U.S. officials are concerned about the recruiting efforts of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as the group has stepped up its online outreach.
One team in southwestern Indiana who opposes the radical Islamist group is taking to the Web to reclaim the message of Islam.
Dozens of four-minute Web episodes, targeting young people with questions about Islam and its relationship to violence, are being released by Reclamation Studios.
In one episode, Zac Parsons is walking side by side with Imam Omar Atia on a sunny day in Evansville, Ind., asking him a question about Islam: “You’re a Muslim guy, a peaceful guy, and yet, you know, we see all this stuff in the news all the time about, you know, terrorism and violence and killing, you know, in the name of Islam — which is supposed to be a religion of peace. How is it that for them it’s not peaceful, but for you it is?”
“It’s not even left for question,” Atia says. “Unjust killing is completely forbidden.”
The video “Does Islam Encourage Violence?” is simply an interaction between Parsons and Atia, the leader of the Islamic Society of Evansville.
Atia, co-founder of Reclamation Studios’ initiative, wants to try to dispel the image that Islam is a foreign religion that forces believers to choose between nation and faith.
“There’s still this identity crisis that a lot of Muslim-Americans live, unfortunately,” Atia says, “because right now, still, the concept that Islam is a foreign faith to America.”
Parsons, a digital marketer, says these videos try to be engaging enough to reach younger viewers.
“Unfortunately, ISIS is doing a great job of creating that really compelling ‘this is something you can do to change the world,’ ” he says, “and we hope that we’re able to use some of those same ideas and technology to say, ‘No, this is actually what the religion of Islam teaches.’ ”
Nour Shams, who works on Reclamation Studios’ website from Egypt, says it’s important to get this information across as directly as possible.
“They can ask us questions, we can do consultations, we can give them further answers for any questions that they have,” she says. “We can even host people and just have everything transparent in front of the camera, and listen to people and answer their questions.”
Richard Maass, who researches international security at the University of Evansville, says the Islamic State has been successful at targeting isolated people who have little or no knowledge of Islam.
“So the more initiatives like this one that openly refute ISIS ideology, especially online — and especially through live communications with people online — the more difficult it will be for ISIS to monopolize the perceptions of those vulnerable individuals,” he says.
There are now more than a dozen people working on this project; the goal is to produce 70 Web episodes, all in an effort to help counter what they see as misinformation about Islam.
Security forces are concerned about the fascination that is rising among Spanish young Muslims for the Islamic State or Daesh. The concern is even greater in the case of adolescents who are concentrated in the city of Ceuta, where radical Islam has already fished at least five minor children, according to counter-terrorism sources.
Experts call this phenomenon “Express Radicalization.” Young moderate Muslims are becoming -in a matter of weeks and thanks only to the radical content consumed through social networks in the privacy of their homes-into dangerous fighters willing to give their lives for Islam.
March 8, 2014
For some westerners who follow the trail of would-be militants in Syria’s conflict, it is a gesture comparable to idealists of the late 1930s volunteering to fight General Franco in the Spanish civil war.
Others believe, in defiance of the outspoken condemnation of moderate Muslim leaders and political leaders, they act as “soldiers of Allah”. Their backgrounds may be in juvenile delinquency or promising academic study. All insist, often under the influence of figures they meet in mosques or online, that they are waging a just war against the brutality of Bashar Al Assad’s regime.
Muslim leaders are deeply concerned with the “manipulation” of impressionable people as young as 14-16, increasingly including girls. In the French Riviera town of Nice, the city council has created a crisis centre to coordinate the work of social services and community groups confronting the problem. Boubekeur Bekri, the imam of a Nice mosque and vice president of a regional Muslim council, tells of 15 local people, mostly in their teens and twenties, who have left for Syria. It is, he says, a “great tragedy causing untold anguish” to parents while also playing into the hands of France’s anti-immigration, anti-Islam far right. Young women, he adds, had been lured to Syria on the pretext of providing “support” or to care for war orphans. French media report four such cases in recent weeks, one a 15-year-old and another the mother of a baby, and a militant quoted by the French media says they are “not sent to the front line”. But Mr Bekri claims there is evidence that “support” can translate as sexual abuse, “in effect a form of slavery, nothing whatever to do with Islam”.
The Times of London reports that British women have gone to Syria to marry militants. It cites instances of two women from London and three from other locations in southern England, one a convert, who are “known to have married English-speaking rebels fighting in Syria”, with dozens more also there or are trying to go.
French president Francois Hollande has estimated the numbers heading to Syria from France as high as 700; even conservative figures suggest 200 French combatants are involved.
As reported in The National last month, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) based at King’s College, London, believes almost 9,000 foreigners are combatants in Syria. Most are from Arab countries – especially Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon – but the number of westerners has been steadily rising.
European and North American governments claim that by siding with extremist rebel elements as opposed to more moderate groups, notably the Free Syrian Army, they are actually allowing themselves to be drawn into terrorist activity.
They worry that this makes them potential threats to domestic security if ever they return to their countries of birth. What this analysis overlooks, according to Professor Mohamed Ali Adraoui, a French political and social scientist from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, is the single biggest spur to recruitment. “Quite simply, it’s Bashar Al Assad,” says Prof Adraoui, author of From the Gulf to the French Banlieue: Globalised Salafism, published last year. “The way his regime has acted is the main tool of propaganda, seen readily in images on the web especially social networks. When we have television and what can be found online via the jihadist network, people are well aware of what is going on in Syria.”
