New Delhi Times | Imams of Canada: Why every Muslim leader should be denouncing the ISIS

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Imams of Canada: Why every Muslim leader should be denouncing the ISIS

In a war like this, if you’re not against them, then you’re for them

New Delhi Times | January 11, 2016

“Jihad is as Canadian as Maple Syrup” These are the words of Abu Dujana al-Muhajir, a Canadian who left Calgary to join ISIS in Syria. Canada has witnessed a massive recruitment drive for ISIS fighters in the last three years, Canada estimates that more than 200 of its citizens traveled to Syria. The threat is more real than ever and Canada along with the rest of the world is part of this burgeoning battle with the barbaric militant group the Islamic State (IS). Unlike previous terrorist groups, IS doesn’t hide in the caves of Afghanistan, they are on twitter, Facebook and have one of the most sophisticated PR ever. One of the biggest recruitment tools used by IS is their claim on the ‘truest form of Islam’, they refer to any other type of Islam as fraud and the youth are gravitating towards this form of radical Islam. Leaders in Islam have the duty to shun the ISIS and inform these misguided youth about the actual meaning of Jihad and Islam.

Imams are worship leaders in mosques and are respected widely; it is fair to say that they have the power to influence the disenfranchised youth who are choosing violence over the endless opportunities presented to them. Some countries like Austria have taken matters into their own hands and have passed a law requiring Muslim clerics to demonstrate “professional suitability” by taking a University of Vienna program or proving they have equivalent training. An Imam from Edmonton, Alberta Shaban Sherif Mady from Egypt was exposed on Canadian TV as a radical priest who showed his support for Muslim Brotherhood, he declared his support for mujahideens at the end of his sermon.

He later wanted an apology for calling him radical but the fact remains that his sermon was propagating violence. He had an audience of young men who were listening to him with rapture; this is a very worrying scenario for Canada. There are many like him who in their sermons openly announces their support for jihad and terrorist organizations. So more than a few times, Imams themselves have been the radicalizing force but there are Imams who condemn the actions of the ISIS and have called followers of the Islamic State as ‘non-Muslims’ and ‘outsiders’ to the faith. The founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada Imam Syed Soharwardy and 37 other Islamic leaders across Canada have issued a fatwa against ISIS.

Soharwardy said in reference to ISIS “They have been excommunicated from the Muslim community and those who will join them, they should be excommunicated from the Muslim community and they cannot be considered as Muslims at all,” He added, “I want to create awareness about the nature of their work, they are using Islam, they are quoting Qur’an, they look like Muslims, they pray like Muslims but they are not Muslim. They are deviant people, and they are doing exactly everything which goes against Islam.” Soharwardy in the past had urged former Canadian PM Harper to stop calling it Jihad and start calling it terrorism.

The only thing that doesn’t make sense is, why is every Muslim cleric not doing what Soharwardy and the 37 others are doing, i.e dispelling the massive façade created by IS about Islam. There are several Imams, who pledge their allegiance to Canada while secretly supporting ISIS as long as every Muslim cleric doesn’t come out to back the fatwa, there will always be misguided youth for whom ISIS will come to represent Islam. Another aspect in which Imams could be of big help to Canada is using their position in the community to help the police uncover the true radical elements and sleeper cells. The leader of ISIS issued a statement threatening Canada with terror. When the scenario is steadily getting worse, Imams who have the trust of the Muslim community in Canada, should help the police figure out those have been brainwashed and recruited by ISIS, if they are able to help in any way they should stand up and make an effort. Canadian government should also tighten the reigns and deport or arrest any Muslim leader who is seen promoting violence and ISIS.

For the Imams in Canada the first step is to publicly and aggressively denounce ISIS, back the fatwa against them and clarify the real meaning of Islam to the new believers who are being led astray so easily. Second is to assist the government in preventing further terror attacks and third would be to reach out to the youth and let them know that they can live in the western world without compromising on their Muslim faith in anyway.

So to all the Imams, if you’re not against the ISIS, then the message you are sending to your people is that you are with them. Imam Soharwardy has received multiple death threats from terrorists who want him to take back the fatwa, but he’s undeterred and wants his message to get out there, that if you are ISIS then you’re not Muslim.
He said “We strongly urge every Muslim, especially the youth, not to be influenced by the speeches, songs and the literature available on the Internet or on social media produced by the impostors pretending to be Muslim. This is a trap for young Muslims.” It’s a trap for sure.

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