In an unprecedented move, 120 Canadian imams and other Islamic religious leaders from across the country will release a statement today denouncing terrorism and vowing to confront religious extremism.
The declaration, co-ordinated by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), will be released at a news conference at a downtown Toronto mosque following noon-time prayers. Imams from Calgary, Newfoundland and Toronto will attend.
The planned statement comes several days after Britain's largest Sunni Muslim group issued a fatwa -- a binding religious edict -- condemning the July 7 bombings on the London Underground and a double-decker bus that killed at least 56. The attacks were carried out by four suicide bombers, three British-born men of Pakistani origin and a Jamaican-Briton.
Organizations representing Canada's 600,000 Muslims have struggled to articulate a co-ordinated response to jihadi Islam, and today marks the first time such a large group of imams from diverse ethnic backgrounds will issue what is expected to be a similar fatwa or declaration condemning the bombings as un-Islamic.
The religious edict from the Sunni Council in Britain called the suicide bombings an act against Islam, declaring that any type of suicide attack is against the Koran. The fatwa said: "The attacks in London have no Islamic justification, are totally condemned and we equally condemn those who may have been masterminding these acts."
This week, the Canadian Islamic Congress endorsed that fatwa, calling it "Islamically sound" and describing the bombings as a work of "perverted ideology" contrary to Islamic teachings.
In an interview last week, CAIR-CAN's executive director, Riad Saloojee, underlined the importance of not allowing terrorists who claim to pursue violent goals in the name of religion to become the public face of Islam.
"The Muslim community is coming face to face with the challenge of ensuring that those among us, especially the youth, can internalize Islam in a comprehensive way that has nothing to do with violence or terrorism, which is inimical to Islamic teachings."
Tarek Fatah, with the Muslim Canadian Congress, called the imams' initiative long overdue, and said all Muslims must clearly support a separation of religion and state as a first step to fighting extremism.