(Originally published Wednesday, April 12, 2017)
Evidence of extremism roots strongly points towards a lack of assimilation of Western values as a common denominator amongst jihadists. Unlike the widely reported factors of poverty, lack of education, unemployment etc. it is, in fact, the lack of assimilation into US culture and society or any Western society that can lead to extremist ideologies. “Assimilation,” therefore, has become a powerful weapon against radicalization and the growing phenomenon of Islamist politization of society.
Promoting healthy assimilation into Western culture can give an immigrant a patriotic identity versus an identity solely based on religion, which is what Islamists prey on.
Most immigrants come from countries ruled by brutal, oppressive regimes. To be able to support their new country, which offers many freedoms and opportunities they have previously been denied, patriotism offers an identity of hope over fear and love over hate.
Keep in mind that immigrants that feel welcomed (and thus valued) can also give to the West much-needed insights into Islamic extremism.
Take, for example, the story of Amina. She was a doctor in Afghanistan before the Taliban made life unbearable in her village. When she came to the U.S., she had years of medical training and experience as a women’s rights activist. I
I met Amina through a volunteer program with a Georgia-based nonprofit organization called “Friends of Refugees” which seeks to reach out to all refugees and promote teaching, English, job training, and general love, compassion, and well-being services. You know… the things of Christ.
While Amina cannot practice medicine in the US (as her license is not in the U.S.), she dedicated herself to advocating for the rights of women of all faiths (especially in the Muslim world). She has her first-hand knowledge of the Taliban and its ideology to aid local law enforcement officials in fighting terrorism.
Here are three simple ways you can help immigrants like Amina establish a meaningful new life as a “Westerner”:
- Volunteer with an organization that aids refugees (such as “Friends of Refugees” listed above).
- Some programs provide job training.
- Bring meals to a newly placed family (the amazing part of this is you may get invited to one of their meals and have one of the tastiest dishes of your life!).
- Invite a Muslim family you may know or know of to your local community or even church activities. What you don’t realize is that some of these Muslim families came from countries where it was indoctrinated that Christians would never accept them, so they could be blown away that they’re freely invited to a Christian church service!
Many of these families have never had the option of going to such an activity or even watching a child’s soccer game. They most likely haven’t experienced a stranger from a different religion reaching out in an act of kindness.
Immigrants are most likely very interested in American life. Most also have children that have been traumatized by violence. Most aid organizations have their own experts in extremism that vet people. They also have translators who speak fluent Arabic or Farsi/Persian (for those from Afghanistan or Iran).
Many immigrants sought asylum in the U.S. because they became political targets after speaking out against certain concepts of sharia law.
You may be amazed at some of the stories they tell and you’ll be able to have more insight into the war on terror just from their stories than from anything you’ll hear in the news these days.
Of course, you’ll never learn any of these incredible stories if you don’t reach out, or simply ask.
Get Involved With or Follow the Muslim Reform Movement
If you are a Muslim and you are interested in the progressive Muslim Reformation, get involved!
Maybe you can start a community group in your home for like-minded Muslims where you can explain the organizations and leaders like Dr. Zudhi Jasser and Raheel Raza who are fighting against extremist ideologies and always willing to reach out, speak at an event, or simply answer questions.
For those that are not Muslim, maybe you have Muslim neighbors that you see on a daily basis. Include them in a neighborhood activity or let them know about Dr. Jasser and Raheel Raza’s Muslim Reform Movement and its various organizations they can join or follow.
Odds are, many Muslim families that have immigrated to the US would love also want to wipe out Islamist terrorism but don’t think they have a platform where they can speak freely about this.
Start a Student Group
If you are a college student or you work at a high school or university, start a student organization where students of all faiths meet to talk about the threats of radical Islam and terrorism.
Perhaps you are (or know of) a student that has felt chastised for their beliefs and is afraid to speak out and have an honest conversation. Perhaps you’re a Muslim student in the United States who is tired of professors whitewashing the threats and pretending that the problem isn’t in Islamic doctrines!
Start an organization with like-minded students of all faiths to work together against the narratives you reject without any political leaning, bias, or motivation – beyond mere understanding and strength in unity.
The best way to aid the assimilation of those different from us is to show them what hope means. As “Hunger Games” villain, President Snow stated to the heroine Katniss in explaining why he didn’t like her as a beacon of freedom, “the only thing stronger than fear is hope.”
This article was originally published at clarionproject.org.