What drives a Western born-and-bred youngster, with all the privileges of an education, a modern lifestyle and freedom of speech, to violently attack his fellow countrymen? The growing phenomenon of home-grown radicals highlights the need to understand the root causes of such violence and develop a strategy to deal with the individuals at risk of committing it.
On 7 August, the UK’s first Anti-Terror Camp was held in the county of Warwickshire, led by prominent Pakistani scholar Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri, with the aim of protecting youth from radicalisation by presenting them with arguments that they can use to counter extremists.
The camp attracted around 1,500 young Muslims from across the UK, Europe and North America and provided them with a foundation to promote the true message of Islam – which includes peace, tolerance and integration – amongst their peers.
Qadri drew much attention when he issued a historic fatwa (a non-binding expert religious opinion) against terrorism in March. His 600-page fatwa refutes the arguments of radicals using intellectual reasoning, leaving no religious pretext for committing acts of terror, including suicide bombings.
Qadri explained how these youth could refute arguments of radicals who aim to brainwash them to commit violence. He told the attendees, “In all these Western countries – Britain, Europe, North America, wherever you are living – you are enjoying all rights, all freedoms according to the constitution as other non-Muslim communities are enjoying. And I have no hesitation in saying you are enjoying the rights and freedoms much better than in many other Muslim countries.”
Naseem, a 28-year-old participant, stated: “I believe [Qadri's] challenge to radicalisation and terrorism is very good. Terrorism is a danger towards mankind.” After the workshop, he said that he could now state “the true view of what Islam says.”
Attendees learned the principles and wisdom of Islamic teachings regarding war and peace, and especially the concept of jihad, or struggle, in Islam. Qadri pointed out that out of the 35 Qur’anic verses that mention the word jihad, 31 have nothing to do with fighting or war at all. The other four verses do talk about fighting, but only in cases of self-defence. Furthermore, individuals or groups do not have the authority to declare jihad; only a state authority can do so and, even then, only as a last resort when diplomacy and all other peace efforts have failed.
Terrorism in the name of Islam begins as an ideological infection, stemming from a narrow interpretation of Islamic sources that extremists take entirely out of context. Qadri lamented that some people are using mosques, schools, universities and the internet to declare physical and combative jihad in the name of establishing an “Islamic caliphate” or to fight against “repression” by the West.
He emphasised that this reasoning provides a foundation for home-grown radicalism and can eventually lead to violence and terrorism.
According to Qadri, terrorism has ideological, philosophical and political roots. The problem starts when extremists misinterpret the concepts of jihad, caliphate and democracy. There are some groups that consider democracy and participation in Western countries’ politics tantamount to disbelief and try to persuade vulnerable youth of the validity of these claims.
The anti-terrorism camp clarified for youth that foreign policies of Western countries must not be used as fodder to exploit their sentiments, as some radical preachers and groups are trying to do.
Qadri’s fatwa provides alternative solutions to violent action, promotes integration and participation in the political process and helps people express their disagreement in a peaceful, constitutional and democratic manner. Integration is a process that comes naturally where diverse groups of people live alongside one another, collectively contributing to the development of a country. Muslims living in Western countries must abide by the laws of the land where they earn their living and become an important part of these cultures and societies.
Islam does not allow transgression of its core principles in any form. This is the message that the young participants of the camp left with, becoming the embodiment of peace and tolerance, and feeling at ease about integrating in the UK.
* Shahid Mursaleen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran International UK. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).