A handbook aimed at preventing young Canadians from being recruited by extremist groups has been released at a Winnipeg mosque today.
The handbook, titled United Against Terrorism: A Collaborative Effort Towards a Secure, Inclusive and Just Canada, was presented at the Winnipeg Central Mosque.
- How ISIS recruited Collin Gordon, former Thompson Rivers University student
- Anti-radicalization program being developed by RCMP
- Canadian Muslims talk about radicalization threat
- Mother of dead Canadian jihadi launches de-radicalization effort
It's a joint effort between Islamic Social Services, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the RCMP.
All of us have one objective — we want to secure Canada. We want our youth safe. We do not want them recruited by these criminal gangs," said Shahina Siddiqui, executive director with the Islamic Social Services Association of Canada, one of the groups behind the handbook.
"It's a collaborative effort on, How do we work together to rid Canada of this phenomenon where some of our youth have been radicalized? Of Islamophobia? Of this suspicion that exists between the Muslim community and our law enforcement?"
Muslim parent welcomes help
The handbook is already resonating with some Muslim parents.
Winnipegger Imran Rahman, who has four children, said it could help him and other parents see warning signs.
"We need to have our kids understand what the truth about Islam is, first of all, so that they have a basic understanding about what is radical and what is supposed to be the real Islam," he said.
The message also hit home in Manitoba, where two former University of Manitoba students are still wanted on terrorism charges and are suspected of being involved in a 2009 plot to blow up subways in New York.
Siddiqui said the book will arm Canadian parents and their children against militant groups that use the Muslim faith to justify their cause.
"Right now, it's war on them," she said. "And we are not going to remain quiet. Enough is enough. They are not going to exploit our faith. They cannot blame our faith. They cannot use our faith."
But she admits the handbook has its limitations: only 100 copies are being printed owing to lack of money, though it is available online (see below).
And Rahman acknowledged it won't be enough to fight the lure of extremists in faraway lands.
"We need to definitely do more in terms of getting the message out," he said.
Handbook aimed at young Muslims
The introduction in the handbook explains why its authors feel it's necessary.
"Muslim extremists twist, abuse and misrepresent Quranic verses and the Prophetic traditions to support, justify and rationalize their hateful messages of violence and terrorism," it says.
The 38-page handbook is directed mainly at Muslims. In a section about citizenship, the book asks what Islam requires from Muslim citizens in a non-Muslim country.
The text stresses the duty to follow the law of the land.
"The underlying and overriding principle of Islamic Law is that Muslims must obey the law of the land they live in, regardless of whether this land is majority Muslim or non-Muslim."
The book discusses a wide range of questions Muslims might have, for instance, "How do you 'engage' with extremists versus 'challenge' extremists?"
It counsels readers to ask senior members of the community.
"It is best if you are a youth or someone who is not very knowledgeable about Islam to seek help from an elder or an imam to confront an extremist and to challenge them. Your best option when accosted by an extremist, racist, ignorant and hatemonger is to say 'salaam' and walk away expressing your abhorrence, and report them to your elders," the handbook says.
One section addresses young people who join militant groups in other countries: "What is wrong with Canadian youth going overseas to fight with fellow Muslims against dictators?"
The booklet points out that many militant groups fighting governments engage in terrorism and violence themselves.
It says Canadian Muslim youth can help by lobbying politicians, raising awareness and raising money for relief efforts.
It outlines what young people should do if they are approached by members of CSIS or the RCMP, how to respond to workplace discrimination, or what they should do if they are called a terrorist.
Options range from reporting it to a superior to walking away.
There is also a section for intelligence and law enforcement officials, starting off with a warning not to equate being religious with being a radical.
RCMP spokesman Greg Cox wrote CBC News late Monday, saying "the RCMP takes responsibility for its section of the booklet only."
"We have not agreed to avoid using terms such as 'Islamist terrorism,' 'Islamic extremism' and 'jihad'," he wrote.
The handbook will be available online or you can read it below.