A group of Sunni imams are to make the first-ever visit by British Muslim religious leaders to see first hand the front line in the fight against Isis.
The imams, representing mosques across the country, will travel to Iraq on Tuesday for an eight-day fact-finding mission. They are expected to visit parts of the country previously under Isis control as well as meeting victims of the group, including from the Yazidi community.
The hope is that the visit will help to counter Isis propaganda in this country by highlighting the Sunni resistance to Isis in Iraq and relaying back first-hand accounts of life under the extremists.
If successful, the plan is to then bring Iraqi Sunni imams to the UK, to talk in mosques about the reality of life in Isis-controlled areas and to “deglamorise” the group and its appeal to young British Muslims.
The trip is being paid for in part by trustees of the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala which Isis attempted to blow up earlier this year. The rest of the funding is coming from the Muslim community in the UK. Mustafa Field, an Iraqi-born community organiser who has helped to arrange the trip, said the group would travel to Samarra and Tikrit as well as Baghdad. Tikrit was previously under Isis occupation while Samarra was for a long time at the front line between the Iraqi army and Isis.
“We want to take those stories back to the UK so that Muslims can hear first hand what is going on and hopefully counter some of the myths that have been built up over the years.
“Daesh propaganda is dangerous and this is a British Muslim-led response to challenge their ideas.