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US imam urges Scots Muslims: speak out on IS

ONE of the most prominent imams in the USA has warned Scottish Muslims that young people in America are not being radicalised in the same numbers as in the UK because American community leaders and scholars speak out more strongly against organisations such as Islamic State.

Khalid Latif says Scottish Muslim leaders must speak out louder against  extremist organisations such as IS
Khalid Latif says Scottish Muslim leaders must speak out louder against extremist organisations such as IS

Khalid Latif, who is the Muslim chaplain for the New York Police Department, says Scottish Muslim leaders must speak out more loudly against extremist organisations like IS in order to prevent the radicalisation of young men and women.

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Latif, who is of Pakistani-Kashmiri origin and is the chaplain at the Islamic Center at New York University, is in Scotland on a UK-wide tour. The imam spoke at an event in Edinburgh on Friday organised by the Scottish Police Muslim Association. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill attended the event.

British security services estimate 500 to 700 British nationals have fought in Iraq and Syria - including Abdul Rakib Amin, who grew up in Aberdeen. Former CIA officer Henry Crumpton said that less than 100 US citizens have gone to the region.

There is concern that availability of cheap flights to Turkey will lead to increasing numbers of Muslims from Europe participating in "jihad by easyJet". The British security service estimates 250 UK citizens have returned after fighting with IS.

Referring to the higher number of jihadis of British origin than American, Latif said there was speculation that US Muslims were better integrated compared to Muslims in the UK, adding: "There is a louder voice speaking out against the likes of IS in the States. Islamic speakers have used very strong language against the actions of such a group.

"I have been in this country for the last two weeks. I have heard community representatives speak out at the scenes we are seeing unfolding in Iraq and they don't agree with them. I would like them to be louder and also get their message across to a much wider, diverse group of people."

Latif added: "It was pointed out by the elders in a mosque in Peterborough that I was the first person addressing the congregation in English in the last two years. That night the mosque was full of young people ... Where are the local role models? When I asked some of the locals what issues they faced, I got the same answer in many of the cities. It was drug-related crime, family breakdowns and the increase of Muslims in prisons."

But he speculated that Muslims in Scotland were more integrated than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. "Many in the community have an issue connecting themselves with their English identity. In Scotland I am told the situation is different. Muslims have no issues viewing themselves as Scottish. They are more integrated into Scottish society."

He questions some of the tactics employed by security forces when it comes to dealing with radicalisation, saying: "You have informants in the community as well as agent provocateurs. This causes discord and breaks down trust. You also have a situation whereby there are young Muslims who are angry with foreign policy but have not broken any laws. Some of the strategies used to deal with them can be viewed as entrapment."

Following the beheading of US journalist, James Foley, by a suspected British jihadi in IS, the Muslim Council of Scotland said the terror group "does not speak for Islam, and has been repudiated by all Muslims ... We urge Muslim communities to redouble their efforts in coming together, condemning the barbarity ... and persuading those gullible enough to take in their message that they are on a path to futility".

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