Muslim group fights prejudice  FITCHBURG — Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are waging what they call an awareness campaign against extremism and radicalization in an effort to show that radical jihadists are far removed from the true teachings of Islam.

Furqan Mehmud, regional youth leader for Ahmadiyya communities in the Fitchburg and Boston areas, Connecticut and New York, said the group is teaching kids to speak out against terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, through the “Stop the Crisis” campaign and teaching them how to wage a “jihad of the pen.”

Some American Muslims are experiencing bullying and racism, he said, because of a lack of understanding of who most Muslims and the radicalization of a small segment of Muslim youth. Many Muslim youth don’t know how to respond to the prejudice, he said.

“Unfortunately, in light of recent events, there is a growing thought among some that there is something inherent within the religion of Islam which incites people to violence and extremism,” he said.

As a result, he said, some believe Islam itself leads to radicalization.

“Sometimes the perspective of Islam amongst the general public in America can be based entirely on what is commonly seen on television, which often only shows the tiny handful of extremists,” he said. “It’s ironic though, because the very word Islam is actually derived from the Arabic root-word ‘Salima,’ which means peace.”

Last week, Mr. Mehmud organized a “Stop the Crisis” presentation at Fitchburg State University and is planning others in the region to help spread the message, he said.

Mr. Mehmud’s parents moved to the United States from Pakistan, where members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are persecuted and imprisoned for their beliefs.

Extremism and radicalization have become associated with Islam, he said, but radicalization is not a problem that can be traced to any one religion.

“It is a problem that occurs among people of all creeds and convictions,” he said. “It is a problem that we find in the twisted people of every society, from every background. … So if today, we see an extremely minute handful of Muslims deviating toward extremism and radicalization, we should know that it is not Islam that motivates them, and that what we see today in the form of various extremist groups is just another set of warped individuals who use violence to further their political goals.”

In cases of people such as Justin Bourque, Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik and Damian Clairmont, who carried out terrorist acts, Mr. Mehmud said the common factors are age, impressionability and discontentment.

“Unstable youth, dissatisfied with society and looking for a greater purpose, want to change the world and give vent to their frustrations,” he said. “These are the people most susceptible to becoming radicalized. This is the recipe for radicalization. Not religion.”


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