Calgary imams fight back against Islamic State recruitment
A group of Calgary imams is marking the first line of defense at the foot of the Rocky Mountains against the Islamic State group’s recruitment of Canadians as fighters.
Several imams issued a religious edict against IS jihadists last month, denouncing its threats against Canada and its online recruitment after dozens of Canadians — mostly from Calgary — traveled to Syria to join their cause.
In the fatwa, the imams urge Muslim youths to shun the sway of the IS group, which they accuse of having violated Islamic tenets “in the most horrific and inhumane way.”
“Some Muslims, having the fatwa against them, they will have second thoughts” before seeking to join an extremist group, said Khalil Khan, president of Calgary’s Al Madinah Islamic center.
“(They) will wonder if this is right or wrong.”
Khan is one of 37 imams and religious scholars from across Canada, plus one from who endorsed the fatwa.
The edict was motivated by a wave of recruitment, as at least a dozen people have left the oilrich province of Alberta to fight with the Islamic State group abroad.
The call comes in the wake of the January 2014 death of Damian Clairmont, a 22-year-old Calgary man who was enticed to join the extremist group and who became the first Canadian casualty in the IS push to carve out an Islamic “caliphate” in the Middle East.
Zaheera Tariq, a director of the Al Madinah mosque, told AFP that recruits are being lured by misrepresentations of Islam.
“It’s a lack of education, a lack of knowledge,” she said, adding that young people are “being influenced by those people who are misrepresenting Islam, who are misquoting the Prophet.”
She added: “They need to find proper imams.”
Gathered at the mosque, Tariq, Khan and others say more resources are needed to address a growing religious education gap facing Muslims whose numbers are soaring in Calgary.
The city’s Muslim population has increased fourfold in the past two decades to 120,000. In 2010, Naheed Nenshi became the first Muslim to be elected as mayor of a major Canadian city.
“The Muslim population is growing rapidly in Calgary. That’s why we needed a bigger mosque,” Tariq commented, pointing to construction underway to enlarge the mosque and add space to accommodate some 800 students.