Women have suffered so much at the hands of Daesh, but some have also been perpetrators of that violence – recruited with propaganda that promised empowerment. So it’s essential to involve knowledgeable and experienced women in de-radicalisation and countering extremism. They have the credibility and authenticity to speak to sisters and mothers about the dangers posed to our families and neighbourhoods by Daesh and Al Qaeda.
Many Muslims want to understand their faith in more depth and the risk is that they will listen to ranting hate preachers on YouTube instead of reasoned truth based on scripture from women like these Alimas. From the earliest years of Islam, women scholars were present helping to spread the word of the Prophet. They still perform that task today.
That’s why we work with some amazing female scholars. Alimas are trained to a similar level as imams and do incredible work in communities. They act as a connecting voice between the mosque and ordinary Muslims, answering questions in the home or other settings. Their responses are based on deep study of the Qur’an, hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. It takes years of training to become an Alima and more than ever, we must value the work they do.
Crucially, they can help Muslim women to realise their full potential in society without compromising their faith. Some voices in our communities think a Muslim woman has a very restricted role in society and should exist in servile silence. We don’t agree. And Alimas we work with are about educating and debunking false ideas that extremists posit as scriptural truth.
One website characterised Alimas who counter extremist renditions of Islam as “grooming” young people. We reject this completely. The Alimas are giving young people a proper understanding of their faith that will make them resilient to radicalisation. Surely that’s a good thing?
The last three years has seen hundreds of Britons waste the gifts given to them by Allah by running off to join a barbaric war in Syria and Iraq. The Alimas foster respect for women and a rejection of supremacist and violent interpretations of Islam. At this critical time when terrorism from both the Far Right and Daesh poses such a threat to our society, Muslims must stand up and reject those who believe bloodshed is a central part of our faith.
We will continue our work with these great Alimas to point the right way forward for young British Muslims. And we will not be deflected by those who offer no alternative strategy for defeating violent extremism.