TORONTO (CP) – More than 120 Islamic religious leaders from across Canada issued a declaration Thursday denouncing acts of terrorism as a “perversion” of their faith and challenged Muslims to confront extremism.
“CAIR and the AMC [American Muslim Council] have emerged as possibly the two most outspoken U.S. Muslim organizations in the wake of the tragedy, protesting ‘hate crimes’ against Muslims and Arab-Americans, explaining why increased security need not preclude civil liberties for those from the Middle East and Near East, and trying to put a moderate face on a religion Americans only seem to hear about when it rears up in its most extreme incarnations.” […]
“But reporters are learning it’s not easy to find leaders who can authentically speak for Muslim Americans, who represent a wide variety of ethnicities and languages, sects and political views ranging from completely secular to Islamic fundamentalist. CAIR and AMC in particular would not be chosen as representatives by many Muslims. In fact, there are those in American Muslim communities as well as law enforcement who consider CAIR and the AMC to be part of the problem, because both have been seen as tacitly — if not explicitly — supportive of extremist groups guilty of terrorism.”
– Salon, Sep. 26, 2001
“Anyone who claims to be a Muslim and participates in any way in the taking of innocent life is betraying the very spirit and letter of Islam,” said the statement, which was read aloud by Imam Ahmad Kutty of the Islamic Institute of Toronto at the downtown Masjid mosque.
The declaration was organized by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) and signed by imams representing Muslim communities across the country. It was intended as a response to the first London bombings July 7, but in a terrible twist of fate wound up being made public on another day of violence in the city.
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“We categorically and unequivocally reject such acts. We will confront and challenge the extremist mindset that produces this perversion of our faith,” said Kutty, who read the declaration to the media and about 50 male worshippers who stayed to listen after performing their midday prayers.
“It is our religious duty as imams to confront this evil,” Kutty told reporters after his statement.
“It is our duty to preach against all kinds of extremism. . .and educate people (on) what Islam really means.”
The declaration came several days after the largest Sunni Muslim group in Britain issued a religious edict condemning the bombings.
Riad Saloojee, CAIR-CAN’s executive director, could not confirm whether any imams from Canadian Shia communities had signed the declaration, but added he hoped more religious leaders would add their names in the coming days.
Other leaders from Muslim organizations also spoke out immediately after Thursday’s blasts.
The leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress, Mohamed Elmasry, who had not yet seen Thursday’s statement, condemned the latest blasts in London.
Elmasry also praised emergency authorities in London and the British government for their calm handling of the bombings.
“The performance of Mr. Blair, his government and the law enforcing agencies in Britain is a role model for any society that would be under terrorist attack,” he said.
The declaration came as an obvious message for many of those among the mosque’s congregation who heard it read.
“Terrorism affects everyone. It does not have any boundaries or any limit,” said AbdulSamie Patel, 20, who came Thursday to pray at the mosque.
“It should be rejected by everyone who values human life.”
Jawad Jafry, who also prayed at the mosque Thursday and listened afterward, said that as a parent he feared Canadian cities could be targeted by terrorists, but also feared a backlash against Canadian Muslims.
“As Muslims, though, we sort of have this fear of double jeopardy . . . that we would not only be victims of terrorism, but also we might be people who are branded as guilty by association,” the 40-year-old documentary filmmaker said.
In a statement released Thursday, Jewish group B’nai Brith Canada called for the imams to follow their declaration with a clarification that Israelis targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers are included in their condemnation.
Unlike the Sunni Council in Britain, the imams’ statement did not declare a fatwa.
An Islamic jurist office is required to issue one and Canada lacks such an office, said Toronto Iman Adbul Hai Patel.
Patel was among those who signed the declaration, but could not attend the announcement because of a medical emergency.