Calgary Stop The Crisis forum aims to fight youth extremism

Muslims and non-Muslims alike came together Tuesday night in Calgary to learn more about what they can do to fight youth radicalization.

About 50 Muslims and non-Muslims gathered to hear from guest speakers

Imam Umair Khan addresses young Muslims and non-Muslims at a forum at SAIT Polytechnic aimed at preventing youth radicalization. (Amanda Connolly/CBC)

Muslims and non-Muslims alike came together Tuesday night in Calgary to learn more about what they can do to fight youth radicalization.

Stop The Crisis is one of 45 events being held across Canada that aim to help youth prevent radicalization.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Students' Association at SAIT organized Tuesday night's forum and the group's president says they want to give people the tools to stop young and new Muslims from turning to violence.

"The trend we see in Canada is they are looking for the truth, they're looking for the true Islam and unfortunately there aren't enough genuine sources out there for them," said Saba Sadiq. "Which in my opinion is causing all the youth radicalization."

About 50 people turned out for the forum, many asking questions about what their role can be in the fight against ISIS and why the group has attracted so many young Westerners.

Imam Umair Khan works at the Bailun Nor mosque, which represents Ahmadiyya Muslims in Calgary.

He says it's crucial both Muslims and non-Muslims feel free to debate and discuss the teachings of Islam and that countering the radical ideology of ISIS must be done through intellect.

"Some young people are, unfortunately, attracted to the ideology and the ways of ISIS, and they think that this is the real message of Islam," Khan said.

"We want to confront that, we want people to know that we're going to stand up against ISIS and we don't have to raise weapons against that — we're going to do that through dialogue, through peace."

Damian Clairmont's mother among speakers

Khan says the community has been in Canada for 50 years and there has not been a single case of radicalization or youth leaving to fight abroad from any of their 75 communities across the country.

He says they want to work with other Muslim communities in Canada to share what they think is working in their communities and to learn from what others do to confront radicalization.

Christianne Boudreau was also a speaker at the forum.

Boudreau's son, Damian Clairmont, was killed while fighting in Syria in January.

He had become radicalized several years earlier and Boudreau says seeing youth committed to preventing similar tragedies is inspiring.

"Seeing more young people take a positive guidance and direction and taking more responsibility for their generation is a good thing," she said. "We need to see more of that."

Similar Stop the CrISIS forums are being organized across Canada by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.

For more information on dates and cities where forums are taking place, click here.


What is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a sect of Islam that arose in the late 19th century in India.

The movement is currently based in the U.K. and its membership is in the tens of millions.

The difference between Ahmadiyya Muslims and other Muslims is that Ahmadiyya Muslims believe the Messiah foretold by their Prophet Muhammad came to humanity in the form of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the movement.

Followers of the movement believe Ahmad was sent by god to end religious wars and champion Islam's true teachings.

He also advocated for "jihad of the pen" rather than "jihad by the sword" and the faith focuses on spreading teachings of moderation and restraint.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also the only Islamic sect to advocate for a separation of mosque and state.

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