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London: Britain's first "anti-terror" summer camp opened Saturday, with the goal of teaching Muslim youth how to rebuff extremists who try to recruit them at schools and in online chat rooms.
The three-day event hopes to equip hundreds of students with arguments from the Qur'an on how to respond to people with radical beliefs, encounters some at the camp said happen regularly.
"We want to give youngsters a balanced view of Islam and to remove the misconception of what jihad actually is," The Associated Press quoted the organizer, Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri.
"Extremists have confined the act of jihad to the act of militancy and violence. This is totally wrong according to Qur'anic commandments", he added.
In March, the Pakistani scholar who now lives in Toronto issued a 600-page fatwa, or religious edict, against terrorist acts like suicide bombing.
Some 1,300 high school and university students are expected to study his fatwa and hear about moderate Islam at the camp at Warwick University in Coventry.
Ul-Qadri said that in a series of lectures and debates, he would convince the students "why suicide bombing makes one a disbeliever, and why terrorists will go to hell fire."
Muslim conferences aimed at helping youths tackle extremism are not new — some US organizations have even reached out to Muslim rappers and musicians in an effort to encourage youths to use music and other means as a form of protest rather than violence.
"For years hate speech was allowed to flourish in Britain so you had preachings from radical Imams igniting the passions of youths and dividing the community," ul-Qadri said. "It's now time to repair this."
For many of the young Muslims attending the camp, joining a terrorist group to wage holy war jarred with their moderate believes. But they said extremists are outspoken at universities, and they lack the right arguments to counter radicals who approach them.
"I have had some experiences especially at university (with radicals)," said Tahseen Khalid, a 24-year-old university student in business and international politics.
"They haven't really worked on me ... I'm not confused. I believe terrorism is quite alien to the culture we were brought up in. I just want the information to help me argue the case in the strongest way," said Khalid, a Pakistani who was born and grew up in Britain.
Teacher Samra Adri, 33, said she also met with extremist groups while at university. She said young British Muslims often lack proper religious education and don't have a clear alternative viewpoint to militant rhetoric.
"You hear in the news everyday about Afghanistan, Pakistan, what America's doing ... many Muslims are obviously angry about the political situation in the world, but they don't understand exactly how a Muslim should react," said Adri, who lives in London.
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