Recent news that several young Canadian men, including two Calgary brothers, died fighting for ISIS has shocked Canada's Muslim community -- the vast majority of whom scoff at the notion that the terrorists who have overrun Syria and Iraq are acting upon authentic Islamic teachings, much less a compose a "caliphate."
Yet no matter how it much it makes us Muslims cringe upon hearing the words "Islamic State" whenever we watch the news, some pundits maintain that the atrocities committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations are correctly rooted in Islam.
So where are all the moderate Muslims? Not far if you care to hear them. Folks from all schools of thought from inside Muslim communities are shouting out their condemnation of ISIS. As progressive Muslims argue the wahabist ideology of ISIS is hardly Islamic, having extinguished all mercy and humanitarian compassion from Islamic tenets, conservative Muslims, whom some would term wahabists, are quick to emphasize that their own strict reading of Muslim scriptures and laws clearly prohibit the criminal behaviour of ISIS.
The internet is rife with speculation in respect to ISIS' origins. That said, most would agree that in a region ruled by dictators who promote the world wide proliferation of intolerant wahabism, and whose rule is legitimized by western interests -- any conflict that is not suppressed and extinguished immediately, has the potential to create a catastrophe. And though it comes as no surprise, ISIS is the region's greatest catastrophe of our time.
After all, it is because of the murder of thousands by ISIS, including some Sunni clerics, millions of refugees have fled their homes in Syria and more are expected to flee Iraq. Christians, Yazidis and Muslims of all sects have been displaced. The result? The UN has declared this the worst humanitarian crisis seen in decades.
Ordinary North American Muslims who take a break during their busy day to watch events unfold in the region are filled with a sense of both urgency and loss. It is estimated that there are more than a million Muslims in Canada -- some continuing to attend traditional mosques, many un-mosqued. Does it matter that ordinary Muslims don't identify with ISIS? Once again, terrorists are the most frequently self-identified Muslims shown in the media and their illegal actions are seen to represent us all -- men, women, children, queer and straight, all colours, all cultures, all languages, all ages -- as a black-masked monolith. Is a backlash inevitable?
That is what I asked Mohamad Jebara recently upon learning he was set to ride from Ottawa to Quebec City to raise funds for The Heart and Stroke Foundation. Also known as "The Cycling Cleric", Mohamad serves as Chief Imam at the Cordova Spiritual Education Center. Young, dynamic and married with two children, his Friday sermons are filled with love and compassion for humanity and he ridicules the notion that God may be viewed as a "bogeyman."
This Friday, September 5th, Mohamad will start his ride. I connected with him to find out more about it and asked him his take on Islam and Muslims in light of recent world events. Check out my interview in my next blog entitled: "Ordinary Muslims Part 2 -- The Cycling Cleric, Riding for Our Hearts."
He was part of a group of four Brits called 'The Beatles' based in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa
A former hostage, who was held for a year in the Syrian town of Raqqa, has told the Guardian
that the killer was the ringleader of a trio of UK-born extremists the captives nicknamed "The Beatles" because of their nationality.
He was the ringleader, and in charge of guarding foreign hostages
DON EMMERT via Getty Images
The masked killer who murdered Foley is known as 'John' to the group.
He is left-handed
Only 10% of the world's population are left-handed. All of the information from the video will be analysed rigorously by intelligence services, including the way he holds his weapon, his height, body movement and intonation. MI5 have a database of Brits they believe have travelled to Syria, and they will be comparing what they know about each one, the Telegraph reported.
He is probably from south London but could have family links to Afghanistan
MACIEJ NOSKOWSKI via Getty Images
Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics experts at Lancaster University, has told several media outlets that the man's vowels marked him out as likely from the south-east of England, but most likely from London. Elizabeth McClelland, a forensic voice and speech analyst, told the Telegraph
the accent has "possible influences of Farsi, which could suggest a family link to Afghanistan".
He was probably chosen for the job because his British accent would be more sinister for Western viewers of the video
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA via Getty Images
"This is significant because it signifies a turn towards threatening the west. They are saying we're going to come after you if you bomb us," Prof Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, at King's College London told the Guardian.
He emailed the Foley family, furious about the US airstrikes, informing them he would kill their son
Foley's family had been emailed by ISIS as early as last Wednesday and were informed that the terror group intended to execute the reporter in retaliation for US air strikes against Isis targets in northern Iraq. GlobalPost chief executive, Philip Balboni said that ISIS "made no demands", just informed the family the execution was going to take place. They tried to engage him in conversation, but to no avail, because the jihadist was fuelled by "seething anger".
He had previously wanted a ransom to spare Foley's life, but the US government did not pay
According to the New York Times who spoke to a family representative and a captive held alognside Foley, ISIS demanded the United States to provide a $100 million ransom ransom for Foley's life, but unlike several other European countries who did pay out, the US refused.
He was the main negotiator in the release of 11 IS hostages earlier this year
Almost a dozen hostages, some held for over six months, were handed to Turkish officials. They included two Spanish journalists, one pictured here, Javier Espinosa.
The militants foiled an attempted rescue by US Special Ops
US President Barack Obama sent troops to Syria this summer to rescue a number of Americans being held hostage, including Foley, senior administration officials said. Several dozen special operations troops who were dropped by aircraft into Syria did not find them and engaged in a firefight with IS militants before departing.
The killer treated Foley differently and more harshly that other hostages
French journalist Nicolas Henin spent seven months in captivity with Foley, including a week where they were handcuffed together, telling the BBC Foley was treated as "some kind of scapegoat" and was beaten more frequently. "Some countries like America but also like the UK do not negotiate and, well, they put their people at risk," he said.