Several swans a-swimmin’

Mary P. and I live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Our home is only half a block from the Rideau River, so we spend a lot of time walking beside the water.

Among other attractions, the Rideau River is home to several pairs of swans during the summer months. Below are some photos I have taken of the swans this summer. The text comes from the City of Ottawa Web site.

swan 1

Where did the City of Ottawa get its swans?

In 1967, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gifted the City of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, with six pairs of Mute (Royal) swans. Her Majesty’s gift was in celebration of Canada’s 100th birthday.

Where do the swans live?

Each pair of swans has it own “favourite” area where it lives for the spring and summer months. Swans prefer to nest in private areas that are surrounded by tall grass or brush and that are not easily accessible to predators and people. They want to protect their cygnets, or brood, from harm.

The swans are removed from the River in the Fall – late October or early November – to live in what is fondly known as the “Swan House”, located at the City’s Leitrim Nursery, until May, or so, of the following year. There, each pair of swans has its own indoor pen with a resting area and a swimming pool, and its own outdoor pen. The swans enjoy the outdoors, even in winter. They must be wintered off the River not because of the cold but, because there is not enough open water, which they require in order to sift their food.

swan 2

What do swans eat?

While on the Rideau River, the swans eat the plants that grow in and around the River. They are often fed bread and other “people food” by well-meaning citizens but, “greens” such as lettuce, spinach and alfalfa sprouts are much better for them. The swans must compete for food with ducks, gulls and other birds while on the River.

The swans’ winter diet is quite different from their summer diet because they cannot forage for naturally-occurring plant material in their winter home. There, they are fed a grain-based ration called “Duck Grower” and are provided “greens”, like lettuce, each day.

swans 3

Is it safe to touch the swans?

It is not safe to touch the swans. Even though they cannot fly, they are in a semi-wild state and it is best that people enjoy them from a distance just as one would any other wild animal or bird.

Swans usually sleep at night, and will rest from time to time during the day. When asleep or resting, they lay with their necks across their backs and their heads under one wing. This resting posture is often mistaken for an injury.

swans 4

Why are their wings clipped?

The City’s swans cannot fly because they are pinioned, meaning that the primary feathers of one wing have been permanently clipped. The primary feathers are the long feathers furthest from the bird’s body without which a bird cannot fly. The Canadian Wildlife Service requires that the swans be pinioned so that they do not migrate and disturb other North American bird populations. That the swans are pinioned is also one of the reasons that they must be removed from the River for the winter as they cannot fly south like other migratory birds.

How long do swans live?

Swans can live for over thirty years if they are well cared for. Their most common predators are uncontrolled dogs, raccoons, and fox. Large fish and snapping turtles may prey on very young swans. Much like Canada geese, the swans use their very strong wings to fend off unwelcome visitors.

swans 5

Swans mate for life but, may accept a new mate if the other dies.

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The struggle for the soul of Islam in Canada

In yesterday’s post, I spoke of the struggle for the soul of Islam. The struggle is certainly underway in Canada, as illustrated by the following two news items.

Imams meet with Prime Minister,
promise to help root out extremism

From Friday’s Globe and Mail
by OLIVER MOORE

Praising the decision to stay out of Iraq, Canada’s leading imams promised Prime Minister Paul Martin last night that they would help root extremists out of the Muslim community.

“It’s been a rough road after 9/11,” said Riad Saloojee, who helped organize the meeting with the PM. “We’re not going to make Canada safer if there’s mistrust and alienation.” Mr. Martin drew attention to a declaration from 120 imams last week that denounced terrorism, calling it “a very important statement.”

“They said that those who advocate violence against innocent civilians and the taking of life represent a perversion of the Koran,” Mr. Martin told reporters after more than an hour behind closed doors with 19 imams from across the country. …

Mr. Martin did not give details of the discussion, but did say that there is a mutual desire to improve the relationship between government and Canadian Islamic leaders. In that context, he was reportedly urged to address allegations that security officials have intimidated members of the Muslim community. …

Mr. Saloojee, executive director of the Canadian Council of American-Islamic Relations, said the imams also brought up the issue of Iraq, praising the “moral course” charted by the government in staying out of the war there.


Meanwhile …

Leaders clash over who speaks for Muslims in Canada

From Friday’s Globe and Mail
by COLIN FREEZE

As a small group of conciliatory Muslim leaders met with Prime Minister Paul Martin last night, a war of words broke out between two other leaders whose irreconcilable world views stand as bookends to the diverse opinions of nearly 600,000 Canadian Muslims.

