"Peace Iftar" in London during Ramadan 2015, run by a collective of interfaith organisations including LBFN, FbRN, Christian-Muslim Forum, The Cordoba Foundation, Faiths Forum London, and more...
I have enough of seeing the same wrong strategies to stop terrorism, which do more harm than heal. It's been 6 years I'm studying European Muslim charities at a grassroots level for my PhD in sociology. I've met Muslims in the so-called process of "radicalisation"; I've met people who came back from it. The government has been doing wrong for more than 20 years with its confrontational policies; here are a modest collection of ideas inspired by field interviews and sociological observations:
1. Encourage economic development
People joining ISIS and those joining far right movements (yes, they are terrorists too) come generally from a similarly deprived environment. They see violence as the last resort for bringing change. Whether people have no degree, little money, and live where it's hard to get jobs: encourage entrepreneurship and provide trainings. Setting up a small, local, business is accessible and gives to many what is needed the most: hope.
2. Encourage local interfaith initiatives
Britain has one of the most diverse population in the world. However, even in London, people don't get to know each other. It is important that people know the basis about Islam, Humanism, Judaism, the Sikh Gurus, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha'i, Brahma Kumaris, Jainism, others and their different schools of thought, and for people from different communities to know each other. Ultimately, whether it is relief to the poor, workshops, artistic events, campaigns, or else, we need people from all faiths and none to build social projects together with a tangible impact at a local level. Many of the initiatives need only a little financial help to emerge.
3. Boost cultural literacy
Governments and media have been dividing communities for years. On the one hand, it is urgent to acknowledge in the general curriculum the damages brought by colonisation, to teach history and geopolitics from a non Western-centric perspective; talk openly about white and male privileges and their current implications, include major elements as African Empires, Native American societies, South Asian history, and the different spiritualities. On the other hand, encourage communities to offer more discussions and courses about their own legacy. If the Brits who have joined ISIS knew about the Qur'an and the life of Prophet Muhammad, I bet they wouldn't have joined.
4. Reform treatment of convicts
So-called Jihadists are currently treated as criminals. In general, criminals are excluded from the society and isolated from the world in prisons. This environment only leads to more harm, trauma, frustration and rises the risk of further violent action after release. I wish we could take example on the countries of Northern Europe where people successfully treat criminals as human beings in need of healing, with psychologists, psychiatrists, chaplains and work at their rehabilitation for them to be citizens positively contributing to the society.
5. Use researchers and community leaders as consultants
Europe and America have some the best universities in the world. Instead of using this asset, governments use consultants who know only very little about the reality on the field and challenges faced by communities. At every training I provide to authorities, public services, elected politicians and police forces, it's the same: most of them seem completely disconnected from the citizens. I urge the government to make use of professors, researchers, PhD students, community leaders and young activists, who have spent years analysing problems and finding solutions, as roots for their decisions.
6. Invite people at city council meetings
Again, nothing speaks best for the people than the people. Any citizen, no matter the qualifications or social status, has a voice to be listened to. Most city council meetings are open to the public, but this fact is not well known. There is a need to publicise, and invite people from different generations, backgrounds, and cultures. Challenges are different for everyone; but everyone has a brick to add in the building of a cohesive society. City councils should be worried if their meetings do not have non-elected citizens attending.
7. Stop arms trade, and stop trade with countries violating human rights
It's not secret anymore, with politicians publicly confessing that Western foreign policies have created monsters like ISIS, that oil seems a sufficient excuse for Britain and others to condone women's rights and beheadings of the Saudi regime, which arms ISIS for its own interests. Attacks are the backlash of arming dictatorships and maintaining friendly relations with countries violating human rights. It's just horrific to see that money matters more than human lives. I wish Cameron, Hollande or Obama visit shattered Syrian cities, ruins in Iraq, destroyed families in Gaza or Pakistan to realise the extent of their actions. I wish we had politicians with one ounce of dignity to never compromise with human rights.