It was like a new dawn when suddenly there was the “Arab Spring” started in Tunisia in late 2010, which triggered by the death of a young Arab man who took his own life by pouring a flammable liquid on himself and igniting it to burn himself to death in front of a government office in protest. The young street vendor’s self-immolation in a provincial town of Sidi Bouzid sparked mass anti-government protests by sympathisers, but there was a deep-rooted unhappiness amongst the populace. The sudden event was taking a bad shape, spreading very rapidly from locality to state regions in the African Arab country, revealing a deep-rooted animosity and unhappiness, job loses, food prices skyrocketing experienced by the populace against the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who tried to offer an olive branch but was eventually forced to flee the country in January 2011 after 23 years in power.
As a result of the Arab Spring which started like a joke in Tunisia, soon was spreading like wildfire engulfing one Arab country after another, soon got to Syria, in the year 2014. The crisis in Syria was fuelled by external factors and regional political influencers, then took a much dangerous dimension, igniting a civil war like scenario. While there was so much to talk about how the war in the neighboring country, Iraq which lead to toppling and eventual killing of president Saddam Hussein, the sudden withdrawal of American troops created a vacuum in Iraq, this lead to the creation of a Takfiri group called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), but I would only limit the scope of this article to the effect of this group on the entire Muslim nation and especially the youth.
Due to the interest of some western leaders and powers and some rejional Arab political influencers who were hell-bent on forcing a change of government in Syria, the Arab Spring became a useful tool in the hands of some of those leaders who saw an opportunity in it to push for a regime change at all cost. A simple demonstration began to spread from town to town, state by state until it took a new dimension; when different groups took up arms to fight against the government, thereby, playing into the hands of terrorist groups. Some international leaders, especially the United Nation tried to mediate but nothing was allowed to be successful until it became a real civil war.
The group ISIL or ISIS who used to be part of Al-Qaeda took a firm hold of some region of the country with support from some neighboring Arab countries, they got supplies of money and weapons to fight the government of Bashar Al-Assad. It became so very deadly that some western leaders also openly pledge their support for groups fighting the government.
The group ISIS declared an Islamic Caliphate in the largest industrial city of Aleppo, Syria, with the group’s leader Al-Baghdadi claimed religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.[ Its adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a caliphate have been widely criticized, with the United Nations, various governments and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting its statehood. This statement became the biggest selling point of the idea of an Islamic caliphate which many Muslims truly desire, not realizing the true agenda of the group.
Because of the open support and encouragement some western government and Arab government gave to groups and opposition factions fighting the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, many Muslims from around the world, especially young Muslims believed it was their natural call to go to Syria and fight a “Jihad” in support of their brothers and sisters in Syria. But when after 5 years of fight and terror, it was “conservatively” estimated that over half a million civilians including fellow Muslims, non-muslims, women and children had died in the senseless war.
Many young Muslim brothers and sisters traveled to Syria with good intention, many died fighting, many who felt deceived and disappointed and wanted to return to their home countries were either killed by various groups they had earlier fought alongside or by their own government for the fear of returning home to cause terror. Obviously, one cannot entirely put the blame at the doorstep of those governments for the sole reason that some so-called ISIL sleeper cells or sympathizers have inflicted real terror in the hearts of the people of such countries like France, United Kingdom, Germany and the seat of power of the European Union, Brussels killing scores of innocent citizens including Muslims, but it is noteworthy to mention that those Muslims who allowed themselves to be misled and made to believe that the word “Jihad” means “Holy War” are to blame for their role in this conflict.
Many Muslim youths were misled by those around them, misguided by their Muslim either biased or ignorant leaders who made them believe that the best thing a Muslim can do to gain access to paradise is to be engaged in a holy war falsely translated from the Arabic word “Jihad”, misinformed by the press about the real intention of governments supporting the Syrian oppositions in the conflict against the government of Bashir A-Assad.
6 years on, the government has had a real though time before reclaiming lost territories from the oppositions and eventually ISIS. Most of the Muslim youth who had earlier traveled to join various groups now wish to return to their various country of resident, but some of them were not so lucky as their government swiftly decided to revoke their citizenship thereby leaving them stateless.
The lesson here is for Muslim parents to educate themselves about the true meaning of the noble Qur’an and the hadith so that they are able to take responsibility in teaching their children the truth about their faith before they are misled by the false and ignorant mosque and madrassah leaders. Our Mosques and Islamic centers leaders need to understand that by simply following and believing what they read or learn from the press and the media or their personal opinion to encourage or deceive the youth in one direction or another is not a good thing, they need to be conscious that Allah (