“Imams like Aly Hindy are holding the entire Muslim community as a hostage. A vast number of Muslim Canadians don’t want to have their leadership from almost medieval imams,” Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress told the CBC yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hindy — who has given more than 20 news media interviews this week urging Muslims not to co-operate with Canadian security agencies — once again took to the airwaves to say that people like him, and not Westernized Muslims like Mr. Fatah, are the true voice of Islam in Canada.

The controversial imam defended his decision not to put his name on the recent sheaf of signed statements from Islamic leaders condemning recent terrorist strikes in the United Kingdom. “We’ve already condemned terrorism, this is obvious,” Mr. Hindy said. “Why don’t the churches, for example, condemn terrorism done by George Bush and Tony Blair?”

So, while the Prime Minister held a meeting that organizers called historic, crucial conversations are taking place in mosques, basements and banquet halls as Muslims in Canada debate what it means to be Muslim in Canada.

In Islam, as in all religions, factions wage a perpetual battle for souls. Within Canada’s burgeoning community, debate rages as to how the seventh century’s Prophet Mohammed would have wanted his followers to live today. …

Many Muslims find it difficult to say what is mainstream.

“Who speaks for Canadian Muslims? I would say any Muslim in the sense that there is no Vatican in Islam,” said Salim Mansur, a newspaper columnist based in Southern Ontario.

He added that the differences are so great that “any organization that claims that they are the legitimate spokesman for a body of people that are so diverse as Muslims — for that very claim they should be dismissed as a buffoon.”

Nader Hashemi, a political scientist who teaches Middle Eastern studies at the University of Toronto, said the dominant strain of Islam in Canada is a harder-line version of the religion than most people realize.

“The imams who have been preaching in Canadian mosques have been imports, people not born and raised in Canada, and their training tends to be in the theological seminaries of the Muslim world,” he said.

“When they come here, there is an intellectual chasm between the training they’ve received in the Muslim world and the reality of secular modernity here in Canada,” Mr. Hashemi said. “It’s not changing yet but it’s going to have to change.”

He said that younger Muslims who were born in Canada are seeking a newer generation of leaders whose opinions are more in keeping with their own. In fact, he said, young people cringe at the “often embarrassing” remarks of older leaders.

Fuel for antisemitism in the Qur’an, part 2

I concluded part one by observing that Islam’s criticism of the Jews is not inherently “evil” or “antisemitic” — certainly not as long as it does not go beyond the sorts of criticisms contained in the Jews’ own scripture.

Regrettably, this is not always the case. Some texts in the Qur’an turn a conciliatory face toward Jews and Christians; others, a hostile face.

2. Islam’s hostile face:

Some parts of the Qur’an use offensive language to criticize the Jews. Here is a notorious example:

O believers, do not make friends
with those who mock and make a sport of your faith,
who were given the Book before you
[i.e., Jews and Christians] …

Say: “Shall I inform you
who will receive the worst chastisement from God?
They who were condemned by God,
and on whom fell His wrath,
and those who were turned to apes and swine,
and those who worship the powers of evil.
They are in the worse gradation,
and farthest away from the right path.” …

Why do not their rabbis and priests
prohibit them from talking of sinful things
and from devouring unlawful gain?
Evil are the acts they commit!
The Jews say: “Bound are the hands of God.”
Tied be their own hands, and damned may they be
for saying what they say!
In fact, both His hands are open wide:
He spends of His bounty in any way He please.

But what your Lord has revealed to you
will only increase
their rebellion and unbelief.
So We have caused enmity and hatred among them
(which will last) till the Day of Resurrection. …

Some among them are moderate,
but evil is what most of them do!
(5:57-66, the “Contemporary Translation” by Ahmed Ali)

It is only fair to note the beginning and the end of this passage. The beginning sets the context: the text rebukes Jews and Christians who not only rejected Muhammad’s message, but actively mocked and opposed his mission. The end of the passage indicates that Jews and Christians are not condemned indiscriminately; “some” among them are deemed “moderate”. But, in between these two points, the language used is undeniably offensive.

