Young Muslims youth and Risk—Locating the Problem

The idea of youth at risk has become central to a range of discourses, academic and professional. In the regional and global contexts of significant social, economic and technical change, narratives of risk and uncertainty are widespread  Young people, meanwhile, are seen both as a treasured resource and as endangered and dangerous—at risk. from others, to themselves, and to the fabric of communities , and the imperatives to protect, monitor, contain and sustain young people in the transition to responsible adulthood, have come to the fore on multiple intellectual and professional agendas. 

Politicians and policy makers are increasingly exercised by how to prevent young people from taking or being exposed to risk, from becoming socially excluded, deviant, unhealthy or unproductive .

If strategies to deter extremist violence are to be effective, we must take a serious look at some of their strengths and weaknesses. 

In an effort to combat the influence of radical ideologues, an entire cadre of Muslims leaders around the world has come forward with active campaigns to take the “Islam” out of “Muslim terrorism”. They aim to make clear that such acts of violence are not only morally repugnant but clear violations of Islamic principles and law. 

Governments, civic groups and Muslim leaders around the world have supported these efforts in a number of ways. For example, Various Muslims NGO's groups  have sought to educate the public about Islam, while at the same time promote a distinctly Australian  Muslim identity for emerging youth. 

While these efforts should be commended, many of them have fallen short of their mandate because of their largely non-political orientation. If de-radicalising potentially violent Muslim youth and deterring religious extremism is the aim, how can these approaches reach their target audience without offering a viable pressure valve in today’s intensely conflicted world? How can such programming influence the angry and disaffected to deter extremism? 

It is common sense to most people that the acts of violence committed by groups like Al Qaeda and their home grown wannabes are political in origin but wrapped in religious ideology. Muslim youth today are enraged, for instance, by misdirected drone strikes in Pakistan that kill innocent women and children, and the seemingly endless oppression of Palestinians. Both Afghanistan and Somalia, today’s terrorist hot spots, have been failed states for two generations; the youth in these countries have only known social strife, war and failed promises from the international community.

It is these raw conditions that brew extremism. Nonetheless, counter-radicalisation programmes often shy away from difficult and direct political conversations. Instead, they overemphasise topics like the multicultural legacy of Cordoba in Spain,  and the scientific achievements of the medieval Muslim world. 

Muslim leaders and their allies in government and civil society must move beyond simply nurturing the “Good Muslim” role model and encouraging acts of good citizenship like charity and community service. They must realise that stories of water-boarding and pictures from Abu Ghraib will have a far more profound influence on shaping the political perceptions of Muslim youth than US President Barack Obama’s eloquent words of peace or the interfaith declarations of Muslim clerics. 

If Muslim leaders are expected to guide their youth in a religious cause against violence and extremism they should also be encouraged to speak truth to power against issues of political injustice, which are real driving factors fuelling extremism. By ignoring this call, Muslim leaders and their allies will not only be seen by their target audiences as mere puppets of Western governments, but guarantee that those disaffected masses are forced into the shadowy world of extremist cyber space and the arms of figures like al-Awlaki. 


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