Talking to Young People about Paris : Contradictions and Implications


A shadow hangs over us. Standing with my grandson at a Rugby League Test Match on Saturday we observed a minute’s silence in the wake of the horrendous events in Paris. I need say no more about the tragedy as the media continues its almost voyeuristic wall-to-wall coverage. And yet shadows hang over us every day. My grandson in a flicker of interest observed, ” I don’t know who’s doing what to who and why?” Is this a common response from the young people with whom you’re working? Or does their immersion in the world of the social media throw up more explanations than those provided by Sky or the Sun? Only last Thursday 43 people died and 239 were injured in a double suicide bombing attack in Lebanon. ISIS claimed responsibility. Few people, if any, changed their profile on Facebook to embrace the Lebanese flag.

Back in 2010 the Guardian reported that,

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

“More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she said.

Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Little or nothing has changed. In this context it seems reasonable to suggest that rather than embark on yet more random bombing raids in Syria we cut off relations with the Gulf oligarchs, impose the toughest of sanctions, freeze their assets and refuse to sell them even the smallest pistol. A pipe-dream, but why?

Last week I attended a Youth & Policy ‘Faith’ conference, within which we explored the possibility of common ground across faiths and beliefs. In our discussions the Freirian notion of ‘conscientisation’ was mentioned more than once and the notion of social justice often. Underpinning the idea that youth workers ought to be critical pedagogues is an obligation to do our very best to comprehend the world, however incomplete that understanding might be, as the basis for a give and take dialogue with young people. The following are some alternative analyses of the growing nightmare that you might consider.

Outrage at Paris attacks masks our racism

BEIRUT, PARIS, within which Joey Ayoub begins:

I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I’ve always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago.

These have been two horrible nights. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut, the second took the lives of over 100 in Paris.

It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.

‘We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.

‘We’ don’t change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.

This could not be clearer.

I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.

The Age of Despair: Reaping the Whirlwind of Western Support for Extremist Violence

Our conference in Bradford was inspired by the book, ‘Youth Work and Faith’. So in thinking about talking to young people, it’s fitting to close with a quote from the chapter, ‘The Voices of Young Muslims’, written by Sughra Ahmed. Thanks to James Ballantyne for the prompt.

“As well as facing questions and challenges to their loyalty, young Muslims today, in common with others, are living in unprecedented times both in terms of globalisation and the popularity of new media. They are also facing complex concepts such as being pressed to define their identity in the light of national and international events that are instantaneously transported across the globe. The burden of proof that Islam is a peaceful religion and that muslims are law abiding citizens is often placed at the door of young British muslims. Not only will this often fail to provide conclusive answers, it is also unfair. This process is especially damaging when myths and stereotypes surmount accurate information and result in young British Muslims being portrayed as a threat to the well being of a wider British society”

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