The text asserts that some Jews and Christians were “transformed into apes and swine”. (The language is presumably metaphorical: Abdullah Yusuf Ali suggests the interpretation, “those who falsified God’s scriptures became lawless like apes, and those who succumbed to filth, gluttony, or gross living became like swine.”) They are accused of worshiping the powers of evil. Their rabbis and priests are accused of condoning evil acts. They are even cursed: “damned may they be for saying what they say!”

And then the text says, “We have caused enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection.” This might serve as a pretext for Muslims to hate Jews and Christians:  to regard them as enemies from now until the end of the age.

Texts which employ such immoderate language will inflame antisemitic sentiment where it already exists. And such texts will be exploited by those who wish to stir up murderous hatred against Jews and Christians (i.e., the West).

In part 1, I quoted a Muslim scholar who adopted a conciliatory tone toward the Jews. Now I want to quote a relatively hostile scholar. In an article entitled Jews as Depicted in the Qur’an, this scholar offers a very negative interpretation of the Muslim scripture. He lists only a single verse that commends the Jews (45:16). Then he lists twenty blameworthy Jewish attributes, including:

  • They love to listen to lies (5:41).
  • They feel pain to see others in happiness and are gleeful when others are afflicted with a calamity (3:120).
  • Their impoliteness and indecent way of speech is beyond description (4:46).
  • It is easy for them to slay people and kill innocents (2:61).
  • They rush hurriedly to sins and compete in transgression (5:79).
  • Miserliness runs deep in their hearts (4:53).

Note that, for each of the blameworthy qualities, the author supplies a proof text from the Qur’an. I have verified that he quotes the texts accurately (by comparison to other English translations). However, his interpretation is sometimes forced and every quotation is divorced from its context in the Qur’an.

The reader may suppose that I am trying to be even-handed in my analysis. In fact, I am prepared to go even further; I am prepared to give Islam and the Qur’an the benefit of the doubt.

As a Christian, I am familiar with Christianity’s ugly underbelly:  the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch trials, etc. Moreover, I understand that the New Testament also contains texts with an antisemitic tendency. (The examples which I find most offensive are found in the Gospel of John.1)

In the end, it comes down to the attitude of the religious community. Christians who are predisposed to antisemitism will find grist for the mill in the New Testament and, historically, they have done so.

Likewise, the Qur’an is dangerously open to misinterpretation and abuse. Some Muslim scholars support an antisemitic reading. Others offer a conciliatory interpretation. The international Muslim community will determine which interpretation prevails.

Conclusion:

Some people say that a war is being waged for the soul of Islam, and I believe it is true. Yes, Islamic extremists are waging a war against Israel and the West. But the extremists, by committing acts of terrorism, are also precipitating a crisis within Islam.

Here in Canada, Muslim leaders are taking a hesitant stand against other members of their own faith for the first time. (See today’s Globe and Mail.)

This war, for the soul of Islam, is barely beginning. And global peace rests on the outcome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1In John’s Gospel, Jesus himself speaks disparagingly of “the Jews”. At one point, he refers to “their law” (John 15:25). This is clearly unhistorical: Jesus was a Jew, and certainly did not speak of the Jews in the third person. Their Torah was also his Torah.

In John chapter 8, certain Jews say, “Our father is Abraham”. Jesus replies, “You are of your father the Devil” (8:44). Imagine how that text could be construed by a Christian antisemite who wanted to stir up animosity toward the Jews: Jesus himself says that Jews are children of the Devil

Fuel for antisemitism in the Qur’an, part 1

No religion perfectly mirrors its scriptures. Nonetheless, Islam’s history begins with the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad.

Whatever is good about a faith is likely to be derived from its scriptures; whatever is bad about a faith, likewise. This is true even if the bad elements constitute a distortion or an exaggeration of the holy text.

The Qur’an is ambivalent about Jews and Christians. Some texts commend them; other texts condemn them. The contemporary Muslim community appears to be divided along similar lines. At one extreme, Islamic rhetoric actively promotes hatred of Jews and the West (note the shift from Christianity to “the West”).

After 9/11, I took a good look at the Qur’an for the first time in my life. This month, because of the terrorist bombings in London on July 7, I have been revisiting the same questions that troubled me in 2001.

Muslim apologists insist that Islam is a peaceable religion, but one has to wonder: Where does this murderous hatred of Jews and the West come from? Does the Qur’an provide any justification for it, or is it abberant behaviour on the part of a fringe group?

