Can education tackle Islamic extremism? This Middlesbrough man thinks it can
Imam, Naveed Saddique, calls it “another tool with which we can heal the wounds of the past and develop a bright and inclusive future without the threat of prejudice and intolerance.”
Teesside Live talked to Ifty about his programme – and what he hopes to achieve.
What prompted you to start it?
People locked up in prison were coming out religious fanatics. They were being brainwashed into extreme Islam. The original plan was to try and educate them, but the Government wanted to stop students being radicalised too. The Government has a “Prevent Strategy” but it’s not as effective as it should be – we’re trying to add to what’s out there.
We’re aiming it professionals like teachers, and at students to stop them being radicalised. We also need to target those convicted of Islamic extremism and terrorism – we need to change their distorted views of Islam. Groups like Isis are planting a seed of hatred in their minds – we want to plant a seed of love that will lead to peace.
How have you developed it and how will it work?
Two and a half years ago, I started thinking about doing something and a manuscript was the result. I showed it to a family friend from the LGBT community and they said turn it into a book – have a word with the Government and see if you can make it part of the national curriculum. It was originally one book, then two, now it should become three.
And the animations are all designed to attack online radicalisation. We’ve teamed up with a company to produce them and we’re doing up to 100 on all sorts of topics. But it’s all family funded – we didn’t want to have a fantastic idea and go to the Government with it, only to be told it couldn’t happen because of money. We don’t want teachers thinking it’s extra work on top of what they’re doing. Each chapter has a corresponding video – it’s just a case of pressing ‘play’. Now we’re trying to get the Government and Department of Education on board.
What are some of the key issues?
Did you enjoy growing up in Boro?
I loved it and never had any problems. But I recognise there are people out there who think they are being discriminated against.
I’ve never experienced it myself – maybe I’m the minority but I’ve never had it. But there are obviously people who think there is an issue with discrimination. And many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, hold a lot of misconceptions about the reality of Islam, often confusing cultural and religious practices.
What sort of misconceptions are there?
That UK Muslims are disloyal and waiting to rise up and take over. That all UK Muslims wants Sharia Law. And that Islam is incompatible with British laws and values – we want to show that it IS compatible. And I want to challenge the misconceptions that Muslims are misogynistic and backward when it comes to things like forced marriages and female genital mutilation. I’m a moderate British Muslim – and I think most British Muslims are like me. The trouble is, most people in our community are very passive – no-one seems to want to get up and say ‘we have a problem – we need to tackle it.’
And what’s the aim?
One terrorist attack is one too many – that’s what hopefully we’re trying to stop. Education is the key to so many things and, ideally, we’re hoping the Government will support us. I’m doing something a lot of people aren’t willing or able to do, and that’s tell people about Moderate Islam. We’ve seen what radical Islam is – I want people to make the distinction. And ideally, we want the majority of the Islamic world on board, on our side and to be more vocal.
All around the UK, there are millions of Muslims who share the British values of democracy, individual liberty and tolerance. Unfortunately, a minority of individuals, misguided about the true meaning of Islam, seek to undermine the fabric of British society and in doing, erode trust in the Muslim community. The Harmony Initiative is a grassroots project, created in consultation with a cross section of the local community, and is designed to complement the Government’s Prevent Strategy by providing a proactive arm in establishing a universal educational approach to anti-radicalisation.
But what difference can one person’s project make?
Well, Hitler was a single person – but so was Gandhi. One person can drown someone or save someone. One person CAN make a difference and I want to make a really positive one. I’m trying to plant a seed of love rather than hatred.