Australians today are in shock that two boys who were in the local public schools only a few years ago, could today be engaged in some of the most barbarous actions of the modern century. We tend to think that Boko Haram, the Lords Army, Al Qaeda and its off-shoots all exist in another country with intractable problems that we have no connection to. Unfortunately that is not the case anymore.
Radical extremists have a history – a journey that influenced them. And this journey nearly always starts in childhood. Educators and leaders need to look closely at those young men who have been radicalized recently and track down some of the potential causes. This article will look at just some that may need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Other parents are perhaps too afraid to bite the bullet and seek help on how to deal with a society that they are still coming to grips with – even as second generation parents. Turning a blind eye to potential problems and naively believing that “my boy would never do that” is not going to prevent it occurring. Active parenting, which involves talking, listening and guiding is never easy, because ultimately parents tend to blame themselves if their child makes a mistake or goes astray. But blaming everyone else is not a solution either. At least with active parenting, parents can sleep at night knowing that they did their best to build a strong relationship and guide their child.
In Muslim dominant countries there is a greater cohesion of expectations, behavioural standards and understanding of what is right and wrong. In immigrant lands, with atheism, consumerism, pornography, gambling etc freely available, it is much harder for parents to find community support for the standards that they believe are important. Of course Muslim majority countries have plenty of issues as well, but parenting in the West can be a lonely job and sometimes parents feel they are a voice in the wilderness, struggling with issues that are changing daily.
Protecting daughters has been a concern for every Muslim parent – whether living in a Muslim or Western country. Family honor can become tied to the perceived reputation of womenfolk – and tragically this can be taken to extremes as seen in the Indian subcontinent in recent years with so called ‘honor killings’. Communities often forget that it is their sons who equally need to be protected, guided, nurtured, supported and encouraged into safe futures. Too often the boys are left “to be boys”, hanging out with the wrong kids – sometimes even cousins are ‘the wrong kids’ – and a blind eye turned to their outbreaks of anger, their lack of duty and their fool-hardiness. At the age of 3 this can be cute, but at 23 it is downright dangerous.
Men in the Muslim community are renowned as passionate, full of energy and strength. If that strength and passion is put to a good cause, and carefully restrained, the Muslim community can find success in all its ventures. When that passion and strength is uncontrolled, is left to be dominated by the heart and the emotions, the Muslim community can turn on itself, and destroy everything around it. This is the same with anger. It is important to remember the Prophet’s advice to Abu Huraira “The strong man is not the one who wrestles well, but the one who controls himself when he is angry” (Sahih Muslim, Book 32, 6313). Knowing the capacity of his people to be angry, the Prophet s.a.w. is also reported to have responded to a request for advice with “Do not be angry”, which was repeated three times. (Sahih Bukhari, Book 73, Hadith 137)
Role models come in all shapes and sizes. For some it is sporting heroes, others their religious leaders, but unfortunately for young men brought up in an environment of negative comments about their own country, of conspiracy theories, of a victim mentality, their heroes are those who fight against ‘the system’, without really understanding what that system stands for. It is easy to feed on the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that feed hate, anger and self-righteousness. It is much harder to be a leader who addresses the problems that young people face, and provide them with real solutions and hard advice about getting their personal lives in order.
The Muslim community is crying out for more of the young men who have solid Islamic education, and who are willing to ‘get their hands dirty’, visiting the jails and the hangouts of the school drop-outs, the angry young men, and patiently, painfully steer them into self-confidence, and the capacity to control their insecurities. Teaching angry young men to take responsibility for their own actions, take the hard road instead of the easy road, is a difficult task There are some who are doing this, but for most of the role models in our Muslim community and its leadership, it is a task that they unfortunately often feel less than capable in tackling, and leave to others.
And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults), and ask (Allah's) Forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).Qur'an, Al-Imran(3):159