Edmonton's Muslim community speaks out against extremism
CBC News revealed at least three Calgary men have gone overseas to fight with militant groups
People in Edmonton's Muslim community are speaking out against extremism.
The comments follow revelations by CBC News that at least three Calgary men have gone overseas to fight with militant groups.
Local imam Zacharia Al Khatib told dozens gathered for Friday prayer at the University of Alberta that engaging in violence and threats toward the west isn't following the teachings of Islam.
"What good does it do to anyone.... for somebody to make a YouTube clip and burn their passport and start insulting the west?" the 29-year old asked.
Al Khatib was born in Edmonton but has connections to Syria, which is in the midst of civil war. He did his religious studies degree there and still has family members who live in the troubled country.
Al Khatib's 27-year-old cousin — a mother of four — was killed when government forces shelled her village.
"We see that there are all sorts of horrible situations that have come upon people there and we wonder what can we do?" he asked.
Khatib insists the best way to help struggling Middle East countries is to support legitimate charities or lobby for change.
"If we're sincere people and we really want to help, these are the things that we should be doing," he said.
Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a Calgarian in his early 20s, is fighting overseas with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, CBC News revealed last week.
Shirdon, who was enrolled in the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology until at least 2012, appears in an ISIS video released two months ago.
Before burning his Canadian passport, Shirdon, in full view of the camera lens, issues a threat to Canada, the U.S. and "all oppressors."
"We are coming and we will destroy you by the will of God," Shirdon says on the video.
Shirdon is the latest young man from Calgary to be identified by CBC News as a Canadian fighting overseas.
In January, the CBC first reported on the death of Damian Clairmont, a 22-year-old Canadian-born Muslim who left Calgary for Syria in 2012 and was killed by rebel infighting there.
CBC News also reported on Salman Ashrafi, a Calgary man involved in a November 2013 suicide mission in Iraq under the banner of ISIS.
Calgary's police chief estimates up to 30 Calgarians could be overseas fighting.
'Shocked and appalled'
Adil Hassan, with the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, says recent news about the Calgarians has shocked local Muslims.
"I think reaction was the same across the board... we were shocked and appalled and kind of surprised that this would happen," he said.
In an unrelated case in Edmonton, a man is currently fighting extradition to the United States on terrorism related charges.
Sayfildin Tahir Sharif is accused of murder and supporting a terrorist group that killed five U.S. soldiers in 2009 in his native Iraq.
Al Khatib says the actions of Canadians linked to overseas militant groups have a negative impact on Muslims everywhere.
"Suspicion is cast on everyone else, right," he said. "Can we really trust people here?"
And Canadian Muslims end up having to work harder to show they aren't extremist, violent or enraged, he suggested.
"We're just normal people living our lives, taking care of our families and trying to contribute positively to society."