Radical Islamist ideology, as American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder Zuhdi Jasser often says, can be defeated only Muslims fighting a "war of ideas" among themselves. A new generation of voices, from reformists to a former radical challenging conventional wisdom, is pushing this fight.
Canadian Awad Loubani is the latest to join the fray. Loubani, chairperson of Ottawa's Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee wrote a column in the Ottawa Citizen "How Muslim can help defeat terrorism," that describes the dominance Islamist voices hold over Muslim communities. Loubani encourages law enforcement officials to counter that monopoly by reaching beyond mosque leadership and self-anointed advocacy groups:
"Just like Christian and Jewish faithful, the Muslims too want to hear messages of faith, love, morality, hope, charity, happiness and salvation. But instead, the mosques are hijacked by these ideologues and their entities that use the sacred space for social and political engineering to manipulate vulnerable Muslims to preach their divisive ideology and polarize them into 'them and us.'"
Even those who don't attend mosques are within reach of Islamist groups who set up shop on college campuses and in the community, spreading a message of victimization and alienation. This leaves many Muslims "with no choices," Loubani writes.
Homegrown radicalism is a problem in Canada. Three people were arrested last month for plotting attacks within Canada. And conspirators in the Toronto 18 case await sentencing for plotting a series of attacks on government offices and the stock exchange.
To turn the tide, Loubani argues, some harsh realities need to be faced:
"The seeds of the homegrown radicalism are the numerous Islamic ideologues, activists and their self-serving organizations who have force-grafted themselves to the mosque to veil their political agendas. They are often well-funded, well-educated and well-organized. Thus they are better placed to deal with the politicians and the three levels of government in public. They have seized the real power behind the pulpit."
He advises reporters to "be suspicious of those who rationalize terrorism due to foreign policies, wars, conflicts or poverty and other causes." And people need to better track who is financing different community and charitable efforts, "lest they are usurped by radical Islamist fronts."
Read the full column here.