Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Not proud to be British or Muslim, but Grateful to be Both.

I am not proud to be British or Muslim, but I am grateful that I am both. Let me explain:

I am British, but I'm not proud to be British

I'm not proud to be British due to more than 2 centuries of 'British Empire' building through great bloodshed, brutality, slavery and imprisonment of indigenous peoples so that we the British could plunder resources and gain in wealth of which I now benefit today.

I'm not proud that our bloody history has been whitewashed in our history books and in our schools. We may find it easier to pretend atrocities never took place in our name but you can be sure such crimes remain in the memories of the peoples we tried to exterminate.

I'm not proud of how "Bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, and hot eggs were thrust up men's rectums and women's vaginas" of hundreds of detainees in Kenya and how survivors, some of whom are still alive today, are struggling to pursue their cases via our justice system.

I'm also not proud of how British Colonel Ian Henderson, who oversaw many of the atrocities in Kenya then went on to work as head of secret police in Bahrain following Britain apparently handing its independence back in 1971, and there he taught the rulers well in the art of torture and oppression, of men, women and children, much of which continues even to this day.

Oh I've only touched on a little part of the British dirty history of colonialism. When you start unpacking the atrocities, they are so filthy, how could anyone be proud of this?

I wish I could say it was all history, and that we Brits are now living upright lives, a beacon of equality, human rights and democracy. But what about our recent sales of weapons to Israel totalling £7.9 BILLION, no doubt some of which were used to kill over 2000 men, women, and many children in Gaza just last year?

And then there is our media. The empire of Rupert Murdoch. Do you want me to be proud of that?

But politics aside, and media aside, what about the people, a nation of alcoholics. There has been a 500% increase in deaths from liver disease in the 1970s, with more than 40 people A DAY dying from liver disease. Not to mention the destructive social behaviour that comes with the drinking, much of which is exported when the Brits take their holidays. Is that something I can be proud of?

No I'm not proud to be British. I'm not totally ashamed either, it's not like me doing all these bad things. I didn't choose to be British, I was just born British. I didn't earn my place here and I certainly didn't contribute in any way to the history of this nation. Although perhaps I did contribute in some ways to the destruction our country contributed in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example. You see, I did vote for Tony Blair and  thought my vote was enough participation in regards to politics back then, so I feel there is something there of which I must show some regret, and I do. I am sorry about that.

I'm Muslim but I'm not Proud to be Muslim

Back at the time of 9/11 I wasn't a Muslim. I didn't blame in any way my Muslim friends for what seemed like one random crazy act of terrorism, which later came to look more like a contrived act of political persuasion, of which we are all still waiting to get to the bottom.

But like many non-Muslims today, when faced with terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam, I did have some questions. I did wonder at that time how it was possible that a book apparently promoting peace could possibly be manipulated to bring instead absolute terror.

Since then however there has been attack after attack carried out in the name of Islam. A religion which I have come to embrace, which I love for its guidance towards a path of peace and above all its message of mercy. Back in 2001 it was not so difficult to separate the actions of a few crazy men living in the mountains in a far off land such as Afghanistan from the rest of the Muslim population, but now we see a flood of young men from Western countries turning to radicalism in their attempt to find a better life, with up to as many as 5000 young people reportedly leaving Europe to join the fight in Syria and beyond.

This is still a small minority of the 2 billion Muslim population worldwide, but this is what the majority of non-Muslims see every day on their television sets and read about in the newspapers, and this is indeed a growing problem so I don't blame anyone for becoming fearful at such times. I'm not proud of this, how can I be?

I can tell people that this is nothing to do with Islam. But there is a problem, and it is growing, and it is being fed with young vulnerable minds that come from otherwise peaceful Muslim families in the West, so I'm not entirely sure that it is the right response for Muslims to say that this is nothing to do with us. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to stop the bad we see around us. As Muslims I believe we should be leading the way with solutions, rather than looking to non-Muslims to solve these problems.

But that's not all I'm not proud of. I'm not proud of the way Muslim countries are increasingly reacting to political hostilities by showing complete lack of mercy, with increases in the death penalty. I could justify all this by pointing out its the same in non-Muslim countries too, increasing intolerance and lack of mercy on a worldwide scale - but I can't judge those people who haven't been given guidance to do otherwise like we have. I'm also not at all proud of the way almost the entire Muslim world does not dare say one peep to criticise the leaders of Saudi Arabia who show blatant disregard for human and women's rights with barbaric acts of punishment, using  holy verses to back up and justify their atrocious behaviours.

I am also not proud when I see that Muslims are both the richest and fattest people on this planet and as well as the poorest and most hungry. Can we not ensure fairer wealth distribution at least amongst ourselves?

When I look around at the corruption that is prevalent across Muslim rulers across of the world, I am not proud.

When I look at how women have over time been separated and excluded from society, starting with the prayer room in the mosque, despite the Quran coming as a liberation for women's rights and women being fully included in society during the life of the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him (and yes men and women did pray in the same room then - of course behind the men, out of respect for their privacy, but that didn't mean to separate them to a dingy room upstairs or to the side out of sight), then I am not proud.

I am also not proud of the increasing hatred displayed between some Muslims of different sects, of Muslims fighting and killing other Muslims (and non-Muslims) knowing full well that women and children are the greatest victims of all modern day warfare, and I am not proud of the apparent increasing intolerance for people of other beliefs. I adopted Islam as a religion of humanity. Sadly, after I did, I found much of my time was taken in explaining to my non-Muslim friends that yes I am Muslim, but not of the type you see on the television.

I am Muslim, but sadly not proud to be Muslim.

And what would the Prophet Mohammed pbuh himself say to us today if he did return to this Earth? Would he be proud of his ummah (community)?

I am, however, grateful. I am grateful to be British and I am grateful to be Muslim.

I am Grateful to be British

I am grateful to be British because being British means I have a lot of privileges in this world that other people do not.  For a start, I can write this blog without worry of imprisonment, or torture, or extrajudicial execution. I do not live in a war zone, I have a roof over my head and food on my plate. I don't ever need to worry about going starving.  For all these things I am extremely grateful.

Despite all its weaknesses, I love the NHS, it is an institution of which I understand its enormous value. There was a time when my family had to pay for private treatment for a relative who lives abroad and who was not blessed with such a national health service as ourselves. It cost us a fortune, and at that time we fully understood the vulnerability of living without such protection. I am extremely grateful of the British National Health Service and also for our social security system that did provide me with some much needed support to see me through a difficult time of need in my past.

I am extremely grateful that although there are still many injustices within our society, we do have a framework in which to work towards greater justice. I am grateful that despite many dishonest politicians, I do at least have a vote and we do have some politicians who are extremely honest, brave and hard working who just want the best for all of society.

I am extremely grateful to live in an area of outstanding beauty.
But not proud, for it was not me that created or preserved this.

