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."
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- He was part of a group of four Brits called 'The Beatles' based in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa
- He was the ringleader, and in charge of guarding foreign hostagesDON EMMERT via Getty Images
- He is left-handed
- He is probably from south London but could have family links to AfghanistanMACIEJ NOSKOWSKI via Getty Images
- He was probably chosen for the job because his British accent would be more sinister for Western viewers of the videoTAUSEEF MUSTAFA via Getty Images
- He emailed the Foley family, furious about the US airstrikes, informing them he would kill their sonASSOCIATED PRESS
- He had previously wanted a ransom to spare Foley's life, but the US government did not payASSOCIATED PRESS
- He was the main negotiator in the release of 11 IS hostages earlier this yearASSOCIATED PRESS
- The militants foiled an attempted rescue by US Special OpsASSOCIATED PRESS
- The killer treated Foley differently and more harshly that other hostagesASSOCIATED PRESS