Hussein Hamdani asked Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to fund a Canadian version of MB-linked UK Radical Middle Way to counter petro-dollars that finance wahhabism
After the arrest of the Toronto 18, Hussein Hamdani went to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and asked him to “encourage moderate and moderating voices” in the Muslim community by funding them.
Jamal Badawi, Abdallah bin Bayyah and Hamza Yusuf are the RMW speakers identified in the article.
The RMW organizer Fareena Alam is quoted as saying:
The article does not mention that the UK Radical Middle Way is closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Original title: Radical steps to counter radical Islam; After the London transit bombings last year, British Muslims mobilized to fight Islamic extremism The Radical Middle Way project was designed to give young people a different view of their religion
It’s been going on all week and will go on for a long time yet the investigation into how and why the seeds of violent Islamic extremism could take root in comfortably bland Toronto suburbs.
Whether the 17 males arrested were armchair jihadists or for- real terrorists has yet to be determined, but the apparent intent to wreak havoc – in the name of religion – has stunned their fellow Canadians.
That, here? A world away from the ancient rancours of the Middle East?
The reaction, however, has been only an echo of the horror in Britain that greeted the terrorist bombings in London last July 7, when 52 people were killed by four British-born extremists.
Within three weeks, the British government had set up a series of “Preventing Extremism Together” workshops with 100 British Muslims. Mostly young and from all walks of life, their job was to provide insight into why a small minority of Muslims veer over the edge into fundamentalism, while the majority do not.
Economic deprivation, second-generation tensions, social isolation from the mainstream had all played a part and all got their due.
But what came through emphatically from the advisers was that extremists, no matter how warped and misguided their interpretation of Islam, perceive themselves as devoutly religious.
Indeed, the final report concluded “The problem is not primarily rooted in socio-economic deprivation it is based on a global ideology motivated by political grievances and justified by a mistaken interpretation of Islam.”
And the only way to combat the ideology is to take on its arguments and knock them down flat, says Fareena Alam, the 27-year- old managing editor of trend-setting Q-News, the U.K.’s largest Muslim magazine, who was one of the 100 advisers.
“If these young people are motivated by faith, and the idiots who tell them to kill in the name of the faith, then we need to use religion to get at them,” she says from London.
“We can’t run away from the fact that religion is important to these young people. So, we must counter extremism with more religion, not less.”
Which is precisely what the British government, with the help of Q-News and three other young-Muslim groups, decided to do in setting up the Radical Middle Way project. “Middle Way” because balance is a primary value in traditional Islam; “radical,” well, to attract teens.
The project involves a group of international Islamic scholars with credibility among young people travelling across Britain to give theological counter-arguments against extremist interpretations of the faith.
“We told government, let’s not reinvent the wheel here,” Alam says. In other words, let Q-News and cohorts run the show. The government agreed.
With $210,000 in public funds, Q-News books the venues – deliberately not mosques, but concert halls or auditoriums – and flies in speakers from around the world, including Yemen, Germany and Canada.
Since it started in December, the “Imams Tour,” as it’s dubbed, has been a huge success. More than 25,000 curious young Muslims have turned out to listen to, or argue with, scholars whose names are venerated in the Islamic world. Attendance is free.
When the highly respected Abdallah bin Bayyah from Mauritania walked on stage at a Middle Way event in London, awestruck teenagers craned to capture him on their camera-phones as if he were a rock star.
But the biggest draw, perhaps, has been the charismatic young American convert, Hamza Yusuf. The former Mark Hanson of Walla Walla, Wash., understands the problems of integrating as a Muslim into the non-Muslim West and that, Alam says, is key.
“Most mosques and imams don’t have a clue what’s going on with young people and fewer kids go to them for guidance. So, the vacuum gets filled in kebab shops or bookstores or on strange sites on the Internet.”