I'm also grateful for this beautiful countryside which has been protected and preserved in many areas through the dedicated work of organisations such as the National Trust. I'm grateful that I can walk down unblemished beaches which are not full of rubbish and swim in seas that are in many places now becoming less polluted through the hard work of organisations such as the Environment Agency.

There is so much I have to be grateful for. I love living here. Despite not being proud of my Britishness, I am extremely grateful. And I am very aware of how difficult life would be without any nationality, as some of my dear friends the Rohingya have experienced for decades, rejected from Burma and not wanted anywhere else either, often left to drift around in the sea in rickety boats for weeks, without food or water, and if they do manage to land often sold into a life of terrible slavery.

And if I am grateful to be British, how much more I am also grateful to be Muslim.

I am Grateful to be Muslim

You may say that I chose to be Muslim, whereas my Britishness came about through no choice of my own. But the way I see it is that God chose me.

I started out with all the same prejudices and misconceived ideas about Islam as all the rest of my non-Muslim friends. In fact, maybe more so. I was convinced of myself righteousness as a Christian. I felt if anything it was my duty to enlighten those living in darkness. But through a series of events, meetings, discussions, and  friendships with some beautiful souls who reached out to me with patience, demonstrating  love through their actions, and eventually revelation, I came to unlock my mind, and to realise, I was the one mistaken.

It was through love, friendship and acts of kindness, that I really don't think I deserved at that time, that I came to look past the media, and the actions of the few (or even many) to question for myself if there could possibly be some truth in this book they called the Quran. I began to question if it could possibly be God's will that 2 billion people would all be going to Hell for following the wrong book - and how could that book be wrong after the sincere goodness I had seen in individuals which followed it?

Over the years, as I slowly opened my heart and mind I began to see things I had not seen before, to grow in understanding, and to come to know the beauty that lives within these holy verses in the Quran. This new understanding brought about a refinement in my faith, a greater purpose in life, and helped me to bring my body and mind under control for a higher purpose other than that of my own self indulgences - and actually through letting go of my search for my own self-satisfaction I actually became completely satisfied. You did not see me back then, the mess I was in, but trust me, the change in my life has been in every sense transformational.

In choosing Islam, I may have been joining a community of 'underdogs'.  I may now at times be ridiculed and even hated. But whereas my Britishness may bring me some short lived privileges in this life, my belief in one God and all of his messengers brings me peace and helps me to live a life now which will bring far greater enjoyment in a life eternal in the future.

I am sorry I am not proud to be Muslim, not yet, not whilst we are in this state. Neither am I ashamed, since I stand on my own actions. But although I may not be proud to be Muslim, I am eternally grateful.

One Final Point

Faith or religion has nothing to do with nationality.
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve.  An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action." Prophet Muhammed pbuh, in his final sermon during the Hajj.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

How to bring an end to Radical Islam and save lives? (part 3 of 3)

This is part 3 of a 3 part series I am writing regarding the challenge of radical Islam (or 'how to keep our kids safe from radical wolves'). For a full undertsanding of this part, please first read Part 1 and Part 2.

In this part I am going to try and offer some solutions.

The ideal solution, of course, is world justice. If Israel would refrain from killing any more children in Gaza, and if Netanyahu would be taken to court to answer to the charge of crimes against humanity, for example, that would definitely help. Social justice would lead to less frustration and then hopefully no-one would feel the need to adopt radical ideas. But all this of course is a distant dream, or maybe a long term objective, and let's keep working towards that. But in the meantime, how do we tackle this growing problem of increasing frustration that can in some instances lead to radicalisation? This may only be a tiny percentage of our total Muslim community that adopt radical ideas, but it only takes a couple of crazy people to do a whole lot of damage.

I heard two statements from imams in Paris following the terrible shootings, both of which I felt were not the right response. Of course the acts were condemned, something we must all do, but then I heard the suggestion, something along the lines of,  "we need to teach our children in schools about respect for democratic values" - I guess he was angry, and we all are, but it did sound a lot like "we need to pin our kids down and tell them what's right and make them listen to us". Any parent of a teenager however, might understand, teenagers don't respond too well to being told how things should be, and actually, sometimes the more you shout at them, sometimes the more they go and do the exact opposite. The other suggestion I heard from an imam was that police aren't doing enough and need to do more to protect our children - as if it is lack of security that is the problem here, and police the solution. Really, is this the best that we as a Muslim community can come up with? Put the blame and the solution in the hands of our schools and police? I for one, as a mother, am not prepared to sit back and trust the police and schools to protect my children, no way! Sure they might help, but shouldn't we first look at ourselves?

I have here some suggestions regarding how we can tackle radicalisation, or rather keep our kids safe, primarily for the Muslim community. I believe in looking for solutions from within. But since there will be other authorities reading this, let me also first offer a few suggestions for the none Muslim society:

For Governments (in particular the British government, since this is who I know best):

  • Please sort out your foreign policies and put human rights for all before national self interest.
  • Please keep offering your support to the Muslim communities in whatever way you can. This may come for example in the form of support for youth clubs - both Muslim and none Muslim - let's get our young people included in society. Let's help youth leaders to get training in how best to work with the youth of today, and briefed in the complexity of issues our youth are  coming up against.  Also please support any interfaith activities - we don't need government ministers making a show of themselves in marches of solidarity trying to score points in popularity ratings, but any practical support such as funding to help with communications and basic resources might be a good idea. And yes please do keep encouraging schools to work at those multi-cultural issues and help bring about policies of inclusion for peoples of all faiths and those of no faith also, focusing on our shared humanity.
  • Please consider carefully how to 'bring back' youths who were often let down by society and sucked in and abused by radical movements with sinister agendas. Many of these youth are victims of an unjust society. When our government's political agenda was to go to war with Syria, fighters were being held up by the media almost as heroes. When the foreign policy changed, the media did too, and all of a sudden those people who had ventured out to try and help 'save babies from slaughter by the evil Assad' were all of a sudden revealed to be terrorists. Some youths were taken in by deceitful people and went to fight in Syria simply because they wanted to protect and stop the suffering of innocent civilians, then when they got there they realised what they had got themselves into was not what they expected, but they were not allowed to return. Some mothers worked with government agencies to help bring their sons back, but when children returned, of their own accord, they were locked up and given hefty prison sentences. Remember the biblical story of the prodigal son - perhaps showing mercy to those who turn back after realising their mistake would be a better approach? The reformed 'terrorist' would likely be a far greater ambassador to save other youths from making the same mistakes than anyone else could be.
  • Please reflect on how other countries with widespread problems of terrorism helped to overcome their issues and restore calm to an otherwise out of control situation. Many countries, after suffering terrible pain, remembered mercy and brought in amnesties and programs to help rehabilitate 'terrorists', to help them work through feelings of injustice, understand any wrongs they might have committed and help them reintegrate back into local communities. 
  • Please remember that heavy use of force never helped to solve a problem of terrorism, rather the opposite. But of course you already know that.

