The Independent - Letters: The causes of 'radicalised' Islam

Read Nick Maurice's letter, published this week in The Independent. Letters: The causes of 'radicalised' Islam

"Your editorial of 11 June points to the threat posed to Cameroon by the Boko Haram insurgency. As you say "only regional governments can finally defeat the grisly Boko Haram".

From our 33 years of involvement round the corner in The Gambia we have learnt an important lesson.

In common with most international development agencies and governments the focus of our work with our predominantly Muslim partners has been on women's empowerment through education and literacy programmes, loans for small businesses and support for traditional income-generating activities such as vegetable gardening, tie and dye and hairdressing.

Three years ago it became apparent to Gambian colleagues and ourselves that we have a major problem, namely unemployment and disaffection among young men.

We estimate that only 15 per cent of men are in employment five years after leaving school. Gambian friends tell us that there is an increase in drug taking. They express real concern that this group of disaffected youth without purpose in life and whose social standing, as they see it, has been undermined by the change in the gender balance, will be targeted by Islamists, who will give them a purpose, albeit a malevolent one.

It raises the question in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria. Has our focus on women's development upset traditional social norms and been to the detriment of young men. Surely we must redress the balance. Yes, let's absolutely discuss the rights of women, but we must engage men in that discussion and move forward together."

Dr Nick Maurice
Director, The Marlborough Brandt Group
Marlborough, Wiltshire