A Senate committee is urging Ottawa to explore options for the training and certification of imams as part of a wide-ranging set of recommendations aimed at confronting the threat of terrorism.
In a report issued Wednesday, the Senate security and defence committee said some foreign-trained imams have been spreading extremist religious ideology and messages that are not in keeping with Canadian values, contributing to radicalization. It calls on the government to work with the provinces and Muslim communities to “investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada.”
The report, which represents the views of the committee’s Conservative majority but lacks the backing of Liberal members, did not indicate what options might be available to the government.
Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said that imams should not be subjected to certain limitations.
“We are deeply concerned by the suggestion that imams require a special vetting as opposed to any other faith leaders. The criminal code currently includes provisions to deal with anyone suspected of promoting terrorist ideology, and this recommendation really bares the hallmarks of racial and religious discrimination,” Gardee said.
Gardee says that the new report in general stigmatizes and marginalizes Canadian Muslims and “portrays them as a threat rather than a partner in national security.”
Imam Syed B. Soharwardy of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada was sceptical that imam certification would be effective.
“I think it is OK, but I don’t think it will solve the problem because it’s not the imams in the mosques who are radicalizing,” he said.
Soharwardy said that currently in Canada there are no governing bodies over imams, and that approximately “99 per cent are foreign qualified.”
In addition to the recommendation on imams, the report also urged the government to outlaw membership in terrorist groups, bar radical ideologues from Canada and look at forbidding the glorification of extremists.
In general, the senators expressed concern about the small number of terrorism prosecutions, including for extremist financing.
Source: National Post & Canadian Press