Muslims tell Canadians:Terror plotters "just happened to be Muslims" -"people have too much time on their hands -there's a lack of activities"
June 6, 2006
Muslim experts warn about drawing conclusions
Updated Mon. Jun. 5 2006 11:32 PM ET
TORONTO -- Canadians must understand that an alleged plan to launch a terrorist attack in Ontario wasn't engineered by Muslims, but instead was a plot by people who happened to be Muslim, experts, politicians and community leaders said Monday.
They say it would be a mistake now for people to draw rash conclusions about the possible failures of Canadian multiculturalism or seek radical societal changes since we've learned about the 17 suspects arrested under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.
Canadians who believe Muslims are cheering the actions of the accused need to have a better understanding of their fellow residents, said Mohammad Alam, president of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto.
"No religion will permit any terrorism, and every religion will teach us to love and care for each other," he said. "We appeal to (worried) Canadians that we are Canadians ourselves."
"If (the suspects) are convicted, we believe they should be punished according to the law. If there's a terrorist in any community we should root them out."
Prof. Wesley Wark of the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies said some critics may soon push to clamp down on immigration or strengthen anti-terrorism laws.
But Wark hopes those calls will be held in check by more reasonable opinion.
Neither Canadian society nor the Muslim community want terrorism to take root here, he said.
"I don't think there's much (support) for terrorist thinking among the Muslim community or other ethnic communities," he said.
"That doesn't mean that occasionally small numbers of individuals might decide to go down that path, encouraged by visiting jihadist websites, encouraged by the general propaganda that swirls out of al Qaeda," Wark said.
"But I think there's little likelihood of much broad-based support for terrorist activity among ethnic groups in Canada."
The terrorist threat has the potential to unite Muslims and the rest of the Canadian public, much like what happened after the London bombings last summer, Wark said.
"What you have seen in the United Kingdom is a bringing together of mainstream Muslim thought to try to reject the idea of tolerating extremist preaching in mosques," he said.
Liberal Omar Alghabra, one of Canada's four Muslim MPs, said community leaders have to take responsibility to shut the door on any opportunity for radicalization.
"We need to make sure those people who are bent on radical ideologies don't recruit and seduce our youth," Alghabra said.
"Ultimately the goal is to offer venues and opportunities to youth and community members to be empowered and to be engaged rather than being seduced by any form of radicalization that may be the outcome of marginalization."
It's not difficult to live in Canada as a Muslim and it shouldn't be trying for Muslims to fully integrate into society, Alam said.
However, there could definitely be more funding for youth programs that would help prevent disillusioned youth from being swayed by radical groups.
"There's a lack of activities. When people have too much time on their hands, they're doing things they're not supposed to be doing," Alam said.
Liberal MP Wajid Khan said the problems of Muslim youth aren't very different than the troubles of young people across Canada.
"When we talk about youth being brainwashed we can look at it in a broader sense," he said.
"If you look at all the gun violence, the drugs and prostitution (across Canada), how do you think that happens? I'm sure it's all disenfranchisement to some extent," Khan said.
Still, Canada isn't facing a growing crisis in its ethnic communities and to think so would be a huge over-reaction, said Joseph Heath, associate philosophy professor at the University of Toronto.
"It would be a mistake to draw general lessons about the success or failure of Canadian multiculturalism by looking at the behaviour of such a small number of individuals," he said, adding there's no comparison between the ethnic clashes in Canada versus those that have occurred in Europe.
"The situation you've had in the United Kingdom, or Holland, or in France, with highly concentrated ethnic ghettos, with serious structural unemployment, none of that exists in Canada along the same scale."