My studies have led me to the following conclusions:

(1) The Qur’an lays an adequate foundation for peaceful relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Qur’an recognizes the Torah and the Gospel as authentic revelations from God, and hails Jews and Christians as fellow “people of the book.”

(2) On the other hand, certain texts criticize the Christians and especially the Jews1 in very strong language. The texts I have in mind are bound to inflame antisemitic prejudices where such sentiments already exist.

1. Islam’s conciliatory face:

Let me begin by quoting a text that is relatively favourable toward Jews and Christians:

To each of you [Jews, Christians, and Muslims]
Allah has given a law
and a way and a pattern of life.
If Allah had pleased He could surely have made you
a single people.
But He wished to try and test you
by that which he gave you.
So try to excel in good deeds.
To him will you all return in the end;
It is he that will show you
the truth of the matters
over which you are in dispute.

Judge between them in the light
of what has been revealed
by Allah, and do not follow their whims,
and beware of them lest they lead you away
from the guidance sent down to you by God.
If they turn away, then know
that God is sure to punish them for some of their sins;
and many of them are transgressors.
(5:48-49)

The text’s commendation of Jews and Christians is rather startling. To paraphrase it:  The Torah and the Gospel are authentic revelations from Allah. There is no essential difference between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In principle, Allah could have brought all three faiths together to constitute a single people.

On the other hand, “many” Jews and Christians are transgressors, and Muslims are warned not to be led astray by them. Muslims are to take the Qur’an as their guide where there is any disagreement with the other people of the book. Both the concern and the response to it seem perfectly reasonable.

The following quote comes from an article entitled Does the Qur’an Sound Anti-Semitic? I think the article accurately describes Qur’anic texts like the one we have just considered:

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was in the line of previous Prophets of Allah, including Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and the Qur’ân is in the line of previous scriptures revealed by Allah. The Qur’ân does not condemn the Semitic race and, in fact, accords Jews a special status given their shared Prophetic traditions with Islam.

The Qur’ân instead criticizes those Jews who turned away from Allah’s authentic message and admonishes those who scorned and ridiculed Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and the message of the Qur’ân. Such criticism is similar to the criticism against Jews found in other scriptures, including the Bible, and should be taken by all people as a reminder and warning against forsaking and straying from the authentic message of Allah. Such specific criticism has never been interpreted by learned scholars of the Qur’ân to incite hatred against all Jewish people and should not be confused with anti-Semitism.

In particular, I wish to express my agreement with the statement, “Such criticism is similar to the criticism against Jews found in other scriptures, including the Bible.”

According to the Hebrew scriptures, whenever the nation of Israel went astray, God sent prophets to rebuke and warn them. Isaiah 5 is a good example of the sort of thing I have in mind.

No doubt Muhammad was disappointed that the Jews rejected his message; and, no doubt, it was this rejection that led to some of the criticisms contained in the Qur’an. But such criticism is not inherently “evil” or “antisemitic” — certainly not as long as it does not go beyond the sorts of criticisms contained in the Jews’ own scripture.

[In part 2 we will consider Islam’s hostile face.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1At one point in the Qur’an, 5:82-83, Christians are not only praised but sharply distinguished from the Jews, who are lumped in with idolaters. The text presumably reflects a specific occasion when Muhammad found a favourable reception among Christians.

A harsh new reality begins to emerge

It seems that I underestimated the significance of the terrorist attacks on July 7 in the London subway system.

Consider the following news items. A harsh new reality is beginning to emerge.

Item #1 —

More may be shot, chief says

from Monday’s Globe and Mail

Britain’s most senior police officer apologized for the killing of a young Brazilian man mistaken for a suicide bomber, but warned yesterday that more such deaths are possible.

The frank statement from Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair forced many Britons to consider a difficult question: How much police violence can they accept in the name of public safety? …

“Somebody else could be shot. But everything is done to make it right,” [the police commissioner] said. “This is a terrifying set of circumstances for individuals [i.e., police officers confronting a potential suicide bomber] to make decisions.”

If officers are dealing with someone suspected of carrying a bomb, they must be lethal, Sir Ian added. “The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head. There is no point in shooting at someone’s chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be.” …

Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was followed to work by three undercover police officers. Mr. de Menezes ran away from the armed men, disobeyed their shouted orders, and was shot five times as he boarded a subway train.

