Northern Ireland

Being a teenage Muslim in Belfast

Young people studying GCSE Islamic Studies in Belfast
Image caption Young people studying GCSE Islamic Studies in Belfast

Islamic extremism continues to put Muslims under the spotlight. Groups like so-called Islamic State claim to carry out attacks in the name of their faith.

In the second part of a series, the BBC looks at the attitude of young Muslims in Northern Ireland towards these events, and how the subject of terrorism is being addressed within our Islamic community.

Each week a group of teenagers gather for Sunday school in the heart of Belfast.

They are studying for a GCSE in Islamic studies.

Many issues are discussed as part of their ethics module, from animal rights to the environment. The subject of terrorism is faced head-on.

In a broad Belfast accent, one of the students, Ali, expresses his opinion.

"Terrorism is wrong and it's completely against Islam.

"The code of conduct of war says you're not allowed to hurt any innocent people and, so, in terrorism that's basically ignored."

The class discussed alternatives to violence in which people can express themselves.

The pupils' awareness and understanding of events in the news is evident from the conversation. There are no issues swept under the rug.

Omar is a senior prefect at Royal Belfast Academical Institution. He is in upper sixth and sitting his entry exams for Cambridge.

After November's Paris attacks by so-called Islamic State, Omar saw it as his responsibility to address his school assembly.

He says it is human nature for the spotlight to be on local Muslims following terrorist attacks.

Stigma and stereotyping are issues he is keen to confront.

"You can be looked at perhaps a bit differently," he said. If something does happen abroad… you're always asked to condemn it or exclude yourself from it."

Image caption Yasser Omar says there are temptations that go against Islamic life in Northern Ireland

There are some cultural problems for Muslim teenagers, too.

Yasser Omar is in lower sixth and a two-times Schools' Cup rugby winner with Inst.

He admitted that there are temptations that go against Islamic life but said his friends understand.

"If they ask me to go out tonight or go clubbing I'll say no because it's against my faith, and they ask why and I tell them, then they understand it."

Being a teenager is tough. Being a teenage Muslim in Northern Ireland might be that little bit tougher.