What does a businessman know about countering extremism work? An odd question but in 2014 my community got targeted. I was a businessman, a corporate man. ISIS, AL Qaeda and Al Shabab were sending minimum 5 messages to muslim kids in Minnesota on social media in a month. The problem was there was no response to the avalanche of propaganda targeting our community. We invented the Average Mohamed Organization for the sole purpose of counter ideology. We gave ourselves mission values.
The first principle we hold dear is Peace. The Islam practiced by the over whelming majority of my muslim community is peaceful. We intended to show it and promote it as a principle. The second value was what do we believe in our secular society that binds us all together. Democracy is it, a constitutional understanding that it is the supreme law of the land. The third most important part is anti-extremism. Going after the ideological underpinnings of extremism. Having that rudimentary understanding of our goals. We created using cartoons, a malleable, cheap cost effective means of producing messages. Keep in mind we were competing against beheadings, action shots of Jihadis blowing things up and shootings, even soft promotion of idyllic life of Jihadis on horseback ridings or playing with cats. The age group we targeted was from 8- 16 years of age. The formative years of our youth. We created simple to understand even simpler to disseminate means of cartoons shared globally on social media. Each cartoon used against a value of the ideology of extremists. We started with a question “is suicide bombing an Islamic principle”. We created countering suicide bombings using the teachings of Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him claiming no, suicide bombers go to hell. We created videos espousing women rights in Islam using Aisha peace be on her the wife of the prophet as an example of emancipated woman. Knowing clearly men and women under scripture of Islam are not equal but we espoused in rights to opportunity they had no limitations either. We urged between the bullet and the ballot using democratic principles.Extremists new world order is built on a death cult mentality.
We Muslims are not fool’s. We prefer the ballot and can do without the fear of extremists. When extremists committed genocide against Yazidi and Christians in the Middle East we made a message decrying the genocide urging our kids if they become extremists killing of innocence was their main job requirement including destroying heritage. We were not content to create content and just use social media where garnered millions of views across the world for cartoons made. Teachers, Imams, Youth counselors and students who saw our work promoted in media advocacy to over 1800 interviews globally. Had their students reach out to a businessman to come speak in class, library, youth groups, youth sports team, mosques, churches, synagogues, mosques and even madrassa ( Islamic Schooling). We went and we engaged our youth in conversations. The businessman became the teacher by necessity. What I learnt is our kids are smart and intelligent. Come with Bullshit they can spot a fake a mile away. Nobody ever talked to them about extremism. A taboo topic never discussed openly. We were the first to do so publicly with them. I would show case 3 messages, then open the floor to questions. Questions like, “ I am 16 years old and all my life our country has been in war against Muslim countries, does America hate Islam”. “ What about Syria, are the Mujahideen not doing what is asked of them to protect muslims from a bloodthirsty dictator