According to the BBC, at least 700 UK residents have left families and lives behind to join jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq since 2012. Success, ‘acceptance’ and financial security are just a few of the promises made by extremists in a bid to entice potential members.
As ISIS ‘recruitment’ drives become increasingly tech savvy, luring victims through the use of social media, vulnerable individuals are at the forefront of the firing line. And, with many European Muslims at risk, members of the community have come together to prevent both men and women from making a life-changing and dangerous decision.
In 2015, East London's Bethnal Green Academy gained unwanted attention when four female pupils left the UK to join extremists in Syria. When news spread, an open letter was sent to educators throughout the city to read to students. Written by Sara Khan, the letter urged young Muslim women to resist pressure from terror groups.
A committed peace activist and the Director and Co-founder of Inspire, an organisation aimed at women's rights, Khan promotes the empowerment of Muslim women. Through Inspire, she helped launch the campaign #MakingAStand, encouraging a non-violent stand against ISIS. “We cherish the values of peace, democracy, citizenship, and human rights,” Khan stated during the campaign's launch in 2014. “As women we know our role in challenging extremism is essential,”
Members of the Langley Green mosque in Crawley have also shown their support against ISIS. Having organised a visit to secondary schools in the area, leaders of the Muslim community intend to reinstate the idea that 'terrorism has no religion' and speak about the dangers of youth being misled via social media.
Despite the high volume of London youth targeted, statistics prove children living in the Midlands face the greatest threat of radicalisation by extremists. As a result, anti-radicalisation programmes, such as Channel, are being offered to children and teens. Referred to these programmes by education and public personnel, individuals are assessed and made to attend mandatory sessions if applicable to their situations. Proper support is provided by a multi-agency panel through the collaboration of professionals like police and social workers.
Measures taken to stop the radicalisation of youth and reject pleas from ISIS expand outside formal organisations. When the terrorist group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released an audio message persuading others to join him, Muslims everywhere scoffed at his invitation via Twitter. With the use of 140 characteristics, individuals were able to stand up against extremists through wit and comedy – proving that no weapon is too small if it means taking a stand against terrorism.
Words: Katy Shields