Don’t be brainwashed by extremist preachers, students warned

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SPECIAL REPORT: SBS goes inside a western Sydney school where students are taught to be proud Muslim Australians as part of a program to prevent radicalisation.

 

At the Al Amanah College in western Sydney students learn how to be good Muslims and good Australian citizens.

The school principal says education is the key to preventing radicalisation. They are being warned not to be brain-washed by extremist preachers.

"We are going to be talking about something very important, as Muslims in Australia, and that is our identity," teacher Amr Al Shelh tells his class.

They're also taught what their teacher calls correct and proper Islamic beliefs and ethics.

"People have not portrayed the proper message, the proper beliefs about our religion, Islam. They've tarnished the name of Islam."

"Islam doesn't teach us to commit crimes. Islam doesn't teach us to harm each other."

He warns his Islamic Studies class about the dangers of ignorance.

"And you hear now in the news, what's going on. This is because of ignorance. And because they're ignorant, they're vulnerable. And that leads to brain-washing."

The students are urged to resist heeding extremist preachers.

"There would be some people who would dress like us, look like us, speak like us. But they will be preachers on the doors of hell-fire. Whoever listens to them will be thrown into it. And this has happened a lot in the past. And it's still happening."

This kind of intervention has been successful in bringing some young men back from the brink.

Students at the Islamic school have told SBS what they've learnt.

"There is a lot of violence, that's going on, that we see in the media, and in the news,"  says school captain Mohamad Zahab. "And people have not portrayed the proper message, the proper beliefs about our religion, Islam. They've tarnished the name of Islam."

The principal of Al-Amaneh College, Mohamad El Dana, wants his students to be proud Muslim Australians.

"We are putting a lot of effort and stress on building the identity of the young Muslims, that they belong to Australia, their nationality, they are Australian, and at the same time, their religion is Islam," said Mohamad El Dana.

Teachers and parents don't want to see any repeat of the so-called "Ginger Jihadist" case - the Sydney schoolboy who's now a poster boy for IS.

When 17-year-old Abdullah Elmir ran off to Iraq he went with another Bankstown teenager, a 16-year-old boy called Feiz, who's now back in Sydney, pulled back from the brink by his family, and  apparently rehabilitated.

Lebanese Community figure Dr Jamal Rifi says intervention in the radicalisation process, before it's too late, can make a difference.

"In the case of this young boy, who went overseas, and he came back, he was actually allowed to go with his family," says Dr Rifi. "The security agencies sat down with him, probably briefed and talked to him, and found he posed no threat."

Former teacher, Kuranda Seyit personally intervened in another case last year, to rescue a young Afghan Australian man from Sydney who was on his way to Syria, via Turkey.

"He decided to go overseas, and fight abroad. Fortunately, we were able to intercept him and bring him back to Australia Now you'll find that he has a totally different mindset," said Kuranda Seyit.

"It's definitely possible to de-radicalise almost anyone who wanted to be de-radicalised."

But there's no way back for Australians, like Mohamad Elomar, who've taken up arms in Syria and Iraq.

"There will be some people like Mohamad Elomar, that no mattter what you do, you can't even save them from themselves,” says Dr Rifi.

But Jamal Rifii hopes it's not too late for four Sydney brothers who went to Syria last month.

"It's definitely possible to de-radicalise almost anyone who wanted to be de-radicalised."

Kuranda Seyit says the key solution is understanding the causes of radicalisation.

"Research needs to be done," he says. "Once we get to that level, we can look at prevention being the key to this."

WATCH: part one of Vesna Nazor's special report: How Muslim communities are trying to prevent radicalisation:

 

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Source: SBS

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