AN IMAM who helped launch a digital magazine for young Muslims “to reclaim the space” lost to ISIS, said the online battle against the terror group is gaining momentum.
Imam Qari Asim, a senior editor of Haqiqah – which translates as The Reality, said ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) was failing its mission in recruiting members after millions of Syrian refugees left the war-torn country in search of a better life.
The publication, part of a wider drive by Muslims to “reclaim the digital space” from radical groups such as ISIS or Daesh as it is also called (which means “one who sows discord”), launched its second edition last week.
Asim, who is an imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds, said despite ISIS being exposed for its “falsehoods”, they continue to put out “a huge amount of propaganda” online.
“Everyone acknowledges that ISIS is running a very sophisticated social media strategy,” he told Eastern Eye.
“I get asked questions in the mosque, youngsters want to understand the political situation; they also have theological questions. People are interested to find out what imams are saying about ISIS. Even if one person stays, it’s really good news.
“We’ve had over 77,000 downloads of the edition, so it goes to show there’s a huge appetite.” Last month a report found that dozens of ISIS members were deserting the terror group because they were disappointed with the quality of life.
The study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) found that since January 2014 at least 58 individuals have left the group and spoken publicly – and the number is growing.
“The few who have managed to escape and come back – they tell a shocking story,” added Asim.
“It’s a one-way ticket, unfortunately, and that’s why we have imams being more proactive online. “We’re trying to prevent people leaving, rather than let people go and realise themselves how horrible it is.
“Previously young people perhaps understood a bit about Islam and never come across the sort of arguments that are presented by ISIS.
Now more youngsters who have more knowledge about the faith realise the disparity of arguments presented by ISIS and those by traditional scholars.”
Asim last week visited Syrian refugees in Calais who fled violence and persecution in that country.
“One person saw the beheadings of his friends. I met some grandfathers who lived their whole lives there, experienced the previous era and have now seen how the whole country has changed. “People are saying there’s no infrastructure, and to say there is some sort of ‘state’ is crazy.”
In the magazine, female scholar Shaykha Safia Shahid offered “a message to my sisters”, warning young women about being groomed online after several teenage girls, such as the school friends from Bethnal Green Academy, left for Syria when they were only 15.
“Do not engage, online or otherwise, with Jihadist propagandists that offer you marriage as a means of escaping from your world to theirs,” she wrote.
For more information, go to http://www.haqiqah.org