For Main Stream Media
  • Please stop treating some lives like they are worth a thousand times more than others. Might you write a policy that states all lives are of equal value, and ensure that your reporting and scheduling of stories lives up to that policy?
  • Please give greater air space to the voices of the oppressed, the minorities and the seriously frustrated. Suffering voices need to be heard. We all get to see the reports you don't cover, via social media. Your picking and choosing which stories to cover and which to ignore leads to huge frustration throughout our society.
  • Please learn about respect for other peoples, cultures, religions. Please don't hit people where it hurts, especially when they are already down, just in the name of 'freedom of speech'. Just because you can, that does not mean you should. Many things you do avoid, hateful words or topics that may cause more harm than good, when you choose - please remember that different things hurt different groups of people. Please let's not confuse hate speech, that which provokes and leads to further hatred, with freedom of speech. Let's remember balance and moderation. Sensitivity is a good thing.
  • Please stop jumping on the stories of fear and hatred, just to sell more. Might we see more stories of hope and unity, particularly between people of different faiths? There are plenty, if you care to look. You happily broadcast messages of hatred from misguided radicalists, but seldom do you broadcast messages of peace.
  • Please give greater platform to our youth to help them voice their frustrations.

For Parents of Young Adults (Muslim and none Muslim)

  • Please let's listen to our children and discuss difficult topics with them, say over dinner - because if you aren't, someone else for sure will be. For example, how many of us actually discussed the recent shootings with our children? And when the bombs were dropping on Gaza, did we talk about this, or did we like to pretend it wasn't happening? Did we ask our children what they had seen? Did we ask them how they felt when they saw the dead corpses of young people who were just their age? Or did we think that would be too painful to talk about? If we do not encourage our youth to talk about their feelings, however upsetting that is for us to listen too, then their feelings of frustration can become overwhelming and will inevitably lead to anger.
  • If you struggle with matters of the Internet, if you don't understand the complexities that our youth are faced with today, have a look for parent support groups in your area (or form one). My son's school for example ran a workshop for parents regarding how to keep our children safe on the Internet, and they also ran one for the children too. These things can help.
  • Let's try not to forget our own youth and the difficulties we put our own parents through. Let's try and be understanding and give our children all the love, support and gentle guidance they need during these extremely difficult times.

For Students (Muslim and none Muslim) 

  • Now is a really great time to get together with your various student groups and to reach out with interfaith activities, action groups to help bring about a more just society, and youth work.
  • Consider getting together and reaching out to local mosques (or other places of worship) to help out with programs for our youth. You are ideally placed to bring some of your own experience and enthusiasm to help us all tackle this problem together.
  • If you have any friends that are struggling with the feeling of injustice, perhaps getting involved with some groups with extreme ideas, try and reach out to them, talk it out, try and help them find someone to talk to who might offer some guidance. Sometimes its the quiet people who start to drift towards radical ideas - try to take care of those people who at times seem sad or quiet or cut off from everyone else - if you have any concerns then have a chat with one of your favourite tutors, they might be able to help.
  • If you are experiencing any feelings of extreme frustration leading to anger yourself, let me tell you out of experience, action is the best way to deal with that. When you get a group of friends together and start to do some postive things to bring about a fairer society, one step often leads to another and you might be amazed at your results.

For Religious Leaders of None Muslim Traditions

  • Please look for ways you might help support your Muslim community with interfaith activities that help build understanding. If you haven't yet, see if there is a mosque in your area, make a call, start talking. Let's make our communities strong by building on our friendships and understanding.
  • If you happen to think Islam is a religion of hatred, and I know from personal experience when I was a Christian that some religious leaders do (although certainly not all), then please learn more and get to know some Muslims for yourself. Challenge yourself, question your own preconceived ideas. When you start to learn more I am convinced you will be surprised that we share many of the same values.

For Muslim Communities and Mosque Leaders

Here's a comment I received recently which sums up exactly my feelings on this matter:
"We are all saddened by the events in France. It is a tragedy for everyone involved. We are in need of good youth programs that can channel their feelings of frustration into something positive. It's not simply a matter of correcting wrong theology, but of also providing a positive social outlet. It's one of the biggest challenges facing our global community." Abu Amina Elias
This for me this is the area which can make the greatest difference. If you haven't yet, please watch this video and reflect on this lesson from nature (also posted in Part 1), 9.45 minutes in:

The buffalo keep their growing calves safe by keeping them centre of the pack. When one of them wanders astray, mother buffalo goes after it and does not give up in fighting off multiple wolves to bring her young calf back to safety. We too are faced with a similar scenario, where radical wolves are waiting to pick off those of our young that go astray. How sad that two of the young men who carried out these atrocities in Paris turned out to be orphans - the very ones our Prophet Mohammed pbuh told us to go out of our way to care for, to love and protect.

  • Please look at your youth activities. Do you even have a youth group at your mosque? One that is attended by young adults over say the age of 13? One that supports our young people through the most difficult years of their life and a support group for young adults faced with many frustrations?
  • Consider inviting all your youth into your mosque to discuss the current events, to give them a platform to discuss their frustrations, and then offer guidance. Don't just advertise and sit back to see who comes - go and find the young people, especially the ones most marginalised, the ones you don't usually get to see in the mosque.
  • Look at ways you can support your young people to voice their grievances peacefully, say through the arts for example - this may be visual, such as through drawings and paintings, through writing, such as poetry or written accounts - how about helping them start their own local newspaper, writing and performing a play - creating music - there so many ways that art can be used to express the frustrations of the youth today, to help them get their voices heard and to speak out for a more just society. Let us embrace the arts for a higher purpose.
  • Let's help our young people to make a positive difference in this world. This can be teaching them how to go about peaceful protests, lobbying politicians for change, emailing world leaders, fund raising for charities for those people in need. There are so many positive things our young people could (and should) be doing to change this world - let's give them all the support they need to do this, whilst always keeping a watchful eye to help keep them safe.
  • Let's encourage talented teachers and artists into our communities to inspire our youth with ways to work towards a greater vision. There are so many good things we could get involved with that would keep us so busy, we simply wouldn't have the time to sit on our frustrations.
  • Look at getting some professional training on youth leadership. Visit other successful youth groups - they don't have to be Muslim ones, they may be from a local church for example. A church I used to attend had the youth at the heart in all they did and it was truly amazing to see some of the results. Young people used to turn up at that church with some serious social issues but they were welcomed in and made such a part of the community that it made huge differences on their lives. I remember one guy who had a drug addiction to heroine walking into church one day, kicking his habit and cleaning up his life almost overnight. Let's not be afraid to look at what other people are doing to cope with the challenges young people are faced with in society today and to learn from positive examples, wherever they may be. Or you might travel out of your locality to visit a successful Muslim youth group in another area.
  • When I was a teenager I attended a youth club which was run by the youth themselves - every member of the committee was a young person, we were just assisted by a youth worker who would help give guidance every step of the way. We all learnt so much from the experience, some skills which stay with me even today. Maybe this could be a way to re-energise the youth at your mosque? Maybe give them the reins? Just have those wise people on hand to make sure they don't go racing off on the wrong track, someone they can trust and talk to in confidence, and they should be just fine.
  • Let's get discussing those difficult verses which the radicalists love to use in order to promote angry responses. Let's research them and discuss them, look for deeper meaning, together, especially with our youth - it is our young people that need this information more than anyone - let's give them the tools and information that they need to navigate through these rough waters.
  • Let's get sharing all the countless stories of our Prophet pbuh regarding his patience and forbearance, especially during those times of frustration, great hardship, and how he responded when he was mocked and ridiculed. There are so many rich examples, let's draw strength from them and share them with our youth and also the rest of the world.

