American Muslim Council launches campaign against radicalization

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SHAFAQNA - Reclaiming the peaceful message of Islam, a Muslim media group has launched an online campaign to counter recruiting efforts of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIL).

“Unfortunately, ISIL is doing a great job of creating that really compelling ‘this is something you can do to change the world,'” Zac Parsons, a digital marketer, told NPR on Monday, July 27.

“We hope that we’re able to use some of those same ideas and technology to say,” he added.

Parsons was cooperating with Imam Omar Atia, the co-founder of Reclamation Studios, to produce a number of videos to counter ISIL’s online recruiting propaganda.

Atia, the leader of the Islamic Society of Evansville, offers answers in the videos to Parsons about true Islam.

One video, “Does Islam Encourage Violence?” is simply an interaction between Parsons and Atia on a sunny day in Evansville, Indiana.

“You’re a Muslim guy, a peaceful guy, and yet, you know, we see all this stuff in the news all the time about, you know, terrorism and violence and killing, you know, in the name of Islam — which is supposed to be a religion of peace. How is it that for them it’s not peaceful, but for you it is?” Parsons says.

“It’s not even left for question,” Atia says. “Unjust killing is completely forbidden.”

Atia hopes his videos will help to dispel the image that Islam is a foreign religion that forces believers to choose between nation and faith.

“There’s still this identity crisis that a lot of Muslim-Americans live, unfortunately,” Atia says, “because right now, still, the concept that Islam is a foreign faith to America.”

Praise

Producing dozens of four-minute Web episodes, the project targets young people with questions about Islam and its relationship to violence.

“They can ask us questions, we can do consultations, we can give them further answers for any questions that they have,” Nour Shams, who works on Reclamation Studios’ website from Egypt, said.

“We can even host people and just have everything transparent in front of the camera, and listen to people and answer their questions.”

Along with Shams, Atia and Parsons, there are now more than a dozen people working on this project.

The goal is to produce 70 Web episodes, all in an effort to help counter what they see as misinformation about Islam.

The new episodes won praise of many, including Richard Maass, who researches international security at the University of Evansville.

“So the more initiatives like this one that openly refute ISIL ideology, especially online — and especially through live communications with people online — the more difficult it will be for ISIL to monopolize the perceptions of those vulnerable individuals,” he says.

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