Teaching proper Islamic principles will help stem extremism: Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
I have prepared the Islamic curriculum on peace and counter-terrorism to help tackle the distortions of religious teachings that lead to radicalisation
It is an unfortunate fact that through the actions of a minority, Islam and Muslims have become closely associated with terrorism. As a result, Muslim citizens or residents of western countries have come under increased scrutiny, with questions being raised about identity, multiculturalism and loyalty to the state. The emergence of Islamic State, a particularly brutal and bloodthirsty incarnation of Islamic extremism, has only intensified this scrutiny.
A growing number of young Muslim citizens of western countries are travelling to the Middle East to join this terrorist organisation. Muslims travelling abroad to fight what they see as jihad is not entirely a new phenomenon, but with the particularly brutal violence and beheadings committed by British citizens in recent months, the situation has reached a tipping point.
The vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens getting on with their daily lives, making significant economic, cultural and political contributions to Britain. British Muslims endeavour in the most part to counter extremist narratives. That said, there remains a feeling among some that the ultimate responsibility for dealing with the problem of radicalisation lies with the government, its agencies and security services. In our view, this is a negation of responsibility – surely parents, imams and religious teachers must be key players in the struggle against radicalisation? The methods used by those involved in radicalisation involve presenting Islamic teachings in a distorted way, or employing cliches masquerading as authentic Islamic teachings. This may take place within their educational institutes, mosques, clubs, societies and informal networks of friends including online and social media.
A particularly potent concern is that many sections of the Muslim community, let alone non-Muslims, often seem to have a poor understanding of the signs of extremism. Nor are they equipped to counter it with evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah, the primary sources of knowledge and laws of Islam, or make use of centuries of classical Islamic scholarship. Neither has there been any major push towards addressing the problem from an ideological or theological perspective. This is the reason any strategy to effectively deal with the problem needs to focus on improving awareness – not only among young people, but also among imams, religious teachers and parents.
It should be said here that among the many causes of radicalisation and terrorism, the role of theology cannot be understated. Some people, either through genuine ignorance or for other less innocent reasons, try to deflect the blame for religious radicalisation entirely on to foreign policy and military ventures in the Middle East and elsewhere. While these issues no doubt play a significant role in the process of radicalisation, too often the theologically based narratives that underpin the ideology of the extremists are downplayed or underestimated. Radical ideology depends upon a framework of (distorted) theological reference points and scriptural justifications. It is here that appropriate intervention can bear fruit. Challenging the narratives and belief structures of the misguided with proper Islamic principles and validated interpretations of scripture must be incorporated into any method if it is to be effective.
It is with all this in mind that I have prepared the Islamic curriculum on peace and counter-terrorism. The curriculum is to be used as the basis for educating and training imams, clerics, teachers and young people about the broad array of ideological and theological principles that underpin radicalisation, and what the true Islamic teachings are on each subject. It is hoped that courses can be developed for people in these target audiences. My organisation, Minhaj-ul-Quran International, has already developed teams of people to deliver talks at school assemblies and hold workshops at universities countrywide.
It is the responsibility of Muslims, as well as the wider community, to deal with radicalisation. Through education we can tackle the source of the theological and social factors that lead young men and women astray. We hope that this curriculum will stem the flow of radicalisation, and enable the establishment of peace, harmony, and social cohesion in the long term.