He’s Boro born-and-bred, proud to be British and wants us to live in harmony. And that’s why Ifty Rafiq put the past two years of his life on hold to develop an educational programme aimed at tackling Islamic extremism. Teesside Live reports.
But his pride at being British – and his frustration at extremists trying to seize the agenda – has seen him develop The Harmony Initiative. And if, as he hopes, the Government gets behind the idea, he would love to see it rolled out across the UK.
Officially launched at the Jamia Masjid Al-Madina Mosque in Middlesbrough, it’s an educational programme, aimed at professionals like teachers, comprising textbooks and a full suite of accompanying animations, addressing common misconceptions about Islam.
What prompted you to start it?
“We’re aiming it professionals like teachers, and at students to stop them being radicalised. We also need to target those convicted of Islamic extremism and terrorism – we need to change their distorted views of Islam. Groups like Isis are planting a seed of hatred in their minds – we want to plant a seed of love that will lead to peace.”
But it’s all family funded – we didn’t want to have a fantastic idea and go to the Government with it, only to be told it couldn’t happen because of money. We don’t want teachers thinking it’s extra work on top of what they’re doing. Each chapter has a corresponding video – it’s just a case of pressing ‘play’. Now we’re trying to get the Government and Department of Education on board.
What are some of the key issues?
Around 90% of referrals professionals are making to the police are leading to no further action being taken, which is wasting valuable police resources. If the referrals are poor, it doesn’t bode well. And look at the perpetrators of the attacks – they’re our own British nationals yet they’ve gone on to attack us. I find that really upsetting. I’m trying to create a united front against our enemies. Some Muslims think our laws are designed to stifle our opinions and religious beliefs but they’re not. I love my country and want to help defend it. I’m talking about, and talking for, the 90% of the silent majority.
One terrorist attack is one too many – that’s what hopefully we’re trying to stop. Education is the key to so many things and, ideally, we’re hoping the Government will support us. I’m doing something a lot of people aren’t willing or able to do, and that’s tell people about Moderate Islam. We’ve seen what radical Islam is – I want people to make the distinction. And ideally, we want the majority of the Islamic world on board, on our side and to be more vocal.”
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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