Muslim students are rallying to end religious extremism. Photo courtesy of Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association at York University.

Students fight to end radicalization

By  James Mangaliman, Youth Speak News
  • December 5, 2014

TORONTO - Islamic student groups across Canada are joining forces to combat youth radicalization and the extremist influence of ISIS.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) campaign is called “StopTheCrISIS” and Ryerson University is one of the latest institutions to host a campaign event. The movement is gaining momentum with Ryerson’s AMSA following reports that a Ryerson student, Mohammed Ali (Abu Turaab), became radicalized and joined ISIS forces in Syria.

AMYA President Farhan Iqbal, an Imam, led a dialogue Nov. 28 at Ryerson that contrasted the peaceful message of Islam with the actions and implications of the terrorist group.

The ISIS issue is creating an alarming image of violence and radicalization for Islam, he said. But the atrocities committed by ISIS and other radicalized individuals, including the persecution of thousands of people from religious minorities, are in complete contradiction to the teachings of the Quran.

A close examination of Islamic history and the Quran’s teachings show that Islam is a faith that celebrates religious pluralism, said Iqbal. He said that among many examples of the peaceful message of Islam is the prophet Muhammad’s drafting of the Charter of Medina around 624. The charter granted people freedom to worship their own gods and guaranteed the rights and freedoms of all non-Muslims to adhere to their own religious practices.

Iqbal said that ISIS, which seeks to destroy all sects and religions that disagree with its view of Islam, are “only seeking their own worldly and political interests.”

Radical Islamism has spread alarmingly outside of the Middle East. In the wake of the recent killings of two Canadian soldiers and an increase in youth looking to fight for ISIS, the StopTheCrISIS campaign portrays youth radicalization as the product of discontentment and exclusion. AMYA wants to combat the climate of radicalization through awareness campaigns that encourage interfaith dialogue.

Imam Mubarak Nazeer, who also spoke at Ryerson’s StopTheCrISIS conference, encouraged greater solidarity among Canadians, youth in particular, in the fight against ISIS.

“When a church is attacked all faiths are attacked,” said Nazeer. “We have come to enkindle the flame in you that real Islam is not what (ISIS) is doing.”

StopTheCrISIS was launched partially in reaction to the murder of two Canadian soldiers by Canadian Muslim convert Martin Rouleau and extremist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Rouleau ran down a soldier in Quebec and Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

StopTheCrISIS also held an event in conjunction with AMSA at York University on Nov. 13.
In a press release, York AMSA president Jari Qudrat said: “Just this year, York University student, Mohamud Mohamed, was killed abroad fighting with ISIS. We’d like to end it at that, and ensure that no more Canadian youth have any thoughts of radicalization from this day onwards.”

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(Mangaliman, 18, is a first year Humanities student at the University of Toronto.)

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