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Written evidence submitted to Home Affairs Committee on Countering Extremism

My recent submission to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry on countering-extremism has now been published online and you can also read it below:
http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/countering-extremism/written/26521.html

Written evidence submitted by Mr Fadel Soliman (12 January 2016)

  1. I am an international speaker, orator, film maker and director of Bridges Foundation, an international organisation aiming to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.[1]

 

  1. I hold a masters degree in Islamic law (Sharia), and I am well known by the youth in the Muslim world because of my workshops. I have trained over 19,000 young people in 25 countries, on how to present Islam and refute misconceptions about it. [2]

 

  1. Furthermore, I have approximately 380,000 followers on Twitter and close to 230,000 followers on Facebook, most of whom are Muslim youth from all over the globe.

 

  1. I have worked on de-radicalizing the Muslim young people for the past 15 years, specifically since the horrific and tragic events of 9/11 through the Bridges Foundation.

 

  1. I debunked the views of Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki, one of the main theologians of Al-Qaeda, and the most inspiring of them all, especially to western audiences.

 

  1. From the comments (see fig.1) on the videos I made to counter Awlaki’s views[3][4], one can see his supporters changing their views, which is helping them de-radicalize gradually.

 

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Figure 1. Example of comments from video

 

  1. My videos encouraged staff working under the Government’s Prevent agenda as well as the British embassy in Egypt among other European entities to approach me, seeking to work with me, but I turned down their requests, because I wanted to keep working independently in order not to lose the trust of the young people and the community.
  2. I held some one day workshops, on “How to de-radicalize an extremist”, in several European countries, and I intend to hold similar programmes in the UK as well. In this workshop, I train mainly Imams and youth workers on how to explore whether a Muslim is becoming radical or becoming devout; and how to deal with radicalism and neutralize it then rehabilitate him/her, in a way which recreates his/her identity as a European Muslim.

 

  1. I also prove to the youths how extremist organizations like ISIS deceive them, by showing them screen shots from their main theology books, pointing out to them the deception, and the difference between mainstream Islamic jurisprudence and ISIS jurisprudence.[5]

 

  1. The predominant question as to why some British Muslims[6] would leave the safety of the UK and expose themselves to danger by joining a terrorist organization like ISIS is a relevant one and many are struggling to provide answers. I will provide my explanation below, which illustrates a part of the problem.

 

A Part of the Problem

 

  1. I have never heard any Friday sermons or talks in any UK mosques about ‘JIHAD’ or on warfare, even though Jihad was mentioned 17 times in the Holy Quran, 14 of which are in an imperative form. Qital which is the Arabic word for fighting is mentioned 28 times in the Quran, let alone the hundreds of times which both of those terms are mentioned in the Prophetic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, and the thousands of times they are mentioned in the traditional texts of the famous scholars of Islam.

 

  1. Young British Muslims see war victims in Syria; read about Jihad and fighting in the Quran and other texts; and all they hear in mosques is explanations of how to pray, how to fast and how to worship God to be a good Muslim.

 

  1. Young British Muslims seek explanation on the correct meaning of Jihad, its conditions and etiquette, but Imams are too scared to explain lest they are misunderstood by the government and/or the media, and then find themselves in trouble.

 

  1. There are those who are ready with their version of explanations for our young people: The ISIS recruiters.

 

  1. ISIS has showed professionalism in recruitment and marketed themselves in ways that exceeds by far some of the biggest household brands. ISIS use their slick media videos and social media to target young people.[7]

 

  1. A captured Saudi ISIS fighter, on video stated that his platoon consisted of 200 people from 35 nationalities, among them is Japan and Korea. All this in a timeframe of 2 years.

 

  1. In order to get serious about de-radicalization, we need to know that we are competing against those ISIS recruiters, and if we are not more streamlined, professional and united then they will continue to rise.

 

  1. If European states continue scaring Imams from tackling the most controversial topics without them having to worry about the consequences of being misunderstood, then the disease of extremism cannot be curtailed and addressed. Imam’s here and abroad need to be empowered to tackle the issue candidly.

 

  1. The more the authorities seek to de-radicalize individuals at risk without knowing the true causes of radicalization, and without the backing of Muslim communities, it will in fact be counter intuitive, causing an increase in radicalization, thus indirectly bolstering groups like ISIS.

 

  1. The analogy I leave you with, is that of a patient who is an alcoholic, but the doctor prescribes him whisky in order to cure him.

[1] http://bridges-foundation.org/

[2] http://fadelsoliman.com/aboutfadelsoliman/

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgDotWRVMhk

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZPi2-J0dUI

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6U39EQRNPc

 

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32026985

 

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/jim-armitage-isis-is-refining-terrorist-marketing-9585963.html