Young European Muslims learn to be peacemakers
Highlights of Learning to be a Peace-maker27/07/2018
Young Muslims and non-Muslims from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK took part in the Learning to be a Peacemaker course at the Caux Palace in July.
London-based Imam Ajmal Masroor had been invited to deliver the course. At the beginning of the course, he asked the participants three questions: ‘Do you accept that Europe is your home? Do you accept European people as your people? Are you prepared to do everything for the wellbeing of Europe and its people?’
He went on: ‘If your answer is not an emphatic “yes” for all three questions, then there is a problem. If you have any doubts about where you belong, there is a problem. If you are unsure of your roles and responsibilities towards your fellow citizens and neighbours, there is a problem. Muslims are part of Europe, and Europe’s destiny is directly intertwined with European Muslims. There is no conflict in being European and Muslim, and Muslims who live in Europe have a duty to contribute to its wellbeing. The focus of the course is to help young Muslims embrace this reality and make this paradigm shift.’
Many second-generation Muslims in Europe live with two tensions. One is between the culture they have been brought up in and the expectations of their parents who grew up in other cultures. The other is the sense that their religion is not fully accepted – and therefore that they are not fully accepted – by the culture in which they feel at home.
Masroor’s reponse is to help them become fully confident in both their European and Muslim identities, through embracing the concept that to be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker – someone who actively contributes to the community and brings people together.
The five-day course focused on the Islamic principles of peacemaking, and on examining Islamic texts and their application. The main themes explored were the Prophet Mohammed’s approach to peacemaking, Islamic Law and its objectives, the ethics of disagreement, the characteristics of a peacemaker, war and peace, violence and extremism, and inner peace.
Additional evening sessions, open to everyone in the Caux Palace, covered managing relationships, developing emotional intelligence and learning to manage anger.
One participant said of the course, ‘It taught me how to reconcile my religion and my identity without having to make a choice.’ Another wrote: ‘It was incredibly enriching to learn about the peaceful and loving core of my religion, and to understand what an inclusive teaching it actually is, contrary to everything I've grown up hearing about it.’ And another: ‘Helping to serve at dinner was a great idea, as it is important for young Muslims to interact with, and be acknowledged by, the respectful and open-minded persons in Caux.’ And most challengingly, one concluded: ‘If you aren’t at peace with yourself, you can’t be a peacemaker’!
Imam Masroor has been invited to deliver Learning to be a Peacemaker again next summer, in association with the ‘Tools for Changemakers’ conference. It is part of a longterm programme to train a large cohort of young Muslim peacemakers by training trainers to deliver the course in different European countries.
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