on the false pretext that it carries the seeds of potential terrorism, it becomes a matter of urgency to shatter the stereotypes, explain that there is no such thing as a culture that is terrorist per se and that no culture is built on violent opposition towards other cultures.  It is then, in such circumstances, that it becomes absolutely imperative to see that the debate pitting civilisations against one another has no intellectual, cultural or political foundation and is therefore worthless.

The anti-terrorist potential of contemporary culture

35.     Terrorism has its roots in cultural malfunction.  It is vital that military, political and legal mechanisms for combating terrorism be supplemented by other methods based on anti-terrorist cultural engineering.  Improving the level of education cannot in itself be regarded as a failsafe method of combating terrorism, just as it cannot be unequivocally asserted that terrorism is always anti-cultural.  Terrorism can be compatible with cultural values and education, but only with uniquely modified cultural values and education that has been organised in a particular way.

36.     Culture offers tremendous potential for combating terrorism.  This potential includes a cultural content that aims to foster modern, democratic, tolerant and friendly relations between people, both within states and at international level.

37.     Culture has a bearing both on domestic (intra-state) terrorism and on international terrorism.  In the spiritual sphere, certain ideas, theories and conceptions can lead to terrorism or, conversely, help counteract it.  Psychologically speaking, terrorism can be caused by social, religious or ethnic intolerance, enmity and hatred.

38.     By contrast, virtues such as tolerance and good neighbourliness serve significantly to reduce the scope for terrorist actions.

39.     Culture is a factor both in containing terrorism and in overcoming it.  The development of forms of state and international organisation, the globalisation of social relations, the spread of universal values and pluralism in the spiritual and religious sphere and the improvement in national/ethnic relations are increasingly helping to deprive contemporary terrorism of soil in which to grow.  The progressive, civilised development of society, culture and inter-state relations is ever more likely to supplant terrorism as a way of resolving social conflict.

40.     Fostering anti-terrorist attitudes, behaviour, aspirations and activities is a long and complex process.  It requires concerted action by all sections of the state and civil society, the international community and all components of cultural activity:  political, economic and environmental; social; legal; national/ethnic; religious; education and information; intra-state and inter-state culture; civil society culture and citizenship culture.  It also involves the whole set of public beliefs, attitudes and behaviour which exclude violence and actively promote tolerance and understanding.

41.     Moral decline and the associated spread of problems such as drug trafficking are a potential catalyst for extremism and terrorism.  Action against the spread of drugs needs to become a major plank in the fight against international terrorism; drug money must not be allowed to serve as a source of funding for terrorist organisations.

42.     Tolerance as a social phenomenon of contemporary community life.  An essential requirement for the dynamic growth of political tolerance is a law-governed state, civil society and a democratic environment.  There is a pressing need to develop proper ethical and deontological standards for the entire media system.  Tolerance is an integral part of morality.  One positive move in this direction was the decision taken by Unesco in 1995 to proclaim 16 November as the International Day of Tolerance.

43.     Terrorist acts are crimes of the utmost gravity and states have a special duty to the victims of such acts.  There is a need for state prograMrss to provide assistance for the victims of terrorism.

44.     The state should constantly ensure that its legislation meets all these challenges in the most democratic way and, at the same time, develop its citizens’ sense of justice.  The lack of specific criteria on international terrorism makes it impossible to determine lawfully which states and organisations are accessories to terrorism.

45.     Communication technologies can be a social and psychological means of achieving a particular goal by influencing people’s minds.  We have even seen the emergence of concepts such as “information weapon”, “information wars” and “information terrorism”.

46.     Another facet of conducting information wars is cyberterrorism, or the criminal use of telecommunication networks.  The purpose of these acts is to obtain, destroy or alter information.  Cyberterrorism poses a real threat to society.  In such cases, as well as legal action, measures designed to give greater attention to social psychology and self-improvement may prove highly effective.

47.     The media can also be an effective weapon against terrorism, particularly when it is used as a communication channel providing impartial, verified information; the media must not be allowed to become an instrument for extremist activities, disseminating information about the technology of producing weapons, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices, or for broadcasting prograMrss which promote the cult of violence and cruelty.

48.     One contemporary methodological approach being employed in education is to integrate pedagogy with national and global culture.  The humanisation of international action through the humanisation of education is an imperative requirement for the third millennium.

49.     Modern pedagogical thinking needs to be geared towards instilling maximum belief in the responsibility of human reason for what happens around us, and giving education an ethical content, since content cannot be purely cognitive, entirely devoid of any ethical sense; indeed, the ethical may be said to be the primary element in content.

50.     The humanisation of education is a vital prerequisite and an instrument for the development of civilised relations between generations, peoples and nations.  The process of humanisation serves as a strategic pointer and fundamental principle in developing pedagogical and educational theory and practice.  The basic premise of humanism is that the individual is an end, not a means.  The purpose of education is to produce individuals who evolve in harmony with themselves and the world around them.