  • Please consider interfaith activities. Are you involved in any? If not, how about giving some local church/mosque/temple leaders a call and starting a discussion? It may lead to some great things. There are so many ideas regarding what could be done to improve communications, build friendships and improve understanding. Many radical ideas, in all different communities (not just Muslim ones) are born out of fear which is broken down through greater understanding. Here's a crazy idea: give your local right wing party a call and invite them for a chat over a cup of tea - we all know that Allah can makefriends even out of our enemies.
  • Please look at ways to ensure that women are fully included with your activities. If you don't have any women on your mosque committee, maybe now is a good time to invite some on? And if you don't even allow women to visit your mosque, really this needs addressing (I personally have experienced this problem on two occasions) - lack of space is simply not an excuse. Women are important because they bring balance and can help to calm men down when they are struggling with frustrations. Balance is important now more than ever. Women are also well placed to understand the frustrations of our youth and have many creative ideas on how to go about this - a mother's instinct is needed, please make sure our women are heard.
  • Please walk by your mosque and imagine yourself as a stranger - consider how welcoming it is, how easy it is to go inside and find out information and reach someone to find out more. I've had a difficult time with this, but these are not difficult issues to resolve. Please try and make sure you have support in place to welcome new people into your community, especially those people new to Islam. You may find that some people who are coming into the faith from other religious traditions, are exactly the people you may need to help you better understand people of other faiths and help you reach out to the wider community to promote greater understanding. Or maybe those new people have some great skills that might benefit your community if you welcome them in and help them find a way to get involved.
Most important of all - let's respond to hatred with greater love, misunderstandings with greater education, intolerance with tolerance, anger with self control. Let's not wait for others to improve our world, let's lead the way.

One last thing, maybe you are one of those people who really feels very angry with the Western world, to the point where you are considering some kind of armed struggle? Please, please don't give up on love. Anger really does cloud the vision. However hurt and frustrated you may feel, reach out to someone you can trust who is promoting a path of peace, not war, share your frustrations and ask for guidance. May Allah swt guide us all.

You can now download the full report here. Please do so and email to your own mosque and community leaders.

Friday, 9 January 2015

How to bring an end to Radical Islam and save lives? (part 2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3 part series I am writing regarding the challenge of radical Islam. Part 1 is here.

In this part I discuss what actually causes radicalism in the first place, since we need to understand that if we are to prevent and hopefully fix the problem.

This article which I linked to at the end of part 1 provides good insight, based on evidence:

Many argue that religion is the root cause, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Religion is merely a tool through which emotions can be exploited. The majority of attacks are actually politically motivated at a higher level, with the people actually committing the atrocities frequently driven by own personal grievances. If we consider those millions of people living through wars, driven from homes, with family members frequently injured, tortured or killed, sometimes deprived of education, these acts are not at all hard to understand.

But when we consider those young men who grow up in the West, often brought up in apparently stable environments enjoying political freedoms, relative security, plus a decent education, these cases have many people baffled regarding the why. In addition, the growing number of incidences of these particular cases are what really concerns Western society, because it is so hard to determine from where the next attack may come and thus it is extremely difficult to 'eliminate' the ever growing threats.

Loud statements of condemnation may help to boost our morale and provide the words we all want to hear, but in reality they do absolutely nothing to help solve the ever growing problem. Worryingly, Western statements of self righteousness may actually make the problem even worse and drive those drifting towards radicalism to separate themselves even further from the rest of the society in which they live. When radicalised youths hear their local mosque leaders standing in firm solidarity with Western governments (who are frequently guilty of their own atrocities) in their condemnations, I fear such youths may further separate themselves from their local religious communities who are the very ones best placed to bring any of these young people 'back from the brink'.

I find I have to say over and over again, that I do not condemn or justify acts of terrorism in any way, without exception. I will keep saying it but still I will get the accusations - that's ok. My only interest now is how to save lives and stop the killing. This fact remains, we will never solve a problem if we do not first take an honest look at the causes, and that is what I am trying to do here.

Most (although not all) of the people sucked into radicalism from the West are young men, maybe in their late teenage years or early twenties, so let's first look at what makes young men so vulnerable.

Can you think back to that time in your own life, maybe when you had just left school? Did you ever do anything wrong, something crazy, maybe out of frustration or anger, without considering at all the consequences or the people around you that you were hurting? Did you ever get involved with a group with some slightly crazy ideas? Maybe dabble in some ideologies that you later came to realise were not really the best way to live your life? Many of us easily forget the mistakes made in our youth, perhaps in an attempt to blot out the memories of the stupid things most of us did at some time in our lives, things we would rather our own children never found out.

Story 1

Let me tell you a story that I recall from my youth. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, when I reached the end of my secondary school years, I remember there were lots of incidents of kids burning their schools to the ground. I'm not sure if this is still the case today, but back then I recall there were lots burnt down, at least in the area where I lived. There was one group of nice kids at my own school, who came from nice families, had done fairly well in their studies, but had gone a little 'off the rails' towards their final years, since almost all the kids were going partying at the weekends and getting 'totally plastered' (drinking excessive amounts of alcohol) and also an increasing number were taking drugs such as ecstasy at the weekend like they were sweets. My own children might be shocked if they ever get to read this, but the truth is, it was very common. Maybe it is still the same today, I don't know, I hope not quite as much.

Now these kids, despite having been brought up in nice stable families (at least stable on the surface) and having been brought up in a school with strong religious teachings, some of them still attending church on a Sunday, still none the less had some serious frustrations. Many of them were sad about hidden problems say within their families, and often struggled to find an outlet for their frustrations or any adults to take them seriously. Schooling then was a little dictatorial. Corporal punishment in my own Catholic school years had been a big part of my primary school life, me being one of the few kids that had escaped a good thrashing with the ruler, many others having suffered worse under the cane.

