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Britain’s Islamic leaders urge young Muslims not to fight in Iraq and Syria

Published time: July 04, 2014 15:33
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks past debris of damaged buildings in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus June 3, 2014. (Reuters/Badra Mamet)

A Free Syrian Army fighter walks past debris of damaged buildings in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus June 3, 2014. (Reuters/Badra Mamet)

​In an open letter on the website Imams Online on Friday, more than 100 Imams from across Britain’s Islamic denominations are asking young Muslims not to get involved in the ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria

In an open letter on the website Imams Online on Friday, more than 100 Imams from across Britain’s Islamic denominations are asking young Muslims not to get involved in the ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria.

In the letter, they say: “British Muslim communities [should] continue the generous and tireless effort to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but… do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way.”

The statement comes following the appearance of two British men, one as young as 17, on a recruitment video for the violent insurgent group ISIS, who are attempting to establish an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. LINK HERE

In the video, the men call for more Britons to come to Iraq and Syria to take up arms with ISIS.

Both Muslim leaders and Prime Minister David Cameron fear that young Britons going to Syria will return to the UK radicalized, and may carry out terrorist attacks in the country.

Last month, Cameron said that foreign fighters in ISIS posed “the biggest threat” to UK national security.

"The number of foreign fighters in that area, the number of foreign fighters including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK is a real threat to our country," he said.

According to the government, around 500 Britons are currently fighting in Syria.

The letter, published during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, also encourages Muslims not to engage in sectarian violence: "As we near the end of the first week of Ramadan our message is simple, we have come together to urge British Muslim communities not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord. Here in the UK we are Sunnis and Shias, brothers in Islam – and brothers in Britain too.

"The conflict in Syria and Iraq can never change that, no matter how bitter the fighting. We urge members of the community to echo this sentiment by adding their signature to this letter, joining the many others that have done so already."

This is not the first time that British Imams have warned against traveling to Syria and Iraq.

Last week, mosques across the UK launched a campaign encouraging people to help Syrians through charities regulated by the Charity Commission, instead of going to the countries to help directly.

Qari Asim, a leading UK Imam and one of the letter’s signatories, also warned on BBC News that getting involved in the conflict would do little to help Syrians.

"If you want to help, please don't go out there. Don't expose yourself, don't put your lives at risk and the lives of other people," he said.