Muslim Leaders Grapple with How to Protect Their Youth

At one of the largest mosques in the United States, Muslim leaders are trying to create a safe haven for young people to learn Islam's lessons about peace.

Muslim leaders are trying to create a safe haven for young people to learn Islam's lessons about peace
Muslim leaders are trying to create a safe haven for young people to learn Islam's lessons about peace


At one of the largest mosques in the United States, Muslim leaders are trying to create a safe haven for young people to learn Islam's lessons about peace. But can those leaders protect their youth from the doubts that lurk within them?   Muslim leaders renewed efforts following the arrest of five American Muslims in Pakistan who allegedly tried to join terrorist groups using the Internet.

It's a battle of bodies and for minds on this basketball court just outside Washington. It's Tuesday night at the Adams Center, one of the largest mosques in the U.S.  The young people here are hard at play, and the Muslim elders are hard at work trying to keep them engaged in positive activities.

After basketball, the younger kids meet for Boy Scouts.  And after Scouts, hundreds gather for evening prayers.

It's a tense time for the Muslim leaders, following the arrest in Pakistan of five young Americans from a neighboring community. The young men are being held on suspicion of links to terrorist groups.

Sajjad Ahmad is the sports league coordinator at the Adams Center. He describes his reaction to the arrests. 

"Happy because I think the parents and the community took the right actions but sad because members of the Muslim community, kids that I might have crossed paths with at some time, got into that false ideology," he said.

Ahmad says one of the center's top missions is getting youth involved in mosque activities.

"They need to invest in activities where the youth can come and relate in a non-religious manner so that involves religion, they know where they need to come back to.  "You know, I was playing basketball with so and so and so maybe I can go ask him or her,' and that resource gets embedded in their head," he added.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is a Muslim community leader in the Washington area.  He says young Muslims are often confused by disturbing Internet images of their brothers in faith being killed in conflicts, and that one of his community's greatest challenges is helping young people interpret current events. 

"And that is where the Internet comes in and says, 'Your imam, your community, your youth center, your family, none of them have an answer for this," Johari said. "But we have an answer and we feel your pain."

Abdul Malik says Muslims face a modern challenge beyond shielding their young from traditional dangers like drugs and crime.

"We have safeguarded them from the terrestrial threat of all the bad influences in their environment.  But we did not protect them from something that was inside of them that was connected through the Internet," Johari explained. "That is the next level of our fight against what I would call an enemy."

"Many of young people are vulnerable to being preyed on," said Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.  Awad helped broker talks between the FBI and the families of the young men arrested in Pakistan. He says Muslim leaders had already started looking at dangers on the Internet before the men went missing. 

"On the Internet, the other side is trying to exploit people's feelings, and they give them instructions on how to do wrong things and we have to give (them) tools and manuals also on how to stay cool and level-headed and stay reasoned and don't get yourself and others in trouble," Awad said.

At the Adams Center that discussion has started too.

"We are telling parents, 'Hey this is what was available on the Internet, this is what your kids are able to do and some basic tips on if you want to increase security this is how you can do it," Ahmad stated.

What's most important, says Ahmad, is keeping young people in the game of peaceful resolution, what he calls a true teaching of Islam.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs