WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Boston marathon bombings, a Muslim coalition Monday rolled out the first national outreach campaign to help community leaders mitigate threats of violent extremism among their members.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council, a national group promoting and lobbying for Muslim Americans' civil rights, outlined the Safe Spaces Initiative, a toolkit of pre-emptive strategies and resources to educate imams and youth group leaders on community-based intervention strategies.
“The idea of this toolkit, and the counter narrative that the American Muslim communities work on in general, is to build resiliency within our community,” said Haris Tarin, director of the MPAC.
An estimated 4.5 million Muslims live in the U.S., according to a 2011 Pew Research survey, with 2.75 million under the age of 18.
Council leaders said when they learned that the Boston marathon bombers were Muslim, it was a wakeup call that radicalism within their communities can lead to violence that hurts others and damages the image of all Muslim Americans.
The initiative announced Monday was designed to help Muslim leaders build on existing partnerships with local and federal law enforcement. The initiative highlights three steps: prevent, intervene and eject.
Rizwan Jaka, a trustee of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va., said his members have already taken steps to help eradicate extremism.
“We want to try to help prevent violence and extremism through the counseling and intervention methodology as much as possible,” Jaka said. “But if there is any threat that is imminent or that is outside the fold of counseling, we will call law enforcement immediately.”
Extremists who commit acts of violence or terrorism go against Islamic principles, Jaka said. He said his members feel it’s their duty to protect their country and their community from extremism.