About peace and love
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