But there is always the person-to-person exposure, she adds. Someone slightly older becomes a “mentor,” all too happy to supply a quick theological fix to young people enraged by what’s happening to Muslims in the Middle East.
The fix? Born-again fundamentalism – a “pure,” literalist Islam – that teaches rejection of national loyalty and the embrace of the black-and-white militancy.
Alam isn’t surprised the phenomenon has spread to Canada “Extremists live in a media-savvy world and they learn from each other. Your kids there were not immune. The 7/7 bombers here, they were angry. ‘Our people are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.’ They wanted to help them. They wanted to be men.”
The logic of helping by blowing up London’s transit system or anything else doesn’t simply elude reason, says Jamal Badawi, an Egyptian-born Canadian scholar – it flatly contravenes and betrays the traditional faith.
Badawi, imam to Halifax’s 18,000-member Muslim community and professor of religious studies at St. Mary’s University, was the speaker at a Middle Way event in April. His message to the sellout crowd was clear-cut “Terrorists have a totally perverted interpretation of the faith.”
Koranic references, he says, “are taken out of context to justify terrorism, just as biblical texts are warped by Christian fundamentalists to justify bombing abortion clinics.”
Extremist ideology holds that true Muslims cannot be loyal to their country and to their faith, Badawi says from Halifax.
“That’s erroneous. Normative Islam believes in peaceful co- existence, in being ‘justly balanced.’ It rejects extremism, whether of excess or neglect.”
Fundamentalists who try to stop fellow Muslims from contributing to the culture and politics of their new, non-Islamic country – as one of the Mississauga accused, Qayyum Jamal, reportedly did during the last federal election – couldn’t be more wrong “and must be countered,” he says.
Badawi is not deaf, however, to the frustrations of the young, a point his Middle Way audience undoubtedly appreciated.
“Extremism didn’t come out of the thin air,” he says. “The deaths of 100,000 Iraqis does arouse resentment, which can turn into blind hate. A feeling of anger is fine. But what is not justified is taking violent action.”
That message, coming from an internationally respected scholar and targeted directly at a young audience, has enormous impact, says Hussein Hamdani, a 33-year-old Hamilton lawyer and Muslim activist.
Its success in the U.K. is why he wants Ottawa to sponsor a Canadian Middle Way tour, with the same speakers. He spoke this week with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who asked for more information.
“I told him that, yes, Muslims have to clean up their act and encourage moderate and moderating voices,” Hamdani says. “These voices exist, but the community doesn’t have the money to bring them forward. Petro-dollars are hard to compete with.”
He is referring to the Saudi Arabian financiers who fund the spread in the West of Wahhabism, a 200-year-old, hard-line interpretation of Islam. Hamdani, who sits on Ottawa’s new Cross- cultural Round Table on Security, says the sect’s us-versus-them ideology is the common link in terrorist plots.
But it is foreign to traditional Islam, he adds. Just as acting violently to assuage grievances – legitimate or not – is foreign to the Muslim mainstream, most of whom “are quiet, boring, tax-paying people,” he says with a laugh.
“I’m a proud Canadian and a devout Muslim – there is no contradiction.
“To those who think there is, I say ‘If you don’t want to live here, go buy a one-way ticket out. You won’t be missed.'”
He agrees with Fareena Alam that more young people now get their religious education outside the conventional Islamic establishment. “They don’t hang out at mosques. They’re having discourses at Second Cup or in somebody’s home.”
Somebody who might have a dangerous contemporary take on a 1,400- year-old religion.
But if Hamdani has his way, they’ll be lining up in Canada some time next spring to hear the real message of Islam from those who truly know.
courtesy Q-News MagazineAP FILE PHOTO British police walk away from the wreckage of a London bus, demolished by one of four explosions that rocked the city’s transit system last year, killing 52 people. The only way to combat the extremism behind such acts is to take on its arguments and knock them down flat, says Fareena Alam, left, managing editor of Britain’s Q-News magazine.