An imam's view: Why some young Muslims feel disgruntled

A Toronto-area imam knows young Muslims in Canada can become emotional when they see Muslims under attack in other countries. But he doesn't feel this has created a serious problem of radicalization here.

Many Western Muslims feel they are straddling two worlds, says Shaykh Omar Subedar

Emotional response to drone strikes

Homegrown Terrorism

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Canadian imam says civilian casualties abroad fuel anger among young Muslims 4:11

Toronto-area imam Shaykh Omar Subedar knows young Muslims in Canada can become emotional when they see their fellow Muslims under attack in other countries.

Maybe they watch video footage or news reports of drone strikes hitting people who have nothing do with the political unrest unfolding around them.

 "The more you watch these types of videos and you're exposed to this footage, it is now going to drive a person towards becoming angry, and they don't know how to channel that anger," says Subedar, the leader at the Brampton Makki Masjid, the Islamic Society of Peel region in Ontario.

And, he suggests, Muslim people have a right to be angry when a foreign country kills innocent Muslims while trying to target a political foe like the Taliban.  

At the same time, he downplays the suggestion that there is a significant Canadian problem around young Muslims becoming radicalized.

"We have more murders going on a daily basis here in Toronto than … terrorist activity," he says, "and that's a real Canadian problem." 

The so-called Toronto 18 bombing plot in 2006 was an anomaly, he says.

"Not every single one of them was convicted. If you look at the numbers … right now we have over one million Muslims here in Canada and out of those 18, there's only a handful [that] really got in trouble."

Straddling two worlds

Subedar says many Muslim youth living in the West feel as if they are straddling two worlds, and experiencing an identity crisis.

"People are trying to reconcile their Islamic identity with Western secularism, and in some areas there may be a conflict."

"When it comes to the Islamic moral system and the value system … the bar is set really high," says Subedar.

Muslims have been in Canada for a long time, prior to Confederation, Subedar says. And they have co-existed with other Canadians peacefully since then practising their religion and often following Sharia law.

"Many people – they're being taught to think that Sharia law means amputation of hands and stoning people to death and basically beheading people. That's all they're ever taught about Sharia law and in actual fact Sharia law is a complete system of Islamic laws."

In his mind, Islam and Canadian culture can't be distinguished from one another. There is freedom to practise Islam with no restrictions.

"We can build our mosques here, we can pray five times a day, we can fast, we can have our celebrations, and there's no hindrance from any corner."

'Between them and God'

If Subedar had his way, everyone would follow the faith he holds.

"Do I wish everyone was Muslim?" he asks. "Yeah … I would like to see everyone go to paradise."

But is he really concerned when he sees that not everyone comes to Islam?

"At the end, it's a relationship for them to establish with God. All my responsibility is is to convey the message. I can't enforce it.

"I can convey it and then on the day of judgment, it's really between them and God. Paradise is not my real estate. That's God's real estate and he will decide who goes and who stays out."