Abdul Bary Malik: How can we prevent young Muslims becoming radicalised?

The Dewsbury skyline. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
The Dewsbury skyline. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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WE were all shocked to learn that Talha Asmal, a 17-year-old teenager from Dewsbury, has become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber. He is reported to have detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives in Iraq. He fled his West Yorkshire home in March to join ISIS, along with a friend of the same age.

Once again, the same question is being asked: how can we stop young people being radicalised? Radicalisation through social media, and other means, has become biggest threat for our children who were born and brought up in United Kingdom.

Young boys and girls are being targeted and brainwashed by some evil organisations abroad and their disciples in this country. They glorify their bigoted teachings and preach a brand of evil which attracts the vulnerable.

We must not allow the actions and decisions of a tiny minority to undermine the good work that continues to be done by Muslim communities in Dewsbury, and across Yorkshire, to build better community relations – the overwhelming majority of young Muslims are law-abiding citizens who are proud to be British. They should not be demonised.

First and foremost responsibility for keeping children safe from any threat lies with parents. They have to make sure that their child is safe from any dangers or threats. They have to teach them true teachings of the Koran and Islam, and relate to them excellent examples set by Holy Prophet Mohammed and his companions.

Most important thing is that parents should talk to their children. Charity begins at home. Have a good honest conversation with your children and tell them about respect for human beings and respect for authorities and rule of law. Parents should know about their child’s whereabouts and his or her friends.

The Holy Prophet Mohammed said: “No father bestow on his child a gift more precious than good upbringing.” He also said: “It is better for a man to attend to the good upbringing of his child then to bestow a measure of corn in charity therefore honour your young and train them in good manners.”

According to the teachings of the Koran, suicide is forbidden (4:30) and also infanticide (17:32). Suicide is such a grave sin that Muslims are not permitted even to offer their funeral prayers.

The relevant commandment in the Koran could not clearer: “Wherefore we prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person - unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land – it shall be as if he had slaughtered all mankind; and whoso secures the life of one; it shall be as if he had secured the life of all mankind.”

The Holy Prophet and his successors gave clear instructions during wars that old persons, ladies and children should not be killed. No place of worship should be damaged; crops and fruit bearing trees should not be destroyed. Terror should not be created in towns and cities.

This is very clear and it is a matter of conveying this true message to young persons. What organisations like ISIS are doing is a clear contradiction of the teachings of the Koran and Islam.

Communities have to share their duties as well. We have to come out of our comfort zone and accept that there is a serious problem and we have to be honest with ourselves.

We are very fortunate that we live in United Kingdom where we have total freedom of worship and practising our faith. We should not abuse these golden rights. We have to be honest with ourselves. If we maintain double standards, then our children will lose all respect for us.

We have to set good examples for our communities, and especially for our children, by practising what we preach.

Community and faith leaders, as well as the mosques, should be playing a leading role in educating young people on the teachings of tolerance, living in a multi-faith society, love thy neighbours, humanity and respect for human beings, patience and living in peace. A clear message has to be conveyed that Islam does not permit killing others and suicide is a grave sin.

To counter the use of social media by ISIS, and which the family of Talha Asmal blame for their son’s radicalisation, young people should be encouraged to create appropriate sites for others to debate these matters – ISIS messages should be rejected. Warnings can also be issued through these sites that ISIS beliefs are not Islam and belong to the Stone Age.

Schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions have to be on their guard all the time. Traditionally, fanatic organisations have always used these educational institutions to recruit young persons.

Teachers and lecturers have to keep eye on any pupils who suddenly start behaving differently. There should be regular messages conveyed to all students about dangers of joining any extremist organisations.

Local authorities and police should use intelligence-gathering methods in the neighbourhoods to stop any young person’s joining any extremist organisation. I personally believe that “Prevention” strategy will only be successful if it is rolled down to grass root levels.

As we approach 10th anniversary of 7/7 bombings in London, let us send a united message to extremist organisations and young persons that the United Kingdom will not allow any young person to join any fanatic organisation. We all stand united and we will defend our country and our communities from any evil belief or message.

• Dr Abdul Bary Malik MBE is community activist based in Bradford. He lectures and writes on Islam and related issues. He is external affairs spokeperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Bradford.

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