‘We can’t defeat ISIS unless we work together’: South London Muslim leader condemns response to Paris attacks

A south London Muslim youth leader has criticised the British press for not giving enough airtime to moderate Muslims countering the message of ISIS.

Following the attacks in Paris last week there has been speculation about potential British military action in Syria and Iraq.

However the general secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, Farooq Aftab, believes there are more important courses of action that need to be taken before this is considered.

“We cannot defeat ISIS unless we all work together, the world we live in today, technology is so important, so I think the press and media have a huge responsibility to portray things properly,” he said.

“More moderate British Muslim voices should be given air time to discourage this message of ISIS.

“If we are going to address this then give air time to the right people.”

Mr Aftab talked about the good work moderate Muslim groups have done to portray a message of unity and humanity.

“There are reports that there are 50,000 ISIS websites. If that’s true we should have one million to counteract that message.”

Earlier this year the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association helped raise £100,000 for the poppy appeal, yet work like this has gone largely unnoticed by the national press.

He went on to point to the past situation in Northern Ireland as an example of how the threat of terrorism should be treated by the media.

He said: “Look at what happened in Northern Ireland with the IRA, the British media acted with very much responsibility and did not give air time to the wrong people.

“That created a sense of unity and solidarity in society which leads to more people being against extremism, the same sense of responsibility should be shown now.”

As for the causes of people turning to extremist groups, Mr Aftab believes that it is social issues at home that must be tackled, and the ease with which ISIS can communicate their message across the internet.

He said: “The root cause is social issues such as education and unemployment which is leading to frustration in youngsters who are then attracted by the message of organisations like ISIS that are very clever with their social media, so we definitely need to crack down on the social media.

“There are reports that there are 50,000 ISIS websites, if that’s true we should have one million to counteract that message.”

Using the internet and social media sites as a recruitment tool has been a main weapon of ISIS in spreading propaganda, and the fear of more British people joining up to the terrorist organisation was echoed by London mayor candidate Sadiq khan earlier this week.

Speaking at a Westminster lunch for journalists, the Tooting MP said: “This fight is personal for me. Like all parents I want to know my daughters are safe.

“I worry that they or their friends could be groomed by extremists on the internet or tricked into running off to Syria like other children have been.”

As a result of the Paris attacks, France have stepped up their air strikes in Syria along with the US and Russia.

David Cameron has in the last week suggested Britain should be doing more militarily to tackle the extremist group and is in the process of seeking parliamentary approval to do so.

However Mr Aftab stressed that Britain should be focusing on where ISIS get their resources from before considering military action.

He said: “It’s very easy for people to say military action will do x y and z, but let’s talk frankly on the root causes. If you look at Syria it’s not rocket science, where is the money coming from?

“Nearly two million pounds a day, where is that coming from? Where is the ammunition coming from?

“Before we even get to military action we should be looking at these facts and asking where is this money coming from? Where are they getting ammunition? If you deal with those problems then we would get rid of the majority of these issues quite soon.”

“Pick up the supply lines and we will hurt them, pick up the funding and we will hurt them. We need to look at these issues in totality and not just in isolation.”

He went on to say that despite a real concern within the Muslim community of an increase in Islamophobic attacks, reportedly up by 300% since the Paris attacks, and it was important for all citizens to be provided with safety and security by the state.

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