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Forced Conversion to Islam

I am writing to hopefully get some advice. My friend is 17 and went on a camp- which he did not give anyone details about and came back saying that is now a converted Muslim ( he was Christian). He does not have any rationale for this conversion and is coming out with extremist views- such as it is a sin to marry someone of another religion and he needs to convert others, his mother has found lots of Muslim literature in his bedroom and he has stopped thinking about school, university , and going to cinema, playing games etc. and other normal things a 17 year old should be thinking of. His mum is worried that he has been brainwashed, Your advice would be gratefully appreciated on this- is there anyone his mum can contact to help make sure her son is ok?

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Sam

Hi there,

It's important to respect people's right to believe in whatever they want, but it's also natural to feel worried if someone's views change very suddenly. Any belief can be taken to an extreme no matter whether it’s Islam, Christianity or even non-belief like atheism. Converting to Islam isn’t a problem on its own, but you may become worried if someone starts to say and do things that might be harmful to themselves or others.

Everyone has to decide for themselves what their beliefs are and how they see the world. This can sometimes take a long time and might not always be obvious to other people. If someone seems to suddenly change their views it's possible they’ve been changing slowly but have only just felt comfortable talking about it in public. Sometimes however it can really be a sudden change. It might be that they have seen something or spoken to someone and it's been very convincing for them. In both cases it can be very difficult for those around them to understand and they might seem like a different person.

Most people who are religious are normal, peaceful and not extreme in their beliefs. Most Muslims are like this and you probably know some people who follow Islam in your school, college and neighbourhood. However, there are some people who take religious beliefs too far and start teaching things that are harmful. This might be being very strict about the rules of their new religion but can lead to more dangerous things. This is sometimes called radicalisation.

Some of the signs of radicalisation are things like  talking as though they’re reading from a script, repeating what they have been told without really thinking about the meaning of it. They might be unwilling to talk about their new beliefs and could be angry and try to isolate themselves. They might also become very secretive around who they talk to and what they do online. All of these can be signs someone may be being influenced by an extreme religious group of any kind.

If you think someone you know is in danger of being radicalised then there is some support available. The government have a site called Educate Against Hate which is designed for adults, but you might find some useful information if you're worried about your friend. You can also call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 for advice. Childline counsellors are here for you to talk to as well.

I hope this has helped you to understand what to do next and how to get some more expert advice.

Thanks for your letter.

Take care,

Sam

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