A Leicester based Imam has launched a unique intiative to tackle the spread of propaganda put forward by Islamic State.
Dr Ather Hussain rolled out the city-wide campaign, the first of its kind in the country, on Friday, 18th November, from Jamia Masjid-e-Bilal, distributing hundreds of leaflets warning against the dangers of ISIS ideology.
The leaflets offer a description of the Islamic faith in opposition to that of the terror group, and encourage imams across the city to take a proactive approach in educating their communities.
Dr Hussain expressed the importance of offering a counter narrative to that of Daesh (the Arabic acronym referring to ISIS). He said: “Daesh represent ignorance. We want to fight this through education. So, we want every single Muslim in the city to understand how hateful, how negative and how evil Daesh really are.”
The grassroots campaign also includes a guide for parents to help protect their children from the hate messages and recruitment drives of the terror group.
Dr Hussain added: “The guide gives very practical advice to our parents about how they can ensure that they protect their youngsters, that they protect those people under their control, so that they are not exposed to this hateful propaganda.”
Over 10,000 of the publications are planned for distribution from mosques across the city.
The scheme has received strong support from the Federation of Muslim Organisations. PR Officer, Suleman Nagdi, said: “From the Federation of Muslim Organisations, we fully support and endorse a work that one of our affiliates, Masjid-e-Bilal, has taken in relation to the issue of ISIS.
“These individuals have hijacked our faith and I think more and more mosques need to take that active step to say ‘not in our name’ and this is exactly what the initiative’s about.”
Mr Nagdi also went on to stress that the message of ISIS is not a reflection of the true message of Islam. He added: “There is a counter narrative and the counter narrative is positive, the one that Islam teaches of peace, of love for each other.
“The Islamic State has nothing to do whatsoever with the faith of Islam. It’s more of a geopolitical movement that wraps itself up in the symbol of Islam and that is something that we have to reclaim back again.”
The campaign has also been praised by Prevent, a counter terrorism strategy that works at a grassroots level to combat terrorism and extremism through education. Co-ordinator for Leicester Prevent, William Baldet, hopes the project will raise awareness at a deeper level.
He said: “I think what’s important about this is that it won’t just reach the people that are coming to the mosques. It’s going to reach the families because the leaflets will be handed out to take home.
“That’s the bit of the equation that’s always been missing for us at Prevent. How do you actually get into people’s homes and raise awareness with them, not just with the local communities who we engage with more regularly”
It is hoped that the success of the campaign will encourage other areas of the country to take similar steps.
Dr Hussain added: “Leicester is a city known for mutual love, respect and compassion for one another. A climate where people respect one another is a climate where extremism and terrorism cannot breed so we’re very proud of that fact.
“I am sure schemes like this will ensure that we can win this war and ensure that people understand that through education, we can make a better society for us all.”
By Jennifer Morris