The Pakistani Islamic scholar Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri has presented an anti-jihadism text in London. With young community members being increasingly radicalized, Muslims are exercising self-criticism.
Both men are trying desperately to maintain their composure while fighting back their tears. In a press conference, Akhtar Iqbal and Muhammed Shoaib beg their wives, the sisters Sugra and Khadija Dawood, to please return. In May, the two joined a third sister, Zohra Dawood, and the three absconded to Syria. The sisters left for hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, on May 28. They were scheduled to return to their hometown of Bradford, England on June 11, but broke off contact to the men on June 9. On June 16, the women's husbands made their on-air appeals.
Most likely, the three sisters left their plane during a stopover in Turkey, then headed for the Turkish-Syrian border, and entered the war-torn country. It is very probable that they then joined the terror organization Islamic State (IS, or ISIS). The three were not alone. With them, all nine of their children, ranging from three to 15 years of age. The sisters were apparently following the invitation of a brother who is already fighting with the IS. Their whereabouts within Syria are unknown.
A fatwa against IS
The case of the Dawood sisters is not unique. More than 700 UK citizens have left for Syria to fight alongside the jihadis thus far, with some 350 having returned to Great Britain. British discussions about radicalization are similar to those in other parts of Europe. Discrimination and lack of prospects are considered to be the main causes for young Muslims' radicalization. A fragile identity in, or more likely between, two cultures is often cited as the reason for an attraction to fundamental, or even jihadist Islam.
Over the last several weeks and months, leading imams have become ever more vocal in the discussion. A number of them joined together in issuing a fatwa, a legal opinion, against IS in September 2014. "ISIS is a heretical, extremist organization, and it is haram (forbidden) to support, or join it," the statement read. Further, it said that all British Muslims are obliged to actively oppose this "poisonous ideology."
Suicide bombers "destined for hell"
This Tuesday, the Pakistani Islamic scholar Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri presented a "curriculum," with which he proposes to help protect young Muslims from radicalization. Ul-Qadri is the founder and chairman of the organization Minhaj ul-Koran International, which is dedicated to fighting Islamic extremism. As long ago as 2010 he issued a fatwa strongly condemning suicide bombers as non-believers and enemies of Islam. His text stated that suicide bombers were "destined for hell."
Now ul-Qadri is upping the ante. Three pages of his text are devoted to IS. Ul-Qadri explains, "In the Islamic legal system, ISIS or any other terror group have absolutely no authority or legitimacy for setting up an 'Islamic State'. It is an armed rebellion against the Muslim states and collective order. ISIS is an enemy of humanity."
De-radicalization as a school subject
Ul-Qadri talked about the curriculum yesterday on BBC radio. He said the representatives of Minhaj-ul-Koran should promote peaceful Islam in schools and universities, and make a clear case against terrorism. He also said that radicalization should be dealt with in classrooms. And that, "Peace and peace studies should be taken as a subject."
He went on to say that, "De-radicalization should be taken as a subject," as well as counter-terrorism. Beyond that, ul-Qadri made a plea for discussing radicalization on several levels. "The problem is that we have not been addressing this issue on theological fronts, and on ideological fronts. We have been taking it just as a political, economic, or social issue." Ul-Qadri suggested that such courses should be compulsory for Muslim students, and that non-Muslims could attend them voluntarily. Ul-Qadri says he hopes to reach the Muslim students with religious arguments.
Self-criticism and British Muslims
The presentation of the curriculum comes at a time when Islamic communities are increasingly taking responsibility for the radicalization of young Muslims. On June 17, London's Daily Telegraph quoted Manzoor Moghal, the chairman of the Muslim Forum, a think tank, as saying Muslims "must stop blaming others for how our young are radicalized." And that they should also stop trying to shift responsibility onto British authorities. He went on to criticize his brothers and sisters in faith by saying that, "Radicalization is a Muslim problem." In the Daily Mail on that same day, he wrote, "Of course, it must be extremely distressing for any parent to lose a child into the clutches of ISIS. But I worry that all too often, we are told the same story by the families of those who run off to Syria: that it is always someone else's fault."