51.     Issues related to upbringing and, more specifically, moral issues, are increasingly to the fore.  Indeed, there may be said to be an indissoluble link between spirituality and education/culture.  “Spiritual life” here implies not just its basic elements, such as ideology, science, culture, forms of knowledge and education but also various social institutions – scientific establishments, libraries, museums, the media – ie everything that goes into the production and consumption of a particular society’s spiritual values.

52.     As far as possible, education should be an open system:  any attempt to isolate it or render it inaccessible will create a fertile environment for the forces of conservatism and nationalism, and contribute to the growth of aggression.

53.     Education shapes and develops individuals within a system of co-ordinates based on universal values.  Indeed, giving individuals access to culture through education may be seen as a value in itself.  Raising individuals to be active and critical participants in the cultural and historical process is the overall aim of education.  At the same time, it is one of the main ways of preserving and developing culture.  In this sense, too, it – i.e. education as a process – is a way of sustaining the civilised aspect of human existence and of culture itself.

54.     Education may be seen as a goal, outcome, process, form and means of assimilation of culture in general and spirituality in particular.  Spirituality determines individuals’ awareness, their perception of the world around them and, ultimately, their actions.  This issue will continue to be crucial in the future as, in addressing the question of the development of individuals’ spiritual outlook, it also determines the outlook of the time.

55.     Education is increasingly defined by individuals’ social functions.  This trend, ie the shift from form to assessment of education as a key component of human existence, is central to the new methods employed when rethinking the fundamental concept of pedagogy.  Education is seen here as an active component in constructing the internal and external dimensions of human existence, i.e. the anthropological approach is increasingly to the fore when it comes to examining the goals, values and nature of education.

56.     First and foremost, education must be culturally “attuned”, in that it is determined by the socio-cultural experience, history and culture of the society in which it operates.  Education in terms of its intended purpose and nature (in the broad sense of the term) is a necessary condition for the civilised existence and development of individuals and society; it is a way of acculturating and humanising individuals, a means whereby humankind can have a cultural existence.

57.     Culture is one of the main objectives of national and universal teaching.  It forms the basic substance of education, and the degree to which it is assimilated by individuals, peoples and nations is a measure of the effectiveness of the educational process.  Education is in turn a means whereby culture can exist and develop, in understanding and assimilating the phenomenon of which people grow and develop as particular types of individuals.  Culture, in forming individuals and raising them above nature, is also the main condition for the development of a harmonious relationship with the outside world and with other individuals.  The active, creative assimilation by the individual of world culture and his or her own people lays the foundations for the harmonious resolution of interethnic problems as well.

58.     Genuine (humanistic) education moulds and develops individuals in a spirit of tolerance towards other cultures, other ways of life, acts as a bulwark against aggression and violence and is a key factor in combating individual, national and global terrorism.  Human activity and behaviour are unique in that they are relatively free from genetic influences and depend to a far greater extent on the desire to learn, the ability to analyse and choose for oneself various types of behaviour and lifestyles, thereby creating one’s own inimitable mode of living.  In the final analysis, this depends on the culture and the educational environment in which the individual develops.  One question which is related to this and which has still not been resolved in the practice of child welfare and education is: how can entire generations, who have been sucked into the process of violence, learn to put the experience behind them, so as to ensure that their children have the opportunity to grow up without violence?  Past examples of man-made disasters indicate that the experience of violence and destruction tends to be passed on to the next generation, even in cases where parents have never openly subjected their children to abuse.

59.     Educated people tend to be active and rational in terms of how they interact with their environment, and in resisting evil, aggression and terrorism.  They take responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions, and are apt to form genuinely humane relations with others, irrespective of their nationality, race, religion or other affiliations.  Educated people are respectful of other cultures, willing to listen to their interlocutors and disinclined to impose (still less force) their opinions on particular issues, as they do not regard them as the only true and absolute reality.

60.     Educated people are altruists, that is to say, terrorists cannot be educated people.  What matters here, moreover, is not so much the amount of knowledge a person possesses, as how they relate to and deal with that knowledge, and how they see the purpose of knowledge and culture both for themselves and for others.  The ideal attributes of an educated person may be summarised as follows:  a firm commitment to acquiring the necessary grounding in science and the arts; the ongoing quest for truth; a high level of proficiency in national and world culture; and a commitment to the ennoblement of human nature in the pursuit of spiritual, moral and scientific truths.

61.     It is customary to speak of individuals in conjunction with their culture and education.  In Plato’s “Phaedrus”, Socrates exclaims “grant me to become beautiful in the inner man”.  Dostoyevsky’s dictum, which has its roots in the teachings of Plato, “The Beautiful will save us!” offers us the only peaceful route whereby civilised mankind can combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. This beauty “grows” through culture and education, which are both a bulwark against terrorism and, at the same time, the most effective means of combating it.