It was the day before the last day of our secondary school life. We had all made plans on how we were going to say our goodbyes the next day, to friends and also teachers. Perhaps some had bought gifts and everyone looked forward to going a little bit crazy and letting our friends sign our shirt as was the tradition. Then just as we were about to go home on that day before the last day, a message went around the school, from the headmaster, that the last day had been cancelled, as the school wanted to avoid any problems, such as flour being thrown or fights breaking out (as sometimes did happen on such an emotionally charged day).

Well, you might imagine, we were furious. We felt let down and rejected by our school, stolen of our last memory. Then, in that moment of rejection and upset, one group of kids became totally blind to all common sense and plotted to burn the school down. They planned to go to a party that night, sneak out in the middle, change into some hidden clothes, take some petrol cans and burn down the school, before returning to the party like nothing had happened. It was a moment of sheer madness that could not have been anticipated in their otherwise 'nice' lives. It was only as the evening approached some hours before the party that one of those kids said to the others, 'what are we actually doing here? If we go ahead with this we probably mess up our entire lives' - and then common sense kicked in and they called the whole thing off. Maybe it was all just talk, and everyone was waiting to see how would bail out first.

But another lad, of a similar age from a different school, went ahead with a similar plan. Out of anger he burnt down his school. I met him not long after he got out of prison when he was aged 19, I think he had served a 2 year sentence. He was put in one of the harshest prisons in the countries with adult criminals and now he knew that with a criminal record his future was completely ruined. He was a really nice guy - apparently nobody would have ever guessed he was going to do that. A moment of rejection, subsequent rage, carried along with a group of others, he wrecked his life, and caused many thousands of pounds worth of damage. He wasn't a bad guy, he was just a youth, who for a moment lost the ability to see things straight.

So these kids, burning down schools, they weren't killing people, were they? I hear you say. No they weren't. But over in America we saw a whole spate of similarly angry rejected kids going on random shooting sprees, and I've no doubt if guns were as readily available in the UK as they are there, we might have seen the same happen here.

How does this relate to terrorism, of the 'radical Islam' type? Well I'm talking here about those kids growing up in the West, rather than the ones who have had their own houses bombed and their own families killed. But everywhere the same principle applies. The truth is, young people are very, very vulnerable.

Muslim kids, frequently born in this country but maybe their parents or grandparents emigrated from abroad, have a whole lot of extra complexities to deal with. To name but a few things: it is not true that racism does not exist and that we have equal opportunities, simply not true. There is huge discrimination even in our professional workforce, which I have witnessed personally against my own husband.  But kids can at times be even crueler than adults when it comes to racism and bullying (again without really understanding how they may be hurting others). These things can be legislated against  and education plays an important part, and I know these things are being worked at - and in some areas there are truly fabulous examples of beautiful diversity with full integration - my own son was blessed to attend a school that you might have thought was the school for the United Nations and it was in perfect harmony, but these things are a challenge and frequently society fails.

And then there is the generation divide - already it is difficult for white none Muslim families to keep up good communications with their children but add into the mix say the scenario of an older generation moving to this country, from a different religion, being hit with completely foreign culture and language, never fully integrating, but then their kids growing up almost in a different world - it is absolutely no surprise that these children may struggle without extra support to deal with such complexities.

Rarely however would these issues on their own lead young people to drift towards groups promoting extreme ideologies. However, now let's throw into the mix the extreme injustice that we are seeing on a daily basis via social media, much of which is ignored by main stream media. It is a fact that the majority of the millions of people we see daily driven from their homes, starving, oppressed, tortured, maimed and killed are actually Muslim. If you can't see this, then you are perhaps only listening to the main stream media and a filtered selection of social media. Myself, being a human rights activist, who would act on any cases regardless of religion, can tell you for sure the majority are Muslims. For example, the 1 million Rohingya undergoing genocide in Burma, the 2000+ brutally slaughtered in Gaza last Summer, many of whom were children, and I can't even being to count the atrocities in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq....the list goes on. I know many none Muslim people feel the pain, because we are all human, and we can all imagine how we might feel if these victims were our own family members. But for many Muslims, they hold this belief that these other Muslims being killed are actually our own family members. The pain therefore is extremely hard to bear, and extremely frustrating when you feel that you can do absolutely nothing to help these people.

For young people, this sense of frustration is intensified. In addition, there is the shock of becoming aware of these things for the first time in life. As children we are protected to a certain extent to the full horror of current events. But as soon as kids get a phone, get on the Internet, they are faced with the full grim reality. Whereas adults may have learnt self control to not watch every video that is sent their way because they know it will be upsetting, our kids will always watch - and then who do they turn to process their understandable feelings of shock, disgust, grief, anger?

Seriously, are we blind to the inevitability of the process of radicalisation? You really don't need to be a doctor of psychology to work this out. In fact, when I look at the scale of the problem, the amount of real life horror I get presented with each day, knowing our kids are seeing exactly the same and maybe even more graphic footage, with nowhere to turn to express their distress, and a feeling of complete dis-empowerment to do anything to change the world, my only questions is: how come more of our kids are not radicalised??

So now, what can we do about it?

Regarding injustice, Muslims are limited. There is plenty they can do and are doing and over time God willing things will improve, but what can we do in the meantime to save our kids? Because justice, as we all know, can be a long time coming.

Now I'm going to tell you a second story, of my own experiences visiting a mosque, to help highlight some missed opportunities that I think the Muslim community could easily address to help protect our children.

Story 2

This happened just recently. I don't like to criticise a place or a people in public, but I feel in this instance I must do, because I suspect my own experience is not an isolated one, and we urgently need to look at our weaknesses.

Over the years I have been feeling frustrated about my inability to find a Muslim community in my vicinity. In the city where I used to live, I was told that the mosque was too small for women to attend, so only men were therefore allowed. And the same thing happened in the town where I lived before that.

When I moved to a new area, I was excited to learn that there was a much larger mosque that had recently been converted and as a result apparently some Muslims were moving to the area. I was excited to attend. This is what happened:

First I looked up the mosque on the Internet. Their website at first looked great. But when I started clicking through on the pages of interest I found blank pages. Although I could read all about the history, the trustees, the management, memorising the Quran and how to donate etc, there was absolutely nothing on the 'Women's Circle' page, plus a blank page for 'Sunday School' (for the kids) and when clicking on the 'Vision' link on the menu, it seemed they didn't have any vision at all since the link went nowhere.

Not deterred however, I filled in the contact form, and also sent an email of enquiry. Clearly they needed a few hints regarding their web page, but I wasn't going to judge anyone on appearances. Then I waited, and waited. No reply was forthcoming, so 2 months later, after nagging my husband to death, I finally persuaded him to drop me off at the mosque to see if I could find out more, and check on provision for women.

