‘Still recruiting:’ Imam warns Canadian youth to beware of ISIL ‘thugs’
‘If they approach, you should be smart enough to know that ISIL/ISIS is very big criminals in the eyes of Islam’
Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy, centre, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, speaks to Muslim youth about anti-radicalization strategies at a mosque Calgary, Alta., Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
October 15, 2017
3:29 PM EDT
The tall, slim teenager asks a question that’s on the minds of many of the young people gathered around the cloth-covered tables in a small meeting room at a mosque in northeast Calgary.
“If someone from ISIS or ISIL approaches you, how would you respond to them, so that you’re not attacked any further?” wonders Zubair Tariq, 16.
“If they approach, you should be smart enough to know that ISIL/ISIS is very big criminals in the eyes of Islam,” answers Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.
“These people reach out through the internet. These people reach out through a local community. Understand this is not somebody who is a nice Muslim or a good Muslim or a true Muslim. This is someone who is disguised as a Muslim. ISIL is a disguised Muslim.
“They say they are good Muslims but to us they are a bunch of thugs and criminals,” he continues. “They are terrorists.”
If they approach, you should be smart enough to know that ISIL/ISIS is very big criminals in the eyes of Islam
Soharwardy met recently with 30 Muslim youth at the Jamia Masjid Gunbad-e-Khizra mosque. It was one of several meetings he does on a regular basis to prevent the radicalization of Canadian Muslim youth.
Soharwardy decided to call another meeting after an attack earlier this month that injured a police officer and civilians in Edmonton. A man stabbed an officer doing traffic control outside a football game and then crashed a cube van into pedestrians downtown. Five people were injured. Police say they seized an Islamic State flag as evidence.
Tariq says he hasn’t been contacted directly by anyone seeking to recruit young Canadian Muslims, but he’s worried.
“One of my friends was approached … and he’s the same age as me,” the teen says. “It’s scary. If someone approaches you, you don’t know how to respond properly unless you talk to your peers.”
Teen Hassaan Rizvi says recruitment by the Islamic State is happening through social media.
“We were sitting in my math class and two of my friends received a WhatsApp link,” says Rizvi, referring to the popular mobile messaging program. “When opened, it was for recruitment for ISIS. It had the flag and said we are recruiting.
“I said, ‘This is not something good so we should close it.’ This did happen. They are still recruiting.”
Soharwardy turns the conversation to the Edmonton attack.
“When you hear … a police officer hurt and an ISIS flag found, what do you feel?” Soharwardy asks.
“Angry,” says one young man.
“Embarrassed,” says another.