About peace and love

Rutherglen Reformer - - Special Feature -

and the kids all tell me they en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.

When I ask what their re­li­gion means, they are un­equiv­o­cal: “Peace, love, re­spect.”

It is clear they all love their re­li­gion, but they are keen not to be judged.

“Peo­ple see you go­ing to a mosque and they do not know what to do,” one says. “We have inter-faith events with ev­ery age group and that’s re­ally im­por­tant for the youth.”

An­other says: “Some peo­ple think this is just for lu­natics. They need to learn it is just a way to live your life.”

The stu­dents are all con­fi­dent and en­cour­aged to share their thoughts.

When I ask if they have ex­pe­ri­enced any is­sues, one girl says: “I wouldn’t say we have any prob­lems here but you do hear of prob­lems else­where. What we learn here is about peace and love.

“Our re­li­gion is about peace and har­mony.”

While the mem­bers of the cen­tre are keen to put their mes­sage across, it is ap­par­ent there is frus­tra­tion with the way Is­lam is pre­sented in some sec­tions of so­ci­ety. The cen­tre ex­tended their in­vite to the Re­former just days af­ter the at­tack at West­min­ster.

Imam Babar says: “The me­dia has a wider role. We un­der­stand the cri­te­ria for our me­dia is that they need to thrill, but there is pos­i­tiv­ity and our me­dia needs to pro­mote that.

“Things like this ( these classes) are never cov­ered. It is our duty to let peo­ple know that when you have an in­ci­dent like last week where some­one is shout­ing ‘Al­lahu Ak­bar’ that it is not Is­lam. He had no link to true Is­lam.”

Shaykh adds: “There is a col­lec­tive duty. Re­li­gion can play a role but the me­dia also has to play a bet­ter role than it al­ready does. Some of it can be quite shock­ing, like head­lines say­ing one in five Bri­tish Mus­lims sym­pa­thise with Isis.

“In Ja­pan af­ter 9/11, the gov­ern­ment got all the Imams in the coun­try to­gether and asked them how to best deal with it. They gave the Imams a chance to go on na­tional TV reg­u­larly to counter the nar­ra­tive. That kind of thing has not hap­pened in the UK.”

Shaykh also be­lieves po­lit­i­cal is­sues are more likely to mo­ti­vate a ter­ror­ist: “I have to say this, and this is not the view of the cen­tre, but a per­sonal view: peo­ple have got to be given free speech to voice their opin­ions be­cause if they are not they will adopt other means.

“There has to be an hon­est dis­cus­sion about things like Bri­tish for­eign pol­icy as one of the is­sues that leads to rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion. It’s never talked about and if you do you are la­belled a ter­ror­ist. Is­lam­o­pho­bia as well is on the in­crease. If you don’t ad­dress that, you will not beat ex­trem­ism.”

But ev­ery­one is sure the knowl­edge they are hand­ing down to the young peo­ple in these classes will stop them from fol­low­ing the wrong path.

“Ter­ror­ists use is­sues like Is­rael and the Iraq War to ma­nip­u­late the minds of young­sters,” says Shaykh.

“Look at the peo­ple who car­ried out var­i­ous ter­ror­ist at­tacks – Lee Rigby, the Bos­ton bomb­ing, even Bin laden. If you look at the re­ports none were re­li­giously mo­ti­vated.

“That is why peo­ple equipped with re­li­gious knowl­edge will not go to­wards ex­trem­ism.”

Teach­ers Imam Muham­mad Babar and Dr Habib were tak­ing the class

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