I don't usually wear the hijab (headscarf) but for this I put one and had my husband drop me off whilst he waited in the car. I crept in, a little scared. There was a reception with lots of leaflets, and also a shiny new television on the wall showing footage of some kind of mosque activities. I looked through all the leaflets for some information - there was a leaflet on where to buy Muslim ladies clothing, a leaflet on where to buy halal meat, a list of prayer times, more business leaflets, and an outdated sermon from the month of Ramadan, which was from several months before. I took one anyway, curious to know what was being taught. Then I waited. What should I do? Go upstairs? Did I need to take my shoes off? Maybe if I just waited someone would pass by who I might ask. So I waited, and waited. A young boy was dropped off for his Sunday school, the dad looked at me like I was an alien, and then disappeared. After 15 minutes I went  back out to my husband: "you'll have to go, I didn't know where to go and there was no-one to talk to".

So he went in, had an explore - entirely at home because he was born a Muslim and was used to mosques - found some nice guy and asked about provision for ladies. They told him that there is a ladies group on a Saturday morning, from 10am to 1pm. He had asked for an email or number that I might call - but that was apparently out of the question. I was excited, the next weekend would be the weekend I get to meet my local Muslim community.

So I got up early the next Saturday, chose carefully what to wear - a skirt below the knee, a top that covered my arms, head gear to match. My family had a little chuckle at my efforts and I did wonder what the neighbours might think, then I set off on the drive into town, listening to my Sami Yusuf cd, happy. When I arrived, I found the place locked, with no-one in site. So I sat outside in the car reading the Quran whilst I waited. I also looked up the mosque phone numbers and called a few of them - I tried the women's enquiry line, and then the mosque director - neither picked up nor had an answer phone facility.

After about 1 hour, a man arrived at the mosque delivering a few boxes, so I went a little hesitantly to ask him about any ladies group - I explained it was my first time at the mosque and didn't know anything - he told me that he too knew nothing but directed me to the ladies prayer room on the first floor, so I headed up there, waited another 10 minutes, then went home. Dejected.

On arriving home, to my surprise I  found an email waiting for me - a reply to the email enquiry sent 2 months previously. Although this email stated that the women's group actually started at midday on Saturday, or on Thursday, or to come 'later on in the evening to meet the other sisters'. There was no name on the email, so I replied to Mr/Mrs Anonymous to ask if someone might give a precise time and perhaps arrange to meet me since I was a little apprehensive. I sent the email, but no-one replied, so after a few weeks more, I gave up. Clearly this place wasn't for me. This wasn't meant to be. I would just let it go. What a shame though I though to myself, that they have all those resources, and yet someone like myself just can't find a way in.

But a few weeks later, I had a really annoying dream (yes another one of my dreams!), where I went to the mosque and sat there smiling for hours at the people, but they just ignored me, until eventually someone started to speak to me. It was annoying because it was one of these dreams where you wake up to think what a stupid dream and then go back to sleep and keep dreaming it, over and over again. I woke up thinking 'this is stupid to be dreaming about this - today for sure I'm jolly well going to go to that mosque and find these ladies and talk to them'.

So I started again. Put on my 'respectable' clothes. Put on my hijab. Did all the housework and even prepared lunch for the family before dashing out. Parked up. Mosque was open - alhamdulillah! Crept upstairs to the women's room. Some shoes were outside - looked promising.

I was greeted by a lovely lady who was teaching a group of teenage girls, so I asked if I might join them. I had a look around the group and realised I was probably twice the teacher's age, and the group of about 10 girls were perhaps no older than age 13 to 14. I couldn't help but notice most of them had faces heavily painted under their hijab and sat their thinking of my own daughter, now at university - she doesn't wear hijab but if her father ever caught her wearing make-up like that he'd literally hit the roof. But still they looked like lovely girls and I certainly didn't mean to judge anyone on appearances, please forgive me.

The next hour was enlightening. First off I learnt that the lesson actually started at 11.30, not at 12. Hmmm, more miscommunication, ok....Then I listened to the importance of dua (prayer) all good. Then things started to go down hill a little: I listened to a discussion on avoiding things that may be 'haram', such as blue smarties, they are best avoided, and apparently Walkers crisps were not on the halal list for a while - one girl was a bit concerned about this and asked why - apparently they put pig in them or something, was the teacher's reply - but then everyone stopped eating them and they sorted out the problem and its ok they are halal now. Then there was advice on giving presents: it's apparently not allowed to refuse a present whatever it is (I started wondering about that bottle of wine my husband's secretary had bought - but thought better of asking the question and instead bit my tongue), and that you cannot give your presents away, ever (although the girls started to question whether its ok to give away a dress to a charity that has become too small), and did you know, its actually 'haram' to buy someone a present because they have given you one?

And then it got quite funny, and I had to hide my smile, because the teacher started talking about the importance of following the prophet, it's called 'Sunnah', and did you know that the Prophet only ate with 3 fingers instead of 5? And apparently they only found out why this is recently, scientifically, it's because there are enzymes on those 3 fingers which help with digestion, and if we eat with just 3 fingers it slows down the eating which helps us to know when we are full so we don't overeat. Oh and one other thing, apparently The Prophet pbuh (peace be upon him) used to eat sitting on the floor. Her advice to the girls therefore, and the points to take away at the end of the session, were to try eating with 3 fingers and also to inform our parents what we are doing that, and then to take a mat and try eating whilst sitting on the floor, and we would apparently feel the blessings. This would make a good sketch for a comedy, part of me thought. The other part really wanted to cry.

This lady, let me be clear, was a lovely lady, I liked  her, I think she had good intentions. Her teachings, however, were, erm, maybe a focusing a little more on ideas that have arisen out of different cultures from what that which I am used to myself. This was a lady who clearly was very educated, she had studied a degree in Arabic and Islamic studies. Although of different origin (I was the only white person in the room) she was clearly a native speaker, born in this country. Although her family origin was not Arab she had clearly achieved a high level in the Arabic language and could read fluently from the Quran. I was therefore a little puzzled on how she came to be teaching these ideas to our young women who must have a million unanswered questions about life? Not in any way radical or dangerous, but really just pointless, especially in today's world. She was doing her best, for sure. But it concerns me that this is the kind of thing we are teaching our youth especially at a time when they need serious, urgent guidance on how to live in this mixed up world - and I'm not talking here about the colour of smarties.

At the end of the lesson, she asked if there were any questions, and if there were any particular topics the girls would like to cover the following week - silence. Honestly, under their hijabs and behind their painted eyelids, I think they couldn't wait to get out of there. This clearly wasn't relevant to them. Some glanced at their phones, went to say a few hurried prayers since it was the time to pray, and then made a sharp exit.

I stayed behind to have a chat, to explain the miscommunication problems I had experienced, and to find out what else might be going on at the mosque - maybe find some older ladies to talk to. Maybe I could help contribute to this community in some way, bring a little of my own insight? Certainly I could help with that blank website, create a few leaflets for the foyer, and take a few of those irrelevant teachings to task.

