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Legend of the Week: The Croydon Man Who’s Tackling Extremism Head On

Legends can come in many shapes and forms. It’s not a title that should be bestowed upon someone lightly, but there does seem to be quite a few around right now: Firstly, there’s the people who write Ummahsonic – that’s a given. Secondly, this guy who built his own rocket and blasted off this week apparently in an attempt to prove that our (100 percent round) world is, in fact, flat. Then we have Elon Musk – he’s recently sent a Tesla into space which, we’re sure you will agree is the most hysterically elaborate marketing scam the world has ever seen. Consider: A car, a Tesla, in space. Floating around in the vast abyss, playing David Bowie. We’ll let that sink in for a while…

Anyway, another legend we’ve come across recently? Abdul Basit, a 32-year-old British-Indian activist, has recently been made a peace ambassador for his work fighting against Islamist extremism – yes sir, you are too a legend! Also a property developer from Croydon, Basit began his humanitarian mission after he was deeply moved by the murder of soldier Lee Rigby back in 2013. After describing the incident as “a gruesome act against humanity”, he looked for other responses from his community.

But he was “upset by the silence” that he observed following the barbaric attack which he expected to be widely condemned. It was that moment that Basit decided to start working relentlessly to root out extremism in his community using peaceful means. One solution he came up with was to promote young talent in the area.

That way he figured that he could create positive role models for young Muslims to look up to, whilst teaching community leaders what to look out for when trying to spot the signs of radicalisation.

Abdul, who lives in Croydon, said: “We try to promote and install humanistic values within our community to counteract the voice of extremism where it exists. We arrange local gatherings where we talk to communities with imams at the masjids and mosques in places like the one opposite Croydon University Hospital.

“People portray Islam in the wrong image – it should be young talents in the community that inspire, not these idiots who make these young people think that the people they grew up with are their enemies.”

Continued below.

He added: “I believe young people, who are most exposed to the online world, are the most vulnerable and they need to be inspired, protected and shielded more than anyone.”

“Islam says that you should be loyal to the country you come from, where you live, where you earn your bread and butter. For me this is the UK. I am proud to be a British citizen. I want my three children to be a lawyer, a soldier and a policeman and serve the UK because this is the country they were raised in.”

As part of his on-going mission to rid his local community of extremism, Abdul and his trusted flock of volunteers hold talks, lectures and events that promote their message of peace, unity and respect. “We put those who are acting against Islam and the UK on the radar and we teach those they target of a better way,” he says.

He explains how his work has led to him becoming the victim of abuse in the past, but it has not stopped his determination: “These people try to hijack the religion,” he said speaking of people who assaulted him in 2015. “They’re saying to be loyal to the caliphate but that’s not the rule. You should be loyal to the country that you earn your bread and butter from.

“There’s a big future for these kids that they can start working on for good and look to those who are actually working for the community. These are the brothers and sisters you grew up with. That’s what Islam says – we’re all born from Adam, no matter our faith.”

Abdul’s vital work within Britain’s Islamic community continues and he is now starting humanitarian projects abroad too.

Featured image credit: Abdul Basit via Facebook

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