Healing the alienation of young European Muslims

Learning to be a Peacemaker 2019

30/07/2019

How can the alienation felt by so many young Muslims be healed? Imam Ajmal Masroor believes that the alienation stems largely from the inner conflict generated by feeling caught between two value-systems: the way their parents want them to be, and the way the society they are growing up in wants them to be.

Imam Ajmal Masroor experienced that dilemma himself, and discovered that the key to reconciling these two identities, European and Muslim, lies in the realization that peacemaking is the very heart of Islam. Mohammed, the holy prophet of Islam, said ‘Spread peace among you!’ Imam Masroor designed a five-day ‘Learning to be a Peacemaker’ (LPM) course to help young Muslims discover that secret for themselves.

He delivered it in Caux for the sixth time this summer, to a group of students and young professionals from Albania, France, Turkey, the Ukraine, and the UK – both Muslims and non-Muslims.

In a fast-paced and interactive manner – including a session at the top of a nearby mountain! – Imam Masroor took participants through the key Quranic texts relating to averting war and building peace, and the Prophet Mohammed’s own peacemaking initiatives. Topics included current misconceptions about Islam and what Islam actually teaches about violence and extremism; issues of responsibility and belonging under the heading of ‘Loyalty and citizenship’; the ‘Inner dimensions of peace’ on the sources of inner contentment; and the ‘Characteristics of peacemakers’. The course ended with a session in which each participant designed a project that they will carry out back home.

This was complemented by evening sessions, open to everyone in the house, on such themes as ‘Relationships’, ‘Overcoming barriers’ and ‘Discovering anger’, during which he drew honestly on his own experience.

Imam Masroor appreciates being able to deliver the course in Caux because it provides an opportunity for participants to go on to take part in one of the Caux Forum conferences – in this case Tools for Changemakers. There they can put into practice the peacemaking understanding and skills they have learnt with people of all ages and backgrounds from across Europe and beyond.

 

Maryam Shah

 

At the opening plenary of the Tools for Changemakers conference, Maryam Shah, a law student from the UK, spoke about LPM. ‘The course emphasized the importance of being an active citizen,’ she said. ‘Instead of allowing any feeling of isolation or not fitting in to lead to sadness or violence, we were taught to channel these emotions into something far more constructive, and to work for the societies we live in to become more inclusive, understanding and tolerant. This course has helped me to become a lot more at peace with myself and a lot more excited to be a tool for change and to contribute to the global society that we live in.’

Read Maryam Shah’s summary of the Learning to be a Peacemaker programme

 

Text: Peter Riddell

Photos: Paula Mariane and Leela Channer

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