She told me that she used to run another class on a Thursday but stopped them because hardly anyone came. She thought there was a women's circle one evening but she knew nothing about that because she was too busy teaching kids - if not at the mosque at the weekend then in private tuition at home. I asked how I might find out about other meetings, because I had tried everything and was getting nowhere. She admitted there were some problems with communications, said her dad was on the mosque committee and she would speak to him. I tried to explain my frustration, and told her these are difficult times, that people are asking about Islam and we need to be ready with answers. I asked her to consider how many more people like me had passed by the mosque and left without any answers. I told her I had waited 10 years for this moment, where I could finally attend a local mosque - and here they have a shiny new one with modern facilities - but really what is here? - nothing, absolutely nothing, so it seems. And where do I go from here?

At this point my own frustrations welled up and I cried. This just isn't good enough. Really, it's not good enough. Can we not do better than this? We have the resources, one day we will be asked what we did with them.

I gave her my email, asked her if she might make some enquiries on my behalf, see if someone could contact me and pass on information on absolutely anything I might be able to attend, or even if someone might meet with me for a coffee for a chat. She took my email, made her excuses because her sister was waiting for her, then left. Once again, there I was in the mosque, alone.

I left, strangely content that I had come, even if only to find there was nothing there. As I passed by the reception there were some guys leaving - they go straight into the ground floor, whilst the ladies are on the first floor, and they hardly brush shoulders so it seems. They looked at me with interest - probably because I was white I suspect. I wanted to say hello, to communicate with them, but I don't know if that is the 'done thing' - for women to talk to men. They didn't say anything. So I left. Another wasted opportunity.

We had found out that there was a morning Sunday school for the boys. We had planned on sending my son there, so he could meet some other Muslim boys, learn a bit of Arabic, learn a bit of the Quran. At the moment, apart from ourselves, he gets about one day a year education at his school regarding Islam, or rather during which he educates his class. When I told my husband about the eating with 3 fingers thing however, he changed his mind. No way was he going to send his son to a teacher that tells him to eat with his fingers, no way!! We all had a good laugh about this - really one of my husband's pet hates is when people lick their fingers, being a doctor he is far too concerned about germs. I can imagine his reaction if one day after attending the mosque our own daughter came home refusing to sit at a table, or use a fork, licking her fingers, telling us she had to do it because The Prophet did, and because there were enzymes on fingers. Now that would be something!

Anyway, after a few more weeks had passed we decided to give the Sunday school thing a chance and it actually wasn't so bad - in fact the kids there were a real delight and our son was amazed at the other children's kindness towards him. It is this community and love that rises us above all cultural differences - thank goodness we did persevere.

I hope my experience of trying to 'get into a mosque' was an isolated incident, but look, in the last city (not even a town but a city) women couldn't even go into the mosque, and the same in the town where I lived before - and yet these were all areas with considerable Muslim communities. So something here clearly needs fixing, at least in some regions. And this isn't just an issue of women being excluded (which is clearly an issue and I believe greater integration between sexes would help in the struggle against radicalisation - will discuss that later) but what about new people entering the religion? Thanks God I am well grounded in the difference between right and wrong, but someone else new to the teachings might easily be sucked into an extreme group if their local mosque wasn't welcoming them in - and some terrorist attacks have taken place by exactly these types of people who only recently converted to Islam and then were led up some crazy path.

But especially now, what of the vulnerable Muslim boy, with all his frustrations, who does he turn to?  The main Muslim day of worship is on a Friday, which he can rarely attend due to school. As far as I am aware, the Sunday morning school in that particular mosque was only catering for primary school kids. I didn't learn of anything for teenage boys. That which I saw of the teaching for the teenage girls was totally completely 100% irrelevant to any of the challenges young people are faced with today. So where do our youth go to when they are fed up with this world and are looking for greater purpose in their lives? I have no doubt they will at some stage be stopped on the street by a welcoming group of radicalists fishing for lost boys (and even girls) just looking for some meaning in their lives. Or maybe not even on the street, there's plenty of online groups that will reach out to them right there in their bedrooms - listen to their every complaint - assure them that Allah is the way and offer  community and purpose that they are searching for. Feed them further stories of terrible injustice. Show them the kids slaughtered by Assad in Syria. It's not long before some of our young people will be willing to give their lives for a cause, for they felt so worthless anyway. Our young people are easy pickings. That's the truth. And when they are killed, there are plenty more to pick off to fill their place.

In part 3 I offer some suggestions on practical things that could be done to protect our youth and save them from radicalisation. Thank-you for reading.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

How to bring an end to Radical Islam and save lives? (part 1 of 3)

On Sunday night 11th January 2015 I had a bad dream. I dreamt that masked gun men, wearing black, broke into a room and shot dead the people inside. I saw it happen. I then went outside the building and saw emergency vehicles rushing to the scene. Everything was in chaos and people were rushing everywhere. People were afraid. Then we heard there was another attack unfolding. Everyone was getting in their cars trying to leave the city and rush away from the scene....the next part isn't clear please don't try and deduce anything from this, this dream may have been guidance to me in my life but I certainly cannot predict the future...

For some reason whilst everyone was rushing away from the scene, I headed towards the next scene, I'm not sure if I was going back in time to the same event or on in time to another event about to happen. I wanted to try and stop what was about to happen. I felt I needed to talk to the people involved, to try and stop them. I went into a room, like some kind of waiting room, there were men and women and kids, just ordinary people, squashed into this room. Maybe it was a station or something, honestly I don't know, I'm writing everything I remember here but I don't want to start filling in the gaps with my imagination. But I know there were some men there in black again and something terrible was going to happen, like an explosion.

Against advice I just walked right into the middle of the room and started talking to these people - who I couldn't see, they were stood back in the shadows, I couldn't see them clearly. All I knew is that they were young guys. I just started talking to them like people, introduced myself, started telling them about how I became a Muslim and explaining that what they were doing was wrong - I wasn't giving them a lecture or anything, or negotiating, nothing like that, I was just talking to them, and listening too. And then I woke up. That's it.

I mentioned the dream in brief to my husband - he's kind of used to my craziness. I didn't go into any detail since I didn't want to 'freak him out' - it was just another of those 'I just had a crazy dream about people getting shot' kind of thing. I've been dreaming stuff since I was little, forever saying 'I had this really crazy dream last night'. On occasion some of these dreams have turned out to mean something, bring some guidance to someone or to myself in some way.

You might call them a coincidence. I'd rather you think of them like that, rather than as some kind of prediction. Some people have suggested maybe it's my subconscious working away at thoughts without me being aware. Of course for me these dreams have meaning because I believe in God and I don't believe in coincidences - but I'm just like anyone else and I do think many of us have significant dreams at times, we just don't often talk about them.

