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Opinion: High time for self-scrutiny in Finland's Muslim community

It can’t be that Muslim youth are constantly being recruited to fight in wars overseas without the community itself knowing about it, writes journalist Wali Hashi. In an op-ed piece written for Yle, Hashi put the proverbial cat among the pigeons and called on the Muslim community in Finland to examine itself as young people seek careers in foreign conflict. Yle News has reproduced excerpts of that piece.

Wali Hashi
Wali Hashi tuli Suomeen 17-vuotiaana. Hän ei voisi kuvitellakaan palaavansa Somaliaan. Siihen hän on liian suomalainen.

The media in Finland have recently been focusing on a young Muslim man from Espoo who joined the extremist organisation now known as the Islamic State. The organisation used to be Al-Qaeda and has managed to attract jihadists from around the world, including Finland, to fight in Iraq.

A few years ago I produced a programme entitled "Somalis’ Nordic Nightmare". I examined the background of recruitment practises by extremist organisations in Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

Marginalisation a common factor

I found one common factor throughout: marginalisation among young Muslims. Some of our young people have fallen through the cracks between two cultures. They cannot live up to society’s expectations and many don’t even have a safety net growing up.

These young people face an identity crisis, and this makes them an easy target for recruitment into terrorist groups like IS and Al-Shabaab (a militant extremist group based in Somalia and allied to Al-Qaeda). However social exclusion alone doesn’t explain how a young man born and living a peaceful life in Espoo would be moved to take up arms.

And he’s not the only one. Dozens of Finnish Muslims have left to fight in Syria, Iraq and Somalia.

So what’s wrong? The truth is that these young people need help from the authorities. It’s also true that the authorities also need help from the Muslim community.

In Finland we talk about young people falling through the cracks, young people facing marginalisation, but who belong to the majority population.

Muslim community needs to act

What if that young person were to hear all his life, “You’re different” or “You don’t belong here”? How easy would it be to radicalise that individual?

In just a few years Finland has exported dozens of jihadists to Iraq, Syria and Somalia. It’s high time that we, the Muslim community, looked in the mirror.

It can’t be that our young people are constantly being recruited while we know nothing about it.

It’s precisely the Muslim community that should be looking to find out how our young people are being radicalised, who’s doing it and where it’s happening. Our religious leaders in particular, our imams, should take better care of our youth.

Islam does not condone hurting others. It’s high time that we build the kind of society where young people won’t go off to fight pointless wars.

Wali Hashi is a freelance journalist.

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