The officers apparently first came to suspect the Brazilian electrician because his Scotia Road apartment block was already under surveillance. …

Police say Mr. de Menezes attracted further attention because he wore a padded jacket in summer and because he reportedly jumped the subway turnstiles.

Around his neighbourhood, people shook their heads at these explanations. Immigrants from equatorial regions often dress more warmly than other residents, they say, and anybody — especially Mr. de Menezes, from a region of Brazil plagued by crime and police brutality — might have run away from men brandishing pistols. …

Witnesses say he was lying on the floor of the carriage when officers pumped bullets into his head and upper back at close range.


Note the last sentence:  witnesses say that police had the suspect on the ground before they shot him.

British police have now adopted a policy established by the Israeli security services, wherein suspected suicide bombers are shot up to five times in the head. The rationale is that it doesn’t do any good to shoot at the chest, where the bomb may be located; and it doesn’t do any good to shoot at the extremities, which would still give the individual an opportunity to detonate the bomb.

Police may be faced with a decision to kill a civilian in a public place, and be forced to make that decision without sparing a moment for reflection.

Imagine the fear among visible minorities in London, facing this new “shoot to kill” policy.


Item #2 — closer to home

More attacks inevitable, Americans warned

from Monday’s Globe and Mail

In the wake of horrific bombings in Egypt and Britain, Americans girded for more terrorist attacks, warned by leading political figures and intelligence analysts that such strikes were inevitable.

In New York, millions of subway riders faced the prospect of random searches during this morning’s rush, while gun-toting police appeared on subway trains in the nation’s capital.

“Our luck may be running out, it’s only a matter of time before something is attempted here,” said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism specialist.

“Both FBI and CIA people believe that the risk of something happening here has increased greatly as a result of the pattern we have seen abroad,” Mr. Cannistraro said in a television interview on ABC. …

Last week’s attempt at a repeat attack [in London], apparently averted only because four backpack bombs did not explode, left Americans jittery.

There have been no successful attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, but U.S. President George W. Bush has consistently warned further strikes must be expected and that no amount of security can thwart all plots.


Imagine the fallout if there is a successful terrorist attack in the New York subway system.

The first job of any government is to maintain security:  to keep its citizens safe. If terrorists escalate their attacks, and make them a fact of daily life — as they are in Israel — our governments are going to clamp down, however much we may regret that course of action.

My oldest child is seventeen years old. This weekend, I wondered, for the first time, what kind of world awaits him as he enters his adult years.

As a child, I worried about the possibility of a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR. But, in general, we North Americans have been privileged to go about our daily lives without the shadow of imminent danger constantly hanging over us.

I fear that we are one terrorist attack removed from a reprioritization of fundamental western values.

I fear that my son is not the only one who is leaving the innocence of childhood behind.


UPDATE, July 26, 9:30 a.m.

Jack, a fellow blogger, has rebutted the information I provided about Israeli policy vis-à-vis suicide bombers. As I explained to Jack, my information came from another Canadian newspaper, the National Post.

But Jack pointed out, There have been multiple circumstances in which [Israeli security forces] caught the bomber and did not use their sidearms. Jack illustrated his point by referring me to the following examples:  here and here.

Jack also provided a link to this opinion piece from the Jerusalem Post:

Israel has taken enormous care in its “targeted killings” of “ticking bombs,” almost never killing anyone in a case of mistaken identity.

CONTRARY TO the absolute lies told in British media in recent days, the Israel Defense Forces have not instituted a shoot-to-kill policy, or trained the British to carry out one. …

Had Israeli police shot dead an innocent foreigner on one of its buses or trains, confirming the kill with a barrage of bullets at close range in a mistaken effort to thwart a bombing, the UN would probably have been sitting in emergency session by late afternoon to unanimously denounce the Jewish state.
Thanks, Jack; point taken.
Q

The time is short

prepare ye the way

When I saw this man carrying his sign through downtown streets, I had to get his story.

The top of the sign isn’t too legible in the photograph, but it says, “July 24”. He told me that Jesus will return on that date. (That’s approaching quickly, folks:  Sunday.)

But he wasn’t dogmatic about it; he made a motion with his hands and said something to the effect of (as the lawyers would put it), “on or about that date”.

I thought “TOTAL 33” must refer to how many converts he had made, but that wasn’t the explanation he gave me. Actually, I never got an explanation of “TOTAL”. But 33, he said, was Jesus’ age when he died.