Over the next few days this dream was playing on my mind and I tried to make sense of it. I started wondering if I should try and speak to some of these people who may be having some radical thoughts, whoever they were. Maybe I could use my Twitter platform to reach out to people? I recalled over the months on occasion I have had discussions in public with various tweeps who sometimes express extreme frustration and at times what might be considered some radical ideas on Twitter - who knows how many of these people are genuine people but I always try to respond with patience and help to encourage people towards a path of peace. But maybe I could do a bit more?

By Tuesday night (the day before the terrible attack in Paris) I had a brief chat with one of my dear Twitter sisters who always understands me regarding my crazy dreams, to ask for her prayers because I felt I needed some guidance. I'll post a screenshot of that brief conversation here so you can see I am not making this stuff up (although part of me thinks maybe it is best you come to that conclusion, that I am actually making all this up):

So I felt I should try do something. To try and reach out to some of these people with extreme ideas and try and help them to see things differently. And that's when something similar did actually happen in Paris, the terrible shooting at the Charlie Hebdo meeting on 7th January. How did I feel? To be honest, I didn't suddenly leap up and think 'I just dreamt that' - I just thought that there were some similarities. But there are a lot of terrorist attacks happening all over the world at the moment, so yes maybe I did dream about that before it happened, or maybe it was related to something else or nothing at all. But after thinking about this thing all week, I know for certain I simply must try and contribute in whatever way I can to help be part of the solution and certainly not in anyway contribute towards a further aggravation of the problem. In fact, I think everyone should be doing the same, in whatever way they are able.

But how? Here's the problem: we are all so scared of radicalism. Me included. Terror is terrorising. Honestly I'm such a coward, I even get scared when my kid gets a cold thinking he's got a deadly disease - never mind the thought of talking to people carrying weapons, that just turns me to jelly. These people we see in the media that stand with courage before facing execution - really it just makes me cry to think of their bravery in the face of brutal death.

And that's not all I am scared of. I am scared of all these secret intelligence agents working for our governments. On occasion I have felt some lonely soul in need of advice, in need of someone to talk to, just wanting to talk - and I want to talk to them. I'd like to give them my email so we can just talk about things because often through talking people see reason and don't feel so cut off from society. They say that someone who is considering suicide is less likely to do it if they are encouraged to just talk about that. But I'm scared of who is reading my emails and I don't want to bring any trouble on my family through being associated in any way with someone who may then later turn out to do something bad. This is the problem. Even writing about this is a problem. Thanks God I didn't blog about this before the terrible event in Paris happened - or else maybe I would have been whisked away in the middle of the night, extradited to a place unknown - put in an orange boiler suit and tortured until every dream and dreams I have never had be extracted from my mind.

Now if I'm scared of talking to people who may seem to have some extreme ideas, I'm guessing lots of other people are too. So how do we Muslims reach out to people in our community to try and help resolve this problem, if the first thing we do is just cut these people off from our communications? I follow thousands of people on Twitter, you may have noticed. I like to follow anyone who retweets me or replies to my tweets - and that way if they want to follow up with any questions they can do so via DM (direct message). However, on the rare occasion, I unfollow people who clearly have some extreme ideas - one reason I do this is to not be associated with them, and also because I actually don't want to get anyone into trouble just over something they shared with me in private - like a dark thought that they would never actually act on but just wanted to talk about.

Once I had a young man wanting to share things on his mind, tell me about some of his own dreams. He told me that he was on a permanent fast - every day (just eating at night), for the rest of his life! Can you imagine that? I told him to eat. No-one should do that to himself. I wanted to talk to him, I felt his loneliness, his pain. But I couldn't. I was scared. I pray for him even now - if you are reading this, I want you to know, I pray for you. I wish I could talk to you and tell you that you are not alone, but that you must not punish yourself like that. That's not the way any of us have been called to live our lives, that's really not the way.

What a mess. Really what a mess we have all got ourselves into.

So what can we do about this mess? How can we turn back this tide of hatred, revenge and radical reactions? How can we reach out to these young people who have become separated from society, led astray, had their souls taken by wolves?

The current solution appears to be that we can condemn. That is the human reaction of 'solidarity'. Let us stand together and condemn these evil acts. And then let us get behind our governments as they attempt to 'root out all evil' and stamp it out through brute force. Let us all stand together and shout our condemnation, and if we are not being heard (and usually we are not heard because Muslims condemning acts of violence never makes a good news story) then let us shout even louder. We clearly need to be clear that these acts are terrible, yes we do need to condemn then.

But how much does condemning acts actually help solve the problem? Does condemnation really stop any attacks? Will those young boys who have gone astray listen to us if we stand together and shout louder and hand out the harsh punishments we think they are due? Will it act as a deterrent to stop more young people getting sucked into radicalisation? I fear not. It hasn't yet. Harsh reactions, tough response, seemingly only make the problem even worse.

We all know about the mother who helped government forces to bring back her son from fighting in Syria, and how her reward for helping the government is that she can now visit her son for most of his life in prison - if she is lucky - and if he isn't tortured out of his mind so that he barely recognises his mother when she gets to visit, if she is allowed. So of course, lots more mothers are now going to help reach out to their sons to bring them back home - not!

Time to take a step back, reflect, if you have faith, then pray. We all need wisdom now, from somewhere. Often our natural response is not the one that leads to a solution but only digs the hole deeper.

I have some suggestions. They really only came to me over the past few days, after my own reflection. Please take them, consider them and come up with some ideas of your own. Maybe out of this mess we can bring about something positive. But we clearly don't have much time, this problem is already way out of control, and lives are precious, so after we get our good ideas, let's put our love into urgent positive practical action, fast.

I don't want to get too sidetracked by debate over freedom of speech versus freedom to insult and ridicule, which is clearly an important discussion that is taking place. But rather I want to focus on the problem Muslim communities face regarding our young people being picked off one by one and 'fed to the wolves', in the hope that urgent positive action may actually help save lives.

Please watch this, 10 minutes in, see the young boar is attacked by the wolves:

That's how I feel. Our young boys are being targeted by radical wolves. Only our Muslim community is not (often) doing anything to protect our young. Our youth need to be kept 'centre of our pack'. Instead, they are wondering astray all over the place, and instead of us running out to keep the wolves back, we are just cutting off our young people at the first hint of trouble, condemning them, almost taking flight in the opposite direction.

How about we try to understand what really drives people to take up extreme views in the first place? That way we might come up with some urgent solutions to avoid the process of radicalisation and to bring those people back who may now be just on the brink. This article is a must read, as it is based on real evidence:

In part 2, I will share two true stories regarding the vulnerability of youth and some weaknesses I have observed in the English Muslim community (because I know no other Muslims community, I can only speak from experience from what I see here in the UK). Then following that I hope to share some suggestions on how we might bring about some (rapid) change, to save our youth from radicalisation, insha'Allah. Thank-you for reading.

Part 2 is here.