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Islamic groups: Anti-radicalisation not just the work of Somalis, Muslims, migrants

Islamic organisations in Finland have roundly condemned the deadly terrorist attacks that killed some 35 people and injured hundreds more in Belgium last week. Speaking on Yle’s Aamu-tv, representatives of three Islamic groups emphasised that measures to prevent youth marginalisation are key to countering radicalisation - and are not the sole responsibility of non-Finnish groups.

Anas Hajjar, Abdulrahman Rage ja Abbas Bahmanpour. Image: Yle

Anas Hajjar of the Islamic Society of Finland, Shiia Muslim Imam Abbas Bahmanpour and Abdulrahman Rage, vice chair of the Finnish Somali League told Yle’s Aamu-tv breakfast programme that preventive work among migrant youths would be the best way to prevent radicalisation among young people.

According to Rage, it is important for such work to be done throughout the entire society. He added that young people must feel that they belong to society and to the cities in which they live.

"It takes a village to raise a child, not just Somalis, Muslims and immigrants," Rage observed.

"If young people growing up feel that they are a part of this society and that they are accepted, then it is more difficult to recruit them," he noted.

Finnish society polarised

Shiia Muslim Imam Abbas Bahmanpour said that his religious group had long cooperated with officials to prevent the marginalisation of young people. He noted that youths who fall through society’s cracks are ripe for recruitment by extreme movements.

"Extreme groups offer a place in the world, in the same way that the extreme right here offers a sense of belonging. Unfortunately Finnish society now has now gone in the direction of polarisation, and that should be avoided," Bahmanpour noted.

"It is fertile ground for radicalisation, if you experience friction and racism at a young age," he added.

The Imams say that their mission is to share the teachings of real Islam, said Sunni Muslim cleric Anas Hajjar.

"The teachings can be misused, as the recruiters are doing. Our message is that peace is the way," he added.

Marginalisation driving youth to join IS

Finnish officials have estimated that roughly 100 individuals have left the country to join the extremist militant organisation Islamic State. There are different reasons why people have left, said Finnish Somali League vice chair Abdulrahman Rage. However one reason is marginalisation.

"In my view many young people have an identity crisis that may be caused by marginalisation," Bahmanpour said.

The Shiia Imam said that he personally knew some of the individuals who had gone abroad to join IS. However he said he only became aware of the departures after they had left the country.

"This information has caused sorrow and horror, as to how people can get to this point. Confusion as to what justifies this action," Bahmanpour said.

Hajjar said that very often the people who had left to join the extremist organisation had become estranged from the mosque before they left.

"Or then they never attended [the mosque]."