POLITICS

Calgary Imam Offering Checklist To Help Converts Avoid Extremism

11/06/2014 02:12 EST | Updated 01/06/2015 05:59 EST
CP
CALGARY - A prominent Muslim cleric wants to distribute a checklist to help steer new and potential converts to Islam away from the path to extremism.

Imam Syed Soharwardy of Calgary, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, has written an article warning converts and potential converts that their future is at stake.

"This is a checklist, just some background and historical information," he said in an interview Thursday.

It's important for prospective converts to check out the beliefs of the imam or group helping them, Soharwardy said.

The checklist suggests that converts ask whether their prospective imam ascribes to the interpretations and traditions of the majority of Muslim scholars, or whether the imam advocates for something different. For instance, does the imam believe in the sanctity of life and that the killing of any innocent person is a crime? Or does he believe in forced conversions and death to those who disagree?

"Because of the exploitation and misguidance of newly converted Muslims ... it's very important for mainstream Muslims to let them know there are those who have an ideology of hate and violence who claim to represent Islam and they should not be following it," Soharwardy writes.

He said there are thousands of newly converted Muslims that have been exploited and recruited from Europe, North America and Australia to fight for the Islamic State by people he refers to as "fanatics."

"Unfortunately, those two young guys who carried out these terrorist attacks just a few weeks ago in Ottawa and Quebec, they were also recruited by these fanatics. I'm sure that they did not know Islam, they were new to Islam and they were just abused, misguided by these fanatics," Soharwardy said in reference to the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

"This is very important to communicate about the dangers of these ISIL and ISIS who are carrying out terrorism in the name of Islam. They killed two innocent Canadians for no reason and it is not right."

Soharwardy intends to distribute his information online and in mosques. It is to be sent to more than 5,000 members who are being asked to forward it to converts or those who are exploring Islam.

There have been a growing number of reports of Canadians joining extremist groups.

In September, the Canadian Somali Congress of Western Canada wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and warned that young people in Alberta were being recruited to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Last winter, Damian Clairmont, a 22-year-old Calgary man, was killed while fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria. His mother, Chris Boudreau, has called for new efforts to reach young people before they become radicalized and go overseas.

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