Local Muslims Fight Radicalization

Imam Zahid Abid wants to ensure that calls for a violent jihad fall on deaf ears here in Saskatoon.

Abid leads the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and says his congregation is on a mission to spread the message that Islam is about peace and brotherhood, not violence.

He says in the wake of recent radicalization of some Canadian youth – some of whom have gone abroad to fight with terrorist groups like the Islamic State – hammering home that message of peace is more important than ever.

“That is why we need to take that initiative. We don’t want something like that happen,” Abid said in an interview inside his College Park East mosque.

The radicalization of Canadians like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who carried out the October attack on Parliament Hill, provides more reason for peace-loving Muslims to speak out, Abid says.

Noman Hassan, a student at the University of Saskatchewan and one of the lead organizers of the “Stop The Crisis” campaign launching this week, agrees with Abid that the root causes of radicalization come down to family dynamics and feelings of isolation, rather than religious fervour.

“The question is why it is happening across Canada, across the world? It is mostly happening because people have an unstable upbringing and they don’t have the sense of belonging in the community.

That is the main thing we are trying to tackle,” Hassan said.

Hassan and Abid said they don’t know of any Muslim youth in Saskatoon who have gone overseas to fight with groups like Islamic Sate.

But recent reports show that threat of homegrown terrorism is real.

In December a six-minute video appeared online featuring a speaker who identified himself as Abu Anwar al-Canadi. The man scolded the Canadian government for aiding with air strikes against the Islamic State. Reporters at the Ottawa Citizen have since identified the man as John Maguire, a young man from eastern Ontario.

Abid says cases like Maguire’s show the need for better community and family networks to help young people through their problems.

“Radicalization comes because the parents don’t know what the kid is doing. If they knew they would be able to offer some sort of advice, some sort of counselling,” Abid said. Stop The Crisis begins Wednesday and concludes with an event on Jan 21.

According to Hassan, the campaign is not only to try and prevent radicalization of local youth, but to help educate the broader public about the true meaning of Islam and fight racial and cultural stereotypes.

“If one Muslim does something bad, it’s all over the news. When a whole community comes together to do something good I think it should get … more than equal coverage,” he said.