Countering ISIS means standing as one, not sowing Muslim hate

Written by Sajjad Karim on 24 November 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

Europe's 'home-grown' terrorists are the result of years of governments' inaction against radicalisation; blaming Muslims and sowing hate is exactly what ISIS want, writes Sajjad Karim.

What happened in Paris was a near mimic to the attacks in Mumbai - carefully planned and executed with precision. 

Seven years before, I had come face to face with extremists using machine guns to gun down hundreds of innocents, while barricaded in the Mumbai Taj Palace Hotel, where I was conducting Parliamentary duties as the EU-India free trade agreement rapporteur.

Unlike in India however, the assault on the French capital appears to have been planned abroad, but carried out by home-grown terrorists. In this case, Europeans who had travelled to Syria.


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This prospect makes last week's events much scarier, but where did this home-grown threat originate?

Speaking as a member of the Muslim community, I have memories from the late 80s and early 90s - during my time as a student - of very bright, young Muslims being recruited by extremists coming over from Afghanistan.

They were targeting the youngest university students, brainwashing them with their ideology and convincing them to go fight in this war torn country.

What it meant was that the Muslim community was losing, albeit only a small amount, some of their brightest people.

When the issue was raised with the authorities at the time, their attitude was to turn their backs on the problem and simply say there was nothing that could be done to stop them.

Many of these young Muslims died fighting in Afghanistan, but the ones that did return came back with all this knowledge of how to fight, recruit and build terrorist networks. 

Most importantly, these now seasoned fighters were able to bring back their ideology of hate and radicalism.

What we are seeing now has remnants of what was just described from a few decades ago. Yet it's really only now that member states are putting in place measures to prevent radicalisation.

If we are to have any chance of stopping these people, then the start must be honesty.

Zia Chaudhry, a British Muslim like myself, last week received an MBE for his services to interfaith relations and bringing different faiths together on Merseyside. Before accepting the honour, he launched a scathing attack on the so-called Islamic State, describing Britain as "heaven on earth".

He wrote: "The non-Muslim monarch of a non-Muslim country is rewarding a Muslim for contributing to said country, even though he wrote a book in which he criticised some western policies.

"They don't seem too bothered by that. I imagine they regard it all as part and parcel of the freedoms the Almighty granted to us humans, although I'm guessing that was one of the many Islamic lessons you [ISIS] missed.

"You [ISIS] seem to think Muslims should be rushing to join the hell on earth you have created, because it will get us into heaven.

“Speaking for myself, I'm fairly relaxed about getting in to the heaven of the afterlife. After all, I'm sure we can trust the Almighty to get it right. So in the meantime, I'll just carry on enjoying and contributing to the heaven on earth that is this country, my country.

"Oh, and my contributions are the real jihad. Another of those missed lessons eh?"

This is exactly the type of honesty and contribution that we must all embrace, and continue to fight for.

From a British European Muslim perspective though, we feel we are getting it from all ends. Nothing was done to protect our young from this extremism and now radicalisation has taken root.

More often than not, the finger of blame is pointed at us, with some saying we are responsible and that we have to eradicate the problem ourselves, but we can't and we never could.

This is exactly the kind of attitude which ISIS would like the West to embrace. They wish to sow seeds of hatred within different parts of our society and destroy the values we stand for. 

It is a shame when some democratically elected populists use what these terrorists have done to sow their own seeds of hatred within society.

Now is not the time for division. Now is the time for all of us who reject the extremists' ideology of hate and violence to stand together as one.

Their actions haven't been able to divide us, so we cannot let our reaction achieve for them what they have been unable to achieve for themselves.

About the author

Sajjad Karim (ECR, UK) is Chair of Parliament's delegation to the EU-Armenia and EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary cooperation committees and the EU-Georgia Parliamentary association committee

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