For five years, Umar Haque taught children at East London mosques and secondary schools. Then he was arrested.
On March 2, Haque was found guilty of planning terror attacks at numerous sites across London, including the Parliament and Big Ben. And he’d been training his students to help him.
But Haque, who showed beheading videos, praised ISIS, and performed terrorist “role playing” scenes with as many as 250 students – some only 11 years old – is not an isolated example. As Europe braces for the return of citizens who fought with the Islamic State, some Muslim youth at home already are being radicalized, fed extremist ideologies via social media, their parents, their mosques, their teachers, and through one another. This, after all, is much of how European ISIS fighters became radicalized in the first place; and though Europe has cracked down on radical groups and imams, there clearly is far more work to do – most notably in the schools.
In Belgium, for instance, a secular primary school in Ronse reported in the spring of 2017 that some Muslim children “called others ‘pigs’ or ‘unbelievers.’ They made murder motions by drawing their fingers over their throats.” According to one teacher cited in the report, some students have stopped coming to school “because the school’s vision doesn’t fit with their beliefs,” and a toddler in her class has already been promised in marriage to a boy in Morocco. Another girl refused to stand next to boys in line.