Francois Falletti, attorney general at the Paris appeal court, tells the news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur,“Our judicial inquiries are precisely to determine whether radicalised individuals have become involved in a terrorist organisation in Syria and, above all, whether they could pose a threat on their return to national security.”
Mr Adraoui is not so sure the authorities are right in that assessment. People willing to “fight for Islam against oppressors” and even die in that cause, he says, would not have the same motivation once back on home soil. He also points out that some western jurisdictions, supported by some French judges, accept the legitimacy of joining a foreign conflict unconnected to their own countries.
Even moderate Muslims point out that their own attempts to stop young people going astray are hindered by justified grievances about routine discrimination in their daily lives. There is ample evidence that many young sons, daughters and grandchildren of Maghreb immigrants to France, Belgium and the Netherlands, or from Asian families in the UK, feel alienated from society.
More than once, Western media has reported, French Muslims who prepare to travel overseas to engage in what they consider a common fight, explain their radicalisation in one simple phrase: “Made in France”.
November 11, 2013
The first meeting of the Confederation of Young Islamic Italians (GCII) is planned for next Sunday, 17 November, in Rome. The event is promoted by the Lazio section of the newly formed Islamic education of youth. In a statement the president of the Italian Islamic Confederation, Wahid el Fihri, explained “We expect hundreds of young Muslims from different regions of Italy for the first national meeting which will be held at the auditorium of the Center Islamic cultural center of Italy, better known as the Great Mosque of Rome.“
“Our goal is to give our children one more tool to stay away from the sirens of extremism and give them the ability to fight for a moderate Islam, which is open to interreligious dialogue and respectful of the rules and culture of others. Above all, moderate Islam is able to integrate into Italian society in accordance with our traditions.” The event will include a recitation of the Quran, a parade of children dressed in traditional Moroccan and other Muslim countries clothing. After the presentation of the new Islamic youth group, there will be an open dialogue between parents and children regarding the problems of Muslim families living in Italy.
The Confederation, founded as a union of regional federations, was founded in March 2012 and brings together the 250 centers and places of worship scattered throughout the country, who have chosen to share common values, in line with the “Charter of Values, Citizenship and Immigration” promulgated by the Ministry of the Interior in 2007.
International Business Times: http://it.ibtimes.com/articles/58922/20131114/islam.htm
July 23, 2013
Savona – At the suggestion of Luca Martino, the City of Savona has approved during today’s session of the Executive Council to proceed to enter into an agreement with ARTE – Territorial Regional Construction of Savona in order to make available to the Muslim community a suitable premises for social activities and prayer. The Head of Heritage Luca Martino said: “The Community has long called for the availability of premises to which, in recent years, we have responded by providing a gym, however, this does not suffice in times of Ramadan, when the attendance is much higher. Obviously this is an inadequate solution and it is temporary. This is why today we approved the use of a convention pursuant to article 15 of Law 241/90 for the use of premises located in Via Aglietto, owned by ART. ART will provide the premises at a moderate fee. The community has expressed its interest to perform, at its own expense, the necessary maintenance and adjustment to local regulations.”
The Reggio Emilia Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem continues to present informational and cultural activities, including three new events open to the public, admission is free.
The first meeting, scheduled for Friday, May 10 at 6 p.m., at the Hall of the “Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo” in Reggio Emilia, will be with Dr. Giorgio Morini Mazzoli, who will moderate a conference entitled “Islam little known”.
The National Post – September 11, 2012
A Muslim Canadian activist has founded a new group that will promote moderate Islam, saying there are too few progressive Muslim voices countering extremism in Canada. Raheel Raza, the Pakistan-born author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad: A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out, was once a member of the progressive Muslim Canadian Congress, but this month is formally launching Muslims Facing Tomorrow. Ms. Raza notes that, “The moderate Muslim voice is very few in number and we felt that the more organizations out there doing this kind of work, the better. We have a very similar mandate to the MCC [Muslim Canadian Congress], and our goal is the same, but we at Muslims Facing Tomorrow plan to go about it in a different way.”
Raza added, “We want to provide an alternative for Muslim youth. It’s not just a question of slamming the extremists; it’s also about providing a different voice. We want to hold workshops and conferences — one thing that’s never been done, as far as I know, is a conference of moderate Muslims in Canada.
News Agencies – December 3, 2011
A French minister said there was no such thing as moderate Islam, calling recent election successes by Islamic parties in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia “worrying” in an interview. Jeannette Bougrab, a junior minister with responsibility for youth, told Le Parisien newspaper that legislation based on Islamic sharia law “inevitably” imposed restrictions on rights and freedoms.
Bougrab is of Algerian origin, whose father fought on the French colonial side during Algeria’s war of independence, and said she was speaking as “a French woman of Arab origin.” She was reacting to electoral successes scored by the Ennahda party in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
On September 24th, roughly 12,000 Muslims gathered in London’s Wembley Arena for a peace conference organised by the Islamic group Minhaj-ul-Quaran. During the conference, the group’s founder, Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, gave a keynote speech, in which he condemned terrorism and promoted a moderate, inclusive version of Islam.