Mufti Mohammad Manzoor Ziayee, chairman of Dar-ul-uloom Faizan-e-Raza, and other clerics have now started taking time off religious sermons to sensitise Muslim youth through Internet, especially social media.
Concerned over the rising number of arrests of Indian youths for alleged association with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), clerics and trustees of the Pir Makhdum Saheb Charitable Trust (PMSCT) have launched what they call a “cyber fight” against the extremist group. The initiative was announced a few months ago, and is finally set for an official launch in a week.
The trust claims that it wants to use social media to fight terror outfits in the same way they are using it to influence Muslim youth. The trustees decided to develop this application after the 2015 arrests of four youths from Kalyan, including engineering student Areeb Majeed, who were allegedly recruited by ISIS. However, the arrest of seven alleged ISIS sympathisers from different locations in Karnataka and Maharashtra Friday has now led them to fast-track their attempt of counter-radicalisation.
The trustees and clerics of the trust, with the help of IT students and professionals, have developed a Facebook page and a Twitter account and are even developing a mobile application to reach out to Muslim youths across the country and interact with them. They call it their contribution towards counter-radicalisation and an attempt to stop indoctrination by ISIS and other terror outfits.
“One of the seven men arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as ISIS sympathiser, we saw in media reports, is from Mumbra in Thane district. The Mahim dargah trust is developing a first-of-its-kind mobile application to prevent such youths from coming under the influence of these terror outfits and extremist groups. We have decided to launch the application soon and it will be out for Android and iOS phones by next week,” said Suhail Khandwani, managing trustee of PMSCT.
He added, “The app will connect Muslim youths, men and women via their social networking accounts of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from across the nation to create awareness about un-Islamic activities of ISIS. In the first phase of the campaign, we will start counselling youths from areas like Kalyan, Thane, Mumbai, Pune, Nasik and other cities in the state to keep away from every radical outfit they come across.”
Sayed Sabir, the IT director of Mahim Dargah Trust, who is in charge of the team developing the application, said they were trying to make the application more interactive.
“Apart from having basic religious information about namaaz timings, direction in which namaaz is to be offered etc, the application will also have a chatroom, which will facilitate the youth to interact with academicians, clerics, religious heads and experts. These extremist groups are misquoting holy Quran to misguide young men and women. We are making a platform where they can immediately clarify their doubts by posting questions to clerics and experts,” said Sabir.
The application is expected to connect over 10,000 small and large Muslim communities across the country. It will also ensure vigilance on the menace of cyber-terror training and recruitment carried out by ISIS across the nation through internet and social networking sites. Mufti Ziyaee, who is also an adviser of the trust, said the application was being currently developed by a team of IT students and professionals associated with the dargah trust.
Ziyaee said he was really disappointed with the arrest of Muslim youths in connection with ISIS. “We are not just attempting to start a campaign to make our stand clear, but prevent these innocent souls from falling into the trap of radical and extremist outfits. But the application will also feature the correct teachings of Islam, articles and speeches by Islamic scholars. It will also have regular posts on the events organised for anti-terror campaigns and community-connect initiatives,” he said.
“When terror outfits can use social networking sites and internet to influence and radicalise young men, we too can use social networking sites and internet to preach Islam and spread correct interpretation of the holy Quran. The application will help us spread the right message and teachings to the youth across the country,” Ziyaee added.