Wien, Österreich, 2017

“Not in God’s Name” is a Viennese initiative that aims to prevent radicalization of Muslim youths in Vienna. Through the help of role models, school visits, sports events and social media campaigns, tolerance and non-violence is promoted.

The stars of the Austrian martial arts scene often have a migration background of their own. They know the problems and reality of young people and are therefore taken seriously by them. “Politics can not do that”, says Alexander Karakas, initiator of the project.

Foad Sadeghi, World- and European champion, is head of the martial arts center(heißt unten anders) Tosan in the 2nd district of Vienna. No matter one’s religion, nationality or gender – everyone is welcome. Training together and the sense of community have already put many young people on the right track.

Muhammad Jafari is an example for this. In 2015, he fled on his own from Afghanistan to Austria. A supervisor in a refugee shelter for unaccompanied minors put him  in touch with the Tosan Martial Arts Club. Kickboxing European Champion Vahit Ipek has become something of a big brother to him.

Today, Muhammad speaks fluent German, is an Austrian champion in kickboxing and does well at school.

Vahit has lived in Austria for many years. He is from Turkey and is a practicing Muslim. “What IS does has nothing to do with my religion. It’s all about money and power”, he says. “Young people, who have no prospects here and lack positive role models, are easily misled by the wrong people into nonsense.”

Karim Mabrouk has been involved in the initiative as a role model from the start. He is from Egypt, is a devout Muslim and prays five times a day. The way in which radical fundamentalists portay Islam anonys him. Although his mother does not like boxing, she is proud of his success. Karim is not only a multiple European champion, he also studies social work. He wants to pass his experiences on to young people, to help them chose the right path.

In “Exercise With Role Models”, martial arts stars train with young people.  It is a free workshop for teenagers. Between exercises, they talk about respect, violence in everyday life and extremism.

The concept sounds promising, but is not always easy to implement. It is questionable weather the program truly speaks to the teenagers in danger of getting radicalized. Omid, Mohamed, Benjamin and Seraj enjoyed training with the boxing stars. But they would rather have trained more and talked less, they say.

The young people have fled war in Syria and Afghanistan. They are happy to live in peace in Austria and do not want to be confronted with radicalization and extremism anymore.