Need of Curriculum

Terrorism and the spotlight on Muslims

It is an unfortunate fact that through the actions of a minority, Islam and Muslims have become closely associated with terrorism. This is certainly a problem for the vast majority of Muslims themselves who feel their religion has been tarnished by the actions of a few, but the issue has put Muslim and citizens or residents of Western countries under increased scrutiny, with questions being raised about their identity, multiculturalism, and loyalty to the state.

The emergence of ISIS and fears of radicalization of young Muslims

One alarming development throwing these issues into the spotlight has been the emergence of ISIS, a particularly brutal and bloodthirsty incarnation of extremism, and what appears to be a growing number of young Muslims, citizens of Western countries, travelling to the Middle East to join the organisation. The three London schoolgirls captured on CCTV footage travelling to the Middle East to become jihadi brides became emblematic of the way many young people, seemingly bright and from stable homes, have been lured to join groups such as ISIS, feeling a new sense of purpose in their travels to distant lands that are a far cry from the comforts of the Western world they once called ‘home’. It is clear from these examples that young people are being radicalised under the very noses of their oblivious families, friends, teachers and mosque imams. Not only are the lives of families devastated by these youngsters, but there remains a fear that on returning, some of these young people are a potential threat to security, that even if they are not actively being sent back as sleeper terrorists, they have become even more radicalised while abroad, and along with an enhanced grievance against their former governments, they have developed skills and training to potentiate their danger.

Tackling the roots

There has been a lot of debate about the causes of radicalisation in young people, and successive governments around the world have tried with questionable success, through well-funded initiatives and projects, to tackle the problem. The outcomes of these measures remains unclear, and the question remains whether these schemes have clearly been able to identify the underlying roots of the problem and if they are equipped with the necessary tools and knowhow to help eradicate the problem. What is clear is that the underlying causes of radicalisation are multifold and therefore the solution has to be multi pronged and all sections of society need to play their part in tackling the issues.

Whose responsibility?

The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law abiding citizens of their respective states who make a significant economic, cultural and political contributions to their nation, and who also endeavour in the most part to counter extremist narratives, there remains a feeling among a minority perhaps that the ultimate responsibility for dealing with the problem of radicalisation lies with the government and its agencies and security services. This is in our view a negation of responsibility, for surely parents, imams and religious teachers must be key players in the struggle against radicalisation, particularly as the method used by those who radicalise involves presenting Islamic teachings in a distorted way, or employing clich├ęs masquerading as authentic Islamic teachings.

“PARENTS, IMAMS AND RELIGIOUS TEACHERS MUST BE KEY PLAYERS IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST RADICALISATION”

Recognising & countering radicalization

It is surely the Imams of the community, the teachers, clerics and parents whose care children are entrusted under, and it is they who must be ultimately responsible for nurturing and education children to ensure they are immunised against the propaganda by so-called scholars or preachers they may come across, whether in their educational institutes, mosques, clubs and societies, informal networks of friends or whether online on social media. It is however a cause for concern that many sections or members of the Muslim community, let alone non-Muslims, often seem to have a poor understanding of the signs of radical ideology, and how to counter radical ideas with evidence-based argument from the Qur’an and Sunnah, the primary sources of knowledge and laws of Islam, and classical scholarship. This is the reason any strategy to effectively deal with the problem needs to focus on providing awareness not only to the young people, but also to imams, religious teachers and parents. On the other side of the coin, it is not an exaggeration to say that most young Muslims have a very poor understanding of their religion, the methodology of interpretation, the contextualisation of passages from the Quran or Hadith, the formulation of laws, and indeed no knowledge of Arabic, the working language of law-making in Islam, sciences which have been laid down by generations of traditional Islamic scholars. Any person who is able to quote any scriptural references to a naive young person in Arabic will be given disproportionate significance, which, added to other factors, can lead towards the path of misguidance and vulnerability to radicalisation.