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ANALYSIS: Muslim leaders in Peel on front lines in fight against radicalization


Muslim leaders in Peel Region say they’re leaving no stone unturned in the battle against radicalization.

Because radicalization has often led to acts of terror in recent years around the world, they say nipping the scourge in the bud is now at the centre of their teachings especially to the youth in the community.

“We are not saying that most terrorists are Muslims, we are simply saying that applying common sense to issues of radicalization and terror are of paramount importance to us,” says Imam SM Rizvi, administrator of the Masumeen Islamic Centre in Brampton.

He explains it would be foolish on “our part to wait for one person to get radicalized before we start acting. The question is, can a Muslim be radicalized? The answer is yes. But that’s not to say only Muslims can be radicalized,” he emphasizes, adding: “we are just doing our part”.

An Angus Reid Institute poll in 2018 found that Canadians are a bit more concerned about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism than they are about white nationalist terror. However, according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) 2015 report, “lone wolf” attacks (worldwide) come more often from white supremacists and extreme right-wing groups (17%) than from Muslim radicals (15%).

Canada has largely gone unscathed by radicalization-induced terrorism. Yet Muslim community leaders here continue to position themselves on the front lines of the struggle, advocating against the internet as a source of religious teaching. They insist mosques should be the preeminent venue for correcting course especially among the misguided.

“We are proud Canadians, and it’s our duty to protect the values of this country,” said Imam Abukar Mohammed of the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke.

“We have bad apples in every community,” adds Mohammed.

“Whenever violent acts occur,” he says, “the reverberations are huge for us because we quickly go into teaching mode. We rally our members and youth in the area to remind them of why they are Muslims in the first place, and we literally beg them to be calm and refocus their energies on forgiveness.”

Most of the congregants at the Khalid Al-Walid Mosque have roots in Somalia, where the terror organization al-Shabbab has maimed and killed innocent people.

“We tell them here in the masjid (or mosque) that what is going on in Somalia with al-Shabbab is sinful and that their ideology of extremism cannot be found anywhere in the Quran (Muslim holy book).”

Imam Abdullah Raja at the Mississauga Muslim Community Centre concurs.

“A lot of what drives radicalized people and terrorists is based on pure ignorance,” he says.

Raja emphasizes the need for all Muslims to have mercy even on their enemies “because we have to show we’re bigger than hate.

“Just one day after the recent New Zealand mosque attack,” he notes, “I was giving a sermon at the mosque and I could tell many people were saddened by what happened. But I told them the only way to react is to retaliate with peace. That’s what Islam is all about because an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Another aspect of the precautionary measures being taken by the Muslim leaders in the area involves liaising with law enforcement.

Sgt. Joseph Cardi says Peel Regional Police “has established positive relationships with Peel Region’s Muslim community leaders, members, and faith-based clergy.”

In a written response to media questions, Cardi says the Muslim Advisory Committee of the police department has benefitted immensely from its interaction with the Muslim community in Peel Region through workshops and attending presentations.

“Community members provide us with important information that enables us to better understand community concerns and allow(s) us to develop proactive strategies aimed at mitigating them,” he says in an email statement.

Dr. Hamid Slimi of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga says that he completely believes in the old adage that “prevention is always better than a cure”.