The Muslim Alliance of Indiana (MAI) is working with Islamic schools based in mosques and Islamic centers around Indiana to enhance their work to inculcate true Islamic teachings and American values, immunizing students against internet radicalization. Full-time K-12 institutions such as Indianapolis-based MTI School of Knowledge and numerous weekend/Sunday schools at virtually every mosque have a rigorous curriculum of Islamic education that seeks to firmly root students in authentic understanding of Islamic texts and to develop a wholesome Muslim-American identity. Students are taught to reject extremism and follow the Islamic injunctions to obey the law of the land and contribute positively to society. Camps, volunteer activities and public service projects led by Islamic schools and organizations, such as the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA), the youth organization of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), provide additional avenues for immersive experiences and opportunities to put Islamic values into action. Islamic schools have provided excellent secular and religious education to hundreds of students, for over a quarter century in the case MTI, many of whom have achieved national and local honors. Students who have graduated from Islamic schools have grown to become civically engaged professionals and citizens, contributing widely to Hoosier society.
It was recently reported that a Brownsburg teenager who had briefly attended MTI was arrested on a charge of material support of terrorism while attempting to travel and join the Daesh/ISIS organization. MAI, MTI, local Muslim communities and Islamic organizations are horrified by this arrest and fully support law-enforcement efforts to ensure public safety and counter terrorism. The teenager’s repeated attempts to travel and his open communications on social media and at a local park appear amateurish and without direction by a terrorist organization. However, the Muslim Hoosier community is taking this development extremely seriously and redoubling its efforts to reach more youth with authentic Islamic teachings. Students who consistently attend Islamic schools such as MTI for an extended period are less likely to fall prey to extremist propaganda on the internet. One challenge that remains is to reach out to those who may be more susceptible, such as families that are not well integrated in the Muslim community, troubled or delinquent youth, and individuals who convert to what they believe is Islam.
MAI, together with Hoosier mosques and Islamic schools is working to expand educational and experiential offerings to a broader cross-section of young people, with avenues for directing youthful energy in a positive direction. MYNA hosts several annual youth camps, including one in Brown county Indiana to be held later this summer. MAI is also a co-sponsor for the Indianapolis FBI’s Multicultural Advisory Council’s Youth Academy this August. By engaging our youth and giving them a Muslim-American identity, we hope to combat the extremist internet phenomenon and send a clear message. As MYNA director Fiyyaz Jaat put it, “Don’t get your religion from the internet.”