62.  Alternatively, public demand for cultural products can be formed through the development of aesthetic awareness and education.  This route helps to instil deep-seated aesthetic, cultural and moral values in individuals.  It is a lengthy process, and one which yields few rewards, yet it has to be part of the social development strategy of any state concerned to ensure public security:  the preservation of the uniqueness of the people and their cultural and historical integrity.  No state today can afford to ignore the importance of developing the cultural way of life of its population.

Towards recommendations

63.     The Council of Europe must do everything in its power to encourage the organisation’s member states to ratify every existing international instrument on action against terrorism.  Much is at stake:  terrorism seeks to create a climate of fear through large-scale violent action, but it also has an overriding objective, namely to destroy democracy as practised by the member states of Council of Europe and, consequently, to destroy the culture of human rights which is at the very heart of the democratic political system advocated by the organisation.

64.     At the same time, the Council of Europe could consider drawing up a new European Convention:  culture against terrorism as a way of bringing together and developing further the relevant provisions of its European Convention on the suppression of terrorism, European Cultural Convention and European Convention on Cybercrime.

65.     The following cultural aims could form the substance of this document:

a)       when combating terrorism, use a complex approach combining cultural, economic, political, social, legal and security measures;

b)       when dealing with national/ethnic problems, preclude the tendency to resort to terrorism;

c)       in domestic law, seek to develop new, more effective methods of addressing social and national/ethnic issues;

d)       make maximum use of the existing potential of international voluntary and religious organisations in order to tackle the causes of terrorism;

e)       promote the family as a social unit which precludes social violence, both within the family and outside it;

f)        when creating cultural works, in the media and on the internet, avoid the cult of terrorism, in all its various forms;

g)       within the education process, step up the anti-terrorist component of information, and include a section on reporting on terrorism in journalism courses;

h)       encourage exchange of best practices amongst media professionals and enhance dialogue between the media and other concerned sectors about media and internet coverage of terrorist acts and anti-terrorist operations;

i)        encourage and provide better guarantees for investigative journalism shedding light not only on terrorist acts, but also on other associated crimes (drug trafficking, illegal trade in arms, radioactive materials, strains of particularly virulent diseases);

j)        constantly seek to raise awareness in order to encourage members of the public to actively support and assist law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism;

k)       carry out continuous monitoring, prevention and control measures to deal with mass extremism;

l)        set up international councils (commissions) to combat terrorist ideology and other manifestations of extremism, thereby providing a forum where representatives of political parties, voluntary and religious organisations, the media, security and law enforcement agencies can work together;

m)      engage in constructive dialogue with the different religious communities on improving the anti-terrorist potential in community life.

66.     The cultural weapon against terrorism could be applied using three different approaches to combating terrorism:  confrontation, containment and prevention.

a)       encourage intellectual debate on terrorism and its relationship with culture in order to gain a better insight into its causes and development.  By enlisting the help of leading European and world experts, the Council of Europe might usefully organise an expert colloquy on this subject;

b)       the Council of Europe should also ensure co-ordinated action between the Council of Europe bodies involved in the fight against terrorism and in culture and should likewise organise a European conference on combating terrorism through culture with the involvement of other European and international bodies;

c)       intercultural and interreligious dialogue should be one of the main areas of activity of the Council of Europe and relevant provision for this should be made in the Action Plan and in the final Declaration to be adopted by the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe;

d)       promote cultural diversity and respect for intercultural dialogue.  The terms of the Opatija Declaration (22 October 2003) should be reaffirmed by the Parliamentary Assembly, which could draw on that document to produce a formal RecoMrsndation designed to defend cultural diversity as a means of eradicating terrorism planned by ethnic or religious minorities.  The Council of Europe should also support and actively contribute to the creation of international instruments on cultural diversity, cooperation and dialogue;

e)       develop educational prograMrss aimed at providing better knowledge of different cultures and religions and ensure that this extends beyond the European dimension.  Such promotion of science, culture and education should take place in co-operation with the NGOs present in sensitive areas, with refugee populations, which are known to be fertile recruiting grounds for those who inspire terrorist acts;

f)        help to circumvent violent acts by some ethnic minority or other in Europe or elsewhere by urging governments genuinely to address economic problems and the enormous gaps in standards of living within European countries and between member states and states outside the Council of Europe.  The Council of Europe should develop intercommunal cultural activities as a way of relieving tension between communities and design cultural projects targeting specific critical areas of potential terrorism in Europe. It is also important to continue its work on history teaching and the revision of school books and extend it to the countries bordering Europe;

