CAIRO — Egyptian authorities are arranging youth seminars throughout the country to shed light on national security concepts and warn against fourth-generation warfare (4GW).
There are various definitions of 4GW. But, as described by Ahmed Minshawi, vice president for graduate studies and research at Assiut University in southern Egypt, fourth-generation warfare doesn't involve military machinery, but rather deploys false information and rumors to sow strife among citizens and weaken the country’s capabilities. It's the concept of destroying a country from within.
“Such a modern war seeks to alter the mindsets of the youths in the targeted country. By circulating rumors, they affect the moral and psychological state of the citizens, particularly the youths," he told Al-Monitor by phone.
He pointed out that Assiut University, after coordinating with Egyptian security agencies, held a number of seminars in 2019 on 4GW and its potential impact on Egypt. The government and security institutions have instructed all Egyptian universities to intensify their seminars and symposiums on this topic.
Minshawi said the university held a two-part seminar Oct. 10. The first lecture was titled “Critical thought, its role in 4GW, and the university’s role in countering false consciousness and fragmented religious discourse campaigns.” The second addressed “The Middle East wars, an instrument of psychological war, and their correlation with phony wars and stages of their development."
Nation’s Future Party Chairman Ashraf Rashad told Al-Monitor his party has helped organize multiple seminars to raise awareness about 4GW. On Oct. 20, the party held events in a number of provinces. In the same vein, Free Egyptians Party Chairman Essam Khalil arranged for a seminar Sept. 25 in Alexandria province about the correlation between 4GW and information technology.
Minia University also held a seminar Oct. 16 on 4GW featuring Abdul Majid Amin, dean of the school's Computers and Information Department. The seminar was attended by other professors and university students.
El-Balad News reported that leaders of that seminar also noted that fourth-generation tools include psychological and guerrilla warfare, and economic pressure such as interfering with a country's stock market, currency and tourism sector. They added that 4GW can also aim to destabilize a country by spreading conspiracy theories to raise suspicions about the armed forces, police and political leaders.
Psychological warfare is of major importance in any war and mainly relies on rumors, according to a seminar held Oct. 2 at Cairo University. Speaking to Al-Monitor recently by phone, university President Mohamed Othman Elkhosht said that seminar was one of several the school has held in recent months on related topics. He noted that 4GW mainly targets people's mindsets and seeks to mislead, discourage and make Egyptians feel helpless and question the political leadership’s abilities, he added.
He noted that the most recent seminar Cairo University held was Nov. 2 and focused on evaluating the information and language staffs at Egyptian universities. It also stressed the importance of the media in identifying 4GW and the need to develop students' ability to counter misinformation, he added.
Cairo University launched a project last year to develop the Egyptian mindset for this purpose, and establish the Egyptian identity. The project aims to rectify the tendency of some Egyptians to quickly accept and circulate rumors.
However, not everyone thinks the education effort is positive.
Ammar Ali Hassan, a professor of social and political science at Helwan University, believes seminars backed by pro-regime professors, military leaders and political parties are part of the political regime’s attempts to promote anti-West conspiracies. Speaking with Al-Monitor by phone, Hassan said these sponsors see the seminars as an authoritarian means of culturally and intellectually domesticating the youths by imposing a parental-type guardianship over their ideas.
He affirmed that these seminars target all categories of youths in Egypt and are widely held by the pro-regime parties and universities. The goal is to generate a new and large class of youths who supports the regime, its ideology and vision of the West, and adopt its security point of view and conspiratorial ideas, he said.
Egypt's Education Ministry spokesperson Amina Kheiri told Al-Monitor that Egypt isn't hostile to the West, though it does want to filter some Western culture that doesn't suit the traditions of the majority of the Egyptian people.
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