Calgary Herald | Soharwardy: Extremist Muslim groups do not represent true Islam


Soharwardy: Extremist Muslim groups do not represent true Islam

Calgary Herald | August 26, 2014

Syed Soharwardy
Syed Soharwardy STUART GRADON

The recently reported deaths of three Calgarians in Syria and Iraq are very disturbing. These three educated young Muslim men died fighting against their opponents.

Damian Clairmont was a Canadian-born, converted Muslim. He was only 22. Salman Ashrafi was raised and educated in Canada. His Pakistani parents migrated to Canada in the mid-1990s. Farah Mohamed Shirdon came to Canada as a small child from wartorn Somalia. Based upon media and intelligence reports, more than 50 Canadians are fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

What is more concerning is these three young Calgarians seemed to be normal students, and had a bright future ahead of them, but somehow, their lives changed drastically, and they decided to kill others and get killed.

As far as I know, none had any mental illness or disorder. They belonged to middle- or above middle-class families. What changed them? Who brainwashed them? Why did they become so violent?

It is easy for a few activists to blame Islam and quote (without knowing the context) the verses of Qur’an and the sayings (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad for this intolerant behaviour. This blame game not only damages the trust and the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslim Canadians, but also creates huge misunderstandings globally about the faith of more than one million Canadians and 1.6 billion Muslims.

I know it is confusing for many Canadians to see groups like ISIS/ISIL, Boko Haram, Taliban, al-Qaida, etc., who look, talk and pray like Muslims, and quote the Qur’an. Yet, they kill people in the name of Islam, convert non-Muslims to Islam by force, cause violence against children, women and non-Muslim minorities, and spew hate towards Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims.

I do not blame people for getting confused and suspicious about Islam. We Muslims have failed to isolate and honestly identify these groups. Our religious leadership has failed to take a united stand against them. Yes, many imams and leaders from various Muslim countries have condemned them individually, or whenever a tragic event takes place. Muslim scholars and organizations are constantly firefighting, but not proactively managing in a united way.

This is not the first time violent and extremely intolerant groups have emerged from the Muslim community. During the first century of Islam, a violent, extremist group emerged in Syria and Iraq. This group killed thousands, and the family members of Prophet Muhammad. The members of this group were very religious, but extremely intolerant, violent people. Their leader, Abdullah Ibn Saba, trained people to commit suicide. He gathered people in the name of worship, but incited them against their government. They went against the consensus of all Muslim scholars at that time. They killed the third and the fourth Caliph of Islam, Usman Ibn Affan and Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib.

The group did not believe in the rule of law. They did not accept the government’s authority. They developed their own interpretation of Qur’an and Hadith, which differed very much from mainstream Islam. The group eventually was isolated and ended, but the destruction they caused was irreparable.

Muslims are facing the same type of groups today. Unless all Muslim scholars and organizations declare them khawarij (outsiders), people will remain confused and Islam will continue to be the target of misunderstandings and confusion.

These radical groups follow the Wahhabi/Salafi interpretation of Islam. No other sect of Islam is involved in the crimes carried out by these groups. If Muslims want to stop the Islam-bashing, they must unite against them as khawarij. It is time Muslims start calling a spade a spade. If we continue hiding these terrorists, criminals and fanatics under the umbrella of Islam, then we have no right to complain.

We stand in full support with Christians, Yazidis and other minorities who are victims of ISIS’s brutality in Iraq and Syria. Islam does not recognize any person as Muslim if he or she was forced to accept Islam. I do not believe in these groups’ definition of sharia. I believe in the sharia which is based upon common sense, mercy, tolerance and acceptance of diversity and difference of opinions. May Allah save all humanity from evildoers.

Imam Syed Soharwardy is founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and Muslims Against Terrorism. He leads Muslim congregations in Calgary, Edmonton, Mississauga, Toronto, Montreal and Surrey.


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