As the month of Ramadan comes to a close, a recent wave of terror attacks have rocked the Muslim world, tainting what is supposed to be the celebration after the fast. As an aid worker for Islamic Relief Canada we are tasked with the responsibility of responding to the crises of the world as they unfold. However we are often criticized by those who suggest that our efforts do nothing to challenge the systems of power that enable the global inequity and injustice we respond to every day.
It's true, Islamic Relief is not a Panacea. Although our unique position in regards to Muslims and the Middle East places us in an exclusive position to engage with communities in a way other organizations cannot. Years of failed Western policy decisions and a myriad of foreign interest groups have left sour tastes in the mouths of many, leading to skepticism of even the most renowned aid agencies. It is in this crucial vacuum where Islamic Relief can play a major role, not only providing aid, but in combating extremism.
Exposing the antithetical nature of groups who use violence in the name of religion is imperative.
Tackling extremism includes tackling its roots. After the heinous crimes perpetrated against Charlie Hebdo in Paris last year, the world united around the adage that read "violence can never silence an idea." It is imperative that this same methodology be applied when challenging extremist ideologies. A war against a group like the self-proclaimed Islamic State must be fought ideologically in order for the ideology to disappear "ideas must be defeated intellectually or the ideas will remain." Military interventionism has not proven its effectiveness in deterring such groups, rather they have proven to be a great recruitment tool.
A recent piece published in the Nation Magazine covers the stories of ISIS militants captured as prisoners of war. Some had joined because of political grievances related to losing innocent family members while others were simply out of work and out of options with which to feed their families. Islamic Relief's ability to mitigate these risk factors is unparalleled. In addition to providing food, clothing, medicine, education, and shelter, Islamic Relief's development program can provide meaningful work to help give purpose to those who feel lost and without option. Islamic Relief also carries its distinctive Islamic brand which would act to alleviate suspicions of foreign interests, and can act as a source of legitimate Islamic authority to counteract anathematic ideologies.
Exposing the antithetical nature of groups who use violence in the name of religion is imperative. Highly literate societies are best equipped to challenge doctrinal claims by the extremist fringe. As a trusted name in the region, Islamic Relief is in the prime position to provide the required services and to make an impact -- the opportunity to support such an organization should not be underestimated.
Ahmad Khawaja is from Islamic Relief Canada
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