By Adnan Mangla

Mentorship can help keep young muslims from being lured by terrorists

Dec 19, 2016

Adnan Mangla

Dec 19, 2016

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The Ohio state tragedy in late November was the latest in a string of attacks “inspired” by ISIS.  The perpetrator?  An 18 year-old student frustrated by the way the world views Islam.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s violent display was the result of terrorist propaganda aimed at disenfranchised youth who are easily swayed and perhaps even looking for a way to vent their anger or discontent. 

Unfortunately, it is likely that many other Muslims are in the same shoes as Razak, looking to translate their fears into action. We need to act to ensure that these youth do not go down the same path.

But how? What’s the solution?

Identifying “at risk” individuals and youth being radicalized — before they reach the point of no return — should be the primary objective in this age of social media and information.  The way to do this is to present a counter-narrative to the disturbing propaganda found online.  Highlighting the efforts of Muslims who promote peace, harmony and love for their fellow neighbours would be a good start.

Many of these at risk youth don’t have strong ties to their local communities and lack the attention needed in the delicate age of adolescence.  With no one to guide or mentor them, they are at risk of falling victim to wrongly-held notions about the concept of “jihad” and “holy war”.  To them, Jihad is the idea of taking up arms, and defending one’s faith through violence and terror.  This absurd and misguided notion of Jihad cannot be further from the truth.  Jihad does not mean “Holy war”, but rather it literally means to “struggle”.  

But, you may well ask, struggle against what?  

The answer: your self.  It is to struggle against one’s own temptations and demons, to struggle against the voice inside our heads that inclines us towards vices.  Being a better version of yourself – not this fabricated tale of war and destruction. 

With the recent election of Donald Trump, there is the worrisome possibility that further divides and civil unrest may take root in the United States and trickle into Canada.  The time is nigh for the media to recognize and highlight the efforts of Muslims who are standing on guard for their country and providing a solution to the grave danger posed by ISIS and similar terrorist organizations.

As prominent Muslim leader Mirza Masroor Ahmad puts it, “It is a dire need of the time to respond to all forms of fanaticism and extremism with Islam’s true message of peace and harmony.”

As a councillor with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, I work with thousands of Muslim youth. Part of that work involves translating their fears into positivity.  It is the responsibility of respected leaders of our community to step up and help the youth who require guidance.  To ensure that the seeds of radicalization never sprout, moderate Muslim elders can and should serve as mentors, as role models, or simply as older ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.  

I encourage local governments to connect with Muslim communities with a view to: i) identifying the youth that need additional guidance; and ii) implementing targeted programs to help steer these youth back to the right path.

For Abdul Razak it is too late but, perhaps, with the right mentorship and exposure to positivity, we could save a nation of youth desperately searching for answers.

Adnan Mangla is a journalist with the Muslim Writers of Canada and Youth Councillor with the Ahmaddiya Muslim Youth Association. He can be reached at

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