Shabir Ally
June 7, 2006

The recent arrest of some Toronto area youths and men in connection with terrorism-related charges has raised questions regarding the arrests, questions regarding the security of Muslims in Canada, and questions regarding the potential for some Muslims to commit terrorist acts on Canadian soil. This article is an attempt to address these questions.

As for the arrests, we cannot comment on the innocence or guilt of the individuals arrested, for this is a matter which the courts must decide. Meanwhile, the persons charged must be regarded as being innocent until proven guilty. All Canadians, Muslims and others, must insist that the individuals be given a fair trial.

The personal security of Muslims is a matter for genuine concern. Canadians are in general quite open-minded and fair. Most citizens recognize that the entire community of Muslims cannot be blamed for the actions of a few individuals. Our past experience has been that on occasions when Muslims have had reason to fear for their own safety they have been shown much kindness instead. However, a lingering apprehension remains, for some individuals have not shown this level of understanding. On the contrary, reports have already surfaced of a mosque in the GTA being vandalized following the arrests. Moreover, emails expressing indiscriminate hate for all Muslims continue to appear in our inboxes. Muslims will be well advised to remain calm in the face of any aggression against them, and to contact our law enforcement agencies.

The greater apprehension, however, is with regards to the third question: Is it possible that a terrorist attack of the sort seen elsewhere may occur also on Canadian soil? Without commenting on the present case, we can speak more generally of the present situation. Given the fact that such acts have been carried out in other countries, and the fact that Canada has been named in warnings issued by some terrorist leaders, one can expect that sooner or later Canada will be targeted.

In the face of such imminent danger, all Canadian citizens and residents, Muslims and non-Muslims, must cooperate with law enforcement authorities in trying to prevent such attacks before they occur. Muslims need to be especially vigilant against any individuals or groups who may use mosque premises as meeting places for plotting criminal activity. Moreover, Muslims need to look critically at the menus of spiritual nourishment being offered in our mosques and schools. Any unwanted fat has to be trimmed away from the pure spiritual teaching.

There are several specific areas Muslims should look into. To begin with, here are a few practical steps Muslims can take:

1. Hold a meeting with all the officials, imams, teachers, preachers, counselors, and spiritual guides to make sure that everyone at your mosque or institution is on the same page in denouncing terrorism.

2. Prepare a written policy statement that reflects the commitment of your organization or institution to root out terrorism from your midst. Post this statement on your website and in a prominent position in your premises. Give a copy of this statement to any visiting imam or khatib or speaker. Make sure they agree to abide by your zero tolerance for terrorism as a pre-condition for their delivering any speech or khutbah.

3. Hold a public meeting at your institution at which you announce and discuss your antiterrorism policy. Invite non-Muslims to participate in this meeting. Assure non-Muslims that your mosque or institution is a centre for spiritual teaching, and that you are taking every reasonable precaution against any preaching of hate against non-Muslims. Ask for their help and increased vigilance against any possible attacks on Muslim institutions and persons.

A statement of zero tolerance for extremism, hate, intolerance, and terrorism will soon be posted on this website. Others will be free to adopt this statement for their own institutions or to use it as a model for drafting their own policy statements.