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Trying to understand radicalization

Trying to understand Islamic radicalization
Trying to understand Islamic radicalization

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on children attending the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, I turned on the radio to listen to LBC – the London-based talk radio station as people phoned in to comment on the event.

I was particularly interested in two callers – male and female of muslim background who with candour and regret painted a picture of what they believed to be the failings of Muslim communities in the UK to properly address the challenges of radicalization.

Although their contributions were on different shows, they shared a common thread that mosques and their imams are failing to be consistent and effective in addressing radicalization.

Although I agree in part with the sentiment of the callers, especially in relation to what mosques should do to challenge extremist narratives as well as encourage tolerance of others, mosques however are just one strand of a multi-pronged approach to tackling radicalization.

My experience as a Muslim is that the home is the genesis of Islamic radicalization and not the mosque or internet. Anyone saying otherwise simply does not have a clue and does not understand the problem.

Government and other interested agencies need to come up with a way of focusing on what happens to children at home in Muslim communities across the UK.

I could easily have gone down the path of holding extremist views given what I believe to be religious indoctrination during my formative years by my late parents and our extended family.

I am not really sure why I have turned out to be a more rounded and liberal person than some of the people who I grew up with – maybe because my time at university helped me open my mind to other cultures and value systems.

Or is it because I had always challenged and asked fundamental questions about my religion? I really don’t know.

But what I know from my experience growing up at home and my interaction with other muslims is the impact your formative years at home.

Two years ago, I wrote the piece 7 Simple Steps to Islamic Radicalization – although it was a tongue-in-cheek attempt at understanding the problem, the points raised in the article are serious and point to the role of parents and the extended family in radicalization.

The impact of parental indoctrination reminds me of the classic cold war spy tale where someone is hypnotized and brainwashed and then stays dormant until a trigger activates them into carrying out a specific mission.

On this premise, Muslims who carry out atrocities are more likely than not radicalized or primed for radicalization at home with a limited role by the internet, mosques and circle of friends.

I have reproduced the key points from my old article which remains relevant to the curent challenges:

“Probably some of these parents of radicalized young men and women have selective memories and have really forgotten how radicalization happens. So, as someone who knows what radicalization is up close and personal, I’ll give them a little reminder on how it happens:

  1. Be insular and hateful towards Western values and culture – and avoid interaction with people of other faiths and cultures – engage only with people of your own faith.
  2. Make sure you feed your imagination with every hair-brained conspiracy about Western governments’ plans to dominate the world and undermine Muslims and ‘Muslim countries.’
  3. Never say anything positive about the UK or any other Western country – always blame Western countries for everything that goes wrong in the world and in your life, including when your girlfriend dumps you or when you don’t get that job that you really wanted – as you know, it’s all because ‘they don’t like Muslims.’
  4. When your child is born; remember the saying about ‘catching them young,’ so you should start the indoctrination process ASAP and feed your child all your conspiracies about Western governments and ‘what’s wrong with Western values.’
  5. Don’t forget to remind them at every opportunity that their real home is not the UK, their country of birth, but that far and distant and alien country that you originated from.
  6. And if you feel you don’t have enough cred to talk to your child about these matters, then make sure the child’s uncles and local imam drum into the child the need to identify more with the wider global Muslim community than with their fellow UK citizens.
  7. You have really done well so far, because by the time your adolescent child is old enough to access the internet, he or she would be prepped ‘fertile ground’ for the bogeyman on the internet to now take advantage of and ‘radicalize’: You have succeeded in getting your child close to the radicalization finish line – the internet bogeyman will simply take them over the line. Well done!

Now sit back and wait for the fireworks. And then tell the world how your child was a kind and loving person doing the things other youngsters did.

Make sure that you take no blame for your child’s radicalization or what they turned out to be – instead blame the authorities, blame the internet and everyone else but yourself. That’s how to do it.”

Mohammed Argungu, Guest Writer

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