Senate committee on terrorism suggests certifying imams

The Globe and Mail | July 8, 2015

A Senate committee is calling for Canada to go much further in cracking down on radicalism and terrorism, including training and certifying the credentials of Muslim imams as a means of stamping out “extreme ideas.”

The controversial focus on religious leaders is part of a report from the Senate committee on national security and defence that represents the view of its Conservative majority. The report, however, does not have the support of Liberal members of the committee.

The training and certification idea drew swift condemnation from the Muslim community, which labelled it religious discrimination.

. . .

Muslim leaders decried the idea of certifying imams.

“We’re deeply concerned about the suggestion that imams require special vetting as opposed to any other faith leaders,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“This recommendation bears the hallmarks of racial and religious discrimination and in our view would be contrary to the Charter and human-rights code.”

. . .

The Conservative senators also called on the government to establish a program that provides information on signs of radicalization to “front-line workers” such as teachers, police offers, prison staff, nurses and doctors so they could be better equipped to detect extremism. “The committee believes that having more informed ‘eyes and ears’ is vital to terrorism prevention,” the report said.

It also calls on the government to investigate and discourage the spread of violent extremism, “especially the ideology promoted by the global Islamist fundamentalist movement,” and recommended Ottawa work with Muslim communities to create an “effective counternarrative” to denounce this extremism.

Mr. Gardee, with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called the Conservative Senate report “out of touch” with the reality of Canada. “It reads like a colonial document dictating a primarily one-way relationship with minority communities and suggesting the state has final say on determining who can participate in our communities,” he said.

He feels it “stigmatizes and marginalizes” the Canadian Muslim communities and “portrays them as a threat rather than as a partner in national security.”

Mr. Gardee said many Canadian Muslim scholars and imams are already encountering and addressing “false narratives” employed by radicals. “They [scholars and imams] are the ones best equipped and situated to unpack, demystify and