“e” means that Jesus still exists.

I asked him if he preaches to people on the streets, but he said No. He just carries his sign, and explains its message to people who ask. People like me.

He was very gentle, not strident. He seems to have implicit trust in God; he’s not taking the burden on himself.

In short, I liked this man. This post is not intended to mock him — not at all! I am a Christian. I think religion is a positive force in the world, as long as it isn’t aggressive or judgmental.

I’d rather trust a man
who doesn’t shout what he’s found.
There’s no need to sell
if you’re homeward bound.
If I choose a side
He won’t take me for a ride.

This man was very gentle and he radiated peace.

I asked if I could take his photo. He said I could take a picture of the sign, but not him. He laid the sign on a bench where I could photograph it.

I negotiated a bit. “Would you at least hold it, so I can get a picture of your arm holding the sign — but I’ll leave your face out of the photo? It would be more interesting that way.”

“You can take a picture of me as I walk away,” he answered. He took up the sign and walked off while I hurriedly snapped the photo.

He never looked back. But he’s still out there, preparing people for Jesus’ return. I saw him, across the road, earlier today.


The lyric is from Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, The Chamber of 32 Doors.

120 Canadian imams condemn terrorism

This is an update of the story I posted yesterday (scroll down). I note that the imams stopped short of issuing a fatwa, which would have greater authority among Muslims. However, the imams did declare that they would turn extremists over to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).

From the Globe and Mail
Friday, July 22, 2005
by Unnati Gandhi

Working with authorities ‘a religious duty,’ Canadian Muslim leaders announce

TORONTO — Just hours after yesterday’s [second series of] explosions in London, 120 imams from across Canada issued a statement condemning terrorism in the name of religion, going so far as to say it is their “duty” to turn extremists in to the authorities.

The spiritual leaders, who represent about 600,000 Muslims in Canada, issued the statement in place of a fatwa — a binding religious edict — calling this month’s transit attacks “evil” and “an enemy of Islam.”

The statement condemned terror and religious extremism as “twisted acts [that] betray the most basic value of the sanctity of human life.”

The declaration was co-ordinated by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), marking the first time in Canada such a large group of imams from diverse ethnic backgrounds have articulated their position on jihadi Islam. …

“I myself thought this was a wave that was going to go away but it’s not subsiding; it is increasing,” said Imam Mahmoud Haddara, who represents a mosque in St. John’s.

“We have to realize that whether the aggression comes from outside or within, it doesn’t really matter. There is a loss of life and there is terrorism, and that’s really what we should face.” …

The imams were prodded to go further, and asked how they would deal with someone harbouring extremist thoughts in their congregation.

They said they would help the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP.

“You try to deal with the situation. You educate that person that even joking about this is not appropriate,” Imam Haddara said. “And if they are serious about it, then it is my obligation as an imam to report this to the authorities.”

Religious edict by 120 spiritual leaders to declare
London bombings un-Islamic

from Thursday’s Globe and Mail
By Marina Jiménez

In an unprecedented move, 120 Canadian imams and other Islamic religious leaders from across the country will release a statement today denouncing terrorism and vowing to confront religious extremism.

The declaration, co-ordinated by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), will be released at a news conference at a downtown Toronto mosque following noon-time prayers. Imams from Calgary, Newfoundland and Toronto will attend.

The planned statement comes several days after Britain’s largest Sunni Muslim group issued a fatwa – a binding religious edict – condemning the July 7 bombings on the London Underground and a double-decker bus that killed at least 56. The attacks were carried out by four suicide bombers, three British-born men of Pakistani origin and a Jamaican Briton.

Organizations representing Canada’s 600,000 Muslims have struggled to articulate a co-ordinated response to jihadi Islam, and today marks the first time such a large group of imams from diverse ethnic backgrounds will issue what is expected to be a similar fatwa or declaration condemning the bombings as un-Islamic. …

In an interview last week, CAIR-CAN’s executive director, Riad Saloojee, [said] “The Muslim community is coming face to face with the challenge of ensuring that those among us, especially the youth, can internalize Islam in a comprehensive way that has nothing to do with violence or terrorism, which is inimical to Islamic teachings.”

Tarek Fatah, with the Muslim Canadian Congress, called the imams’ initiative long overdue, and said all Muslims must clearly support a separation of religion and state as a first step to fighting extremism.

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