g)       foster exchange among the younger generation.  It is essential that the Parliamentary Assembly help to raise awareness of the fact that exchanges among young people, be they cultural or sporting, are all opportunities for people to meet, mix and participate in exchanges.  It is no accident that one of the first changes in habits and ways of life leaders of terrorist groups require of their recruits is that they should stop listening to music and playing team sports, etc.  Terrorist movements function as closed worlds or ghetto parties, to use the terminology of political scientists who use it to refer to fanatical groups where everything in provided from the cradle to the grave and which recruits never leave for fear that they will fall prey to the evil influence of the world outside, in other words, that the very foundations of the group will be questioned;

h)       ensure that human rights are not seen as an instrument whereby Western culture dominates all other cultures.  Europe has a special responsibility here:  it was Europe that invented human rights and saw to it that they became one of the cornerstones of the United Nations Charter, so Europe has a duty to ensure that, when attacked, those principles are defended.  That is also the function of the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights.  Now, however, in the name of philosophical and political principles other than those contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights, these fundamental values established as universal intangible standards are seen as synonymous with the domination of one part of the world over the rest.  It is the duty of the Council of Europe to oppose this thesis by any means it sees fit.  The culture of human rights again needs to be strengthened and defended.  Human rights education should therefore be further developed, thereby contributing to a better understanding of human rights and ways of protecting them;

i)        encourage the European media (radio and television, the press, internet sites) to develop cultural and education prograMrss for sensitive populations (cultural, ethnic and disadvantaged minorities) to ensure that such populations (most of which are young) do not receive through satellite broadcasts a one-sided message, which is usually a caricature and encourages a culture of rejection rather than one based on openness. Governments should equally ensure that in their policy towards the media and the internet, a proper balance is achieved between protection of human rights and the fight against terrorism;

j)        the Council of Europe should begin examining forms of terrorism related to the technological nature of contemporary society and cyberspace.  It should study the effects of ever more sophisticated and hence ever less controllable technologies, both in terms of their use to combat terrorism and as a potential terrorist threat.  Contemporary forms of terrorism obviously have many surprises in store for us.  While chemical and biological threats have already manifested themselves (albeit ultimately without any serious consequences) in the shape of the anthrax scare shortly after 11 September 2001, thus showing that there could be a non-explosive but still more dangerous terrorist threat, it is important to bear in mind that threats such as cyber-attacks connected with the internet and other types of systems associated with new information and communication technologies are vastly underestimated at present;

k)       the Council of Europe should enhance dialogue and cultural cooperation between European and neighbouring countries, along the lines of Assembly Resolution 1313 (2003) and Recommendation 1590 (2003) on cultural co-operation between Europe and the south Mediterranean countries.

Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Reference to committee: Doc. 9622, renvoi n° 2782 du 18.11.2002

Draft recommendation adopted by the committee on 7 October 2004 with one abstention

Members of the Committee: de Puig (Chariman), Hooper. Prisacaru, Smorawinski (Vice-Chair), Apostoli, Banks, Barbieri, Bemelmans-Videc, Berceanu, Bilic, Bojovic, Braga, Brasseur, Buzatu, Colombier, Cubreacov, Dalgaard, Damanaki, Debono Grech (Alternate: Falzon), Devinski, Dromberg, Eymer, Fernández-Capel (Alternate: Becerril), Friöleilfdottir, Gadzinowski (Alternate: Pol), Goutry, Grachev, Gross, Gündüz I, Gündüz S, Hadziahmetovic, Henry, Howlin, Huseynov R, Iannuzzi, Jakic, Jarab, Kocharian, Kozma, LegendreLengagne, Letzgus, Livaneli, Lucyga, Malgieri, Marxer, McNamara, Melandri, Melnikov (Alternate: Fomenko), Mestan, Mezihorak, Milotinova, Morganti, Muttonen, Nakashidze, Nazaré Pereira, O’Hara, Ohlsson, Papadimitriou, Pericleous Papadopoulos, Rakhansky, Randegger, Reps, Ribera Ambatlle, Rockenbauer (Alternate: Szabo), Rugate, Rybak, Samoilovska-Cvetanova (Alternate: Petrova-Mitevska), Schneider, Serna, Shybko, Šileikis, Skarbĝvik, Skoch (Alternate: Korobeynikov), Stojadinovic, Sudarenkov, Szczyglo (Alternate: Podgorski), van Thijn, Vakilov (Alternate: Mirzazada), Westerlund Panke, Wodarg, ZZ (Austria), ZZ (Serbia and Montenegro)

N.B. The names of those present at the meeting are printed in bold

Head of secretariat: Mr Grayson

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul, Mr Chahbazian

[1] The Rapporteur expresses particular appreciation and thanks to the Consultant Expert, Mr Jean Petaux, from Sciences Po Bordeaux, for his assistance in the production of the report . For a compendium of Council of Europe texts on the subject, see “The fight against terrorism”, Council of Europe publishing, 2003.