Leaders Should Invest in the Youth

Islamophobia and the problems of the Islamic world are among the main issues of the contemporary world. However, the perception of the youth is as important as the elder generations since it is the youth who is going to reconfigure the world. Sulaiman Musa, the representative of the Youth Partnership for Peace in Sierra Leone, a country which also has witnessed serious inter-religious conflicts, is an example for the members of the younger generation who believe that the future is in the hands of the youth and act for this goal.

In your previous statements you say that religions were not the sources of conflict. So, why are there conflicts emerging between different religions?

Sulaiman Musa: I think the main reason why conflicts are emerging between religions is that people just don't want to accept other people's religions. If we could just say let us live together in spite of our differences, then we would be able to see how we can distance religion from conflict. But religious leaders have a role to play; they have to provide education. They have to do some awareness-raising through spiritual teachings. Then people will understand that the religion they belong to is the religion of peace and tolerance, not the one that supports war and conflict. And when that happens, people will accept and encourage one another and live without any differences.

It is always said that Islam has repudiated the way of violence and terrorism, but when looking at the situation in practice, in particular the West does not seem to be very convinced about this.  How should the Muslim societies, the youth, do to overcome this - what should they do?

S.M: The problem is that most of the terrorists, like Osama Bin Laden, belong to the Muslim community and one thing we should start doing is relating people - that is, even though someone belongs to the Muslim community, this does not mean that the Muslim community has done that particular action. One person is responsible for their own actions. So, the youth are learning at this stage; we know now that the Islamic world is considered to be responsible for terrorism. What we should do as the youth is to learn the values of Islam and refrain from such activities, not supporting any Muslim person or community that supports conflict. We should learn to support those who seek peace and security.

You are a member of a youth initiative. At the same time the terrorist groups are also trying to brainwash the youth. So how do you think young people can be prevented from joining such groups?

S.M: One thing that leads young people into this is idleness; when there is nothing to do, when there is a lack of education. If there is a young person who is going to school, or at university, or who has plans for the future, wants to become a doctor or a professor, then at the end of the day he learns that he will have a job that will support him; then he will refrain from such negative actions. Our leaders have to invest in the youth, and lead for the better; the poverty is there, if there are no resources to maintain this youth in peace activities than this young person can be influenced to join terrorist groups, to rebel, or become involved in conflicts. There is much that our leaders have to do; they have to invest in the youth, they have to support the youth and ensure that there is education and possibilities for the future.

Finally, it is generally indicated that there is a lack of leadership in the Muslim world; do you feel that there is a potential to raise such leadership among the younger generation, both in your country and in the Muslim world?

Of course; young people are very well aware of the fact that leadership is lacking in today's leaders and we are learning. We are gaining experience from everything we do. We learn what is wrong and what is good. We are preparing for the better and we are going to ensure an Islamic world, a world in general, that will be better and one in which young people will be trained and will be responsible in the future. 



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