CAIRO - Sending an out loud message against terrorism, Canadian Muslims have come together at the Grand Mosque forum aimed at connecting Muslim religious leaders and youth against online radicalization.
"We send out statements and condemnations, but there is very little information available that is constructive and helps parents and youth," Shahina Siddiqui, head of the Islamic Social Services Association, one of the event's organizers, told Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, June 14.
"How do they deal with groups pretending to be Islam and giving out hate? Parents don't hear those hateful messages until something terrible happens."
Dubbed Stand United Against Terrorism, the forum is for community members to ask questions and get the answers they need to fend off Internet influences out to radicalize the young.
The event would be attended by parents, teens and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The event was held to clear the image of Islam after a series of attacks, in which Muslims were suspected perpetrators in Boston and Toronto.
In Boston, at least three people were killed and scores injured when two explosions rocked near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last month.
US Muslims were among the first to condemn the marathon bombings, without even waiting for the suspects to be identified.
Another plot to attack a rail line in Canada was aborted last month upon a tip-off from the Muslim community.
We spend so much time responding to what the media is saying, our own community is... confused and suffering, Siddiqui said.
We forget our own community when we deal with crises, she said.
We spend so much time responding to what the media is saying, our own community is questioning and confused and suffering.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
The forum was urged to raise Muslim youth awareness against radicalization as well as informing them on how to react to security requests.
"We thought it's time we have a discussion in the community and answer the questions youth have," said Siddiqui, the head of the Islamic Social Services Association.
"It's a healthy way of dealing with it. If you leave children with questions, they're confused and you leave them open to negative influences."
Working with law enforcement bodies, the Muslim community took action to face growing concern about vulnerable young people.
"We can't do it alone."
RCMP officers are part of a legal panel that will walk people through "problematic websites and social media that pose a threat to the healthy development of our youths," a Stand United Against Terrorism poster says.
For youth, the forum offered an opportunity to ask questions about their faith and get honest answers, said Imam Yusuf Badat, with the Islamic Foundation of Toronto.
"Every verse of the Qur'an has historical background," said Badat, an expert in Islamic religious text who is taking part in a panel discussion challenging extremist messages of violence at the Winnipeg seminar.
"We have to put verses into the proper context."
The forum would be concluded by discussion about Muslim rights in the face of interrogations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
"We get calls from youth at university saying CSIS wants them to come and talk to them," Siddiqui said.
"They feel that if they don't, they will be considered guilty," she said.
"There's a lot of concern: 'Am I being watched? Am I being profiled? Why me?'
"There's a lot of fear."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net