TORONTO – Local mosque-goers frequently hear hateful messages against Jews and other non-Muslims and are warned against integrating into Canadian society, according to a new study into the causes of Islamic radicalization.
Volunteers with the Canadian Thinkers Forum (CTF), in collaboration with the Canadian Progressive Islamic Centre, sat in on sermons at most of the mosques and Islamic centres in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) over a three-year period, said CTF Director Tahir Gora. They visited each place between one to five times; they also relied on first-hand reports from mosque-going associates and did research using online sources.
Gora met with the Jewish Tribune recently to discuss the findings before the release of their official report. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Jewish Tribune: You’ve pointed out that not all of the sermons you and your associates heard were cause for concern; some covered religious matters that wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. What did you hear that troubled you?
Tahir Gora: “Islamic religious leaders said very clearly that we are different and we are not supposed to be part of Western culture. We can and should enjoy Western civil liberties as long as our boundaries are not surpassed, but, other than that, they do not want Muslims to intermingle in a natural way in the larger society. They said women should segregate themselves from society, as well, [saying] it is good if women put veils on their faces but, if they can’t, at least they should put on the hijab.”
JT: Did the religious leaders draw a line between personal and political expressions of religion?
TG: “They don’t draw lines; that’s our biggest concern. They know that it’s a secular society but they urge their followers not to follow secular, democratic values.”
JT: What did they say about other Canadians?
TG: “[We heard imams] call every non-Muslim ‘infidel,’ which means they are subject to war. They didn’t use the word ‘war,’ but it is clearly meant that we have to wage war against infidels, if we can.”
JT: Do Islamic religious texts – the Qu’ran, Hadiths and Sura – dictate the treatment of infidels?
TG: “Yes, especially the Hadiths, [which] carry a more violent message. Apart from mentioning infidels, some of the mosques used words like ‘dirty.’”
JT: Najis? Ritually unclean?
TG: “Yes. Unclean people, unclean nations. We heard words like ‘filthy’ and ‘sinful.’ They used the word ‘Jews’ in a context of hatred. For instance, they would say, ‘Look, fellow Muslims, these Jews are destroying the world.’ It’s normal for them to say, ‘This is the Jews’ conspiracy.’”
JT: You said you didn’t hear anyone promote armed jihad.
TG: “As they did not denounce shari’a law, they [also] did not denounce armed jihad, [but] almost every mosque said that Islam and Muslims are under attack. If you ask any traditional Muslim, they will answer, ‘Yes, Islam and Muslims are under attack, not just by America and Israel, but by Western media, as well.’
“Whatever opposes a traditional Muslim mindset [causes them to] feel insecurity. That kind of victim mentality is another factor for Islamic radicalization, because some of them retaliate; it’s human psychology.”
JT: What’s the difference between what you heard in some GTHA mosques and what is being preached in Pakistan?
TG: “There’s no difference, unfortunately. There are roughly 800,000 Muslims in the GTHA. This kind of message [can result in] a resentment or retaliation against the whole society and there could be dozens or hundreds of radicalized youths.
“Keeping the situation in Europe in view, we do not want Canada to reach that point. We want Canada to act now on these issues.
“We feel that we left back home because of this bigotry and, if we face the same bigotry over here, then what’s the difference between living here and living in Afghanistan or Pakistan?”