Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain at Central Mosque, Birmingham on issues pertaining terrorism in Syria and Iraq

On the 25th June, Central mosque held an event with the plea to stop young people from travelling to fight in Iraq and Syria. A high media presence followed where channels included the BBCITVand ISLAM CHANNEL amongst numerous others. The panel included various mosque leaders and scholars as well as the Detective Chief Superintendent Sue southern and Lin Ashby from the Charity Commission.

The first speaker of the day stressed upon giving charity to help the Syrians rather than young people go over to Syria. He highlighted that the young people going over to the Middle East are not aware of the political situation they will encounter and are vulnerable.

Sue Sudan, a police officer explained problems the security force have to deal with when people rush to the war zones as well as highlighted that there is little families can do once their loved ones have travelled to Syria.

Maulana Kadri representative of Sunni mosques in midlands stated “It is the duty of scholars and imams at mosque to get this message across to the youths of the mosque and bring them back to the community”.

Shaykh Ismail, the Imam of Central Mosque Birmingham and the Muslim Chaplin at Sheffield University then addressed the crowd. The Imam of central mosques says that it becomes a duty upon them, as Muslim Scholars, to talk to the people of their community young and old, that it is not jihad people are going in to, it is civil war; where they will be forced into terrorism. He questions the government to why the strategies they bring in for peace are not working? He says a reason for this is because they do not integrate with the community, instead come up with ideas of how to change them. He invites the politicians and scholars to come together to develop a realistic strategy that will help the British Community grow and develop for the better.

Sheikh Arif Abdul Hussain, director of the Al-Mahdi Institute spoke of how the problem was a Muslim problem where change would only occur if there was a transformation from within. He urged religious leader and scholars of the mosque to rise to the challenge, calling for a reflection in what the Prophet stood for. He stated that the ‘’heart bleeds’’ at the thought of these vulnerable youth who are indoctrinated and preyed on to go fight in the Middle East. The problem he feels is due to misinterpretation of the Quran.

The Quran he states is clear ‘’indeed in the messenger of God you have a prime example’’.  He therefore calls for us to look at the Prophet Muhammad (saw) who embraced diversity in expression and was tolerant of the other. The Prophet came to bring peace and reconciliation to the tribes that were at war with each other where he united hearts. The Quran is embedded within the foundations of Love, tolerance and acceptance. It is only until the community embrace diversity and the true values of Islam that the community can flourish.

Sheikh did not skirt the issue that there is a definite crisis in Syria and Iraq rather he addressed that there are different ways to solve these problems than bloodshed. What have we achieved by going to Syria he asks?

Mr Hortons from the Counter Terrorism unit in the West Midlands gave a presentation on the issues they are facing and the work they are doing to deal with the humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq.

Waseem Khan from the Green Lane Masjid spoke of how they are trying to provide humanitarian support in Syria.

Lin Ashby from the Charity Commission spoke of the registered charities around the UK that are helping the humanitarian cause in war- torn countries. She expressed her concerns about the implications of sending sources via non-registered organisations.

Mr Shakarchy explained how the war in Iraq is not a sectarian one.

The floor was then open for any questions and comments. The audience were keen to share their views. A Young member of the audience suggested that scholars need to stop promoting sectarian differences from mimbars to stop fuelling the war in Iraq. A Woman from the audience also spoke of how there was no representation of a Muslim woman facing this issue on the panel and little from the youth that have this passion within themselves.

Overall the panellists were concurring that  alarming number of youth been indoctrinated to commit acts which go against Islam should be stopped as well as there been a clear message that the onus is on Muslim leaders to help prevent youth form fighting in Syria and Iraq.