Muslim Leaders Try to Counter Radicals' Influence On Youths

December 26, 2009

Author: Tara Bahrampour

Source: The Washington Post

The adults thought they'd done all they could. They had condemned extremist ideology, provided ski trips and Scout meetings, and encouraged young people to speak openly about how to integrate their religion, Islam, with the secular world.

But five college-age Northern Virginia men were arrested in Pakistan this month after allegedly being recruited over the Internet to join al-Qaeda, and many Washington area Muslims are questioning whether condemnation is enough.

Mustafa Abu Maryam, a Muslim youth leader who has known the arrested men since 2006, said he was alarmed by their decis ion to go to Pakistan after allegedly exchanging coded e-mails with a recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban. "I always thought that they had a firm grasp on life and that they rejected extremism or terrorism," Maryam said of the Alexandria men.

Mosques and Islamic organizations across the United States regularly issue statements rejecting violence and fringe ideologies. But after the arrests, Muslim leaders have been scrambling to fill what they describe as a gap in their connection with young people, searching for new ways to counter the influence of the extremists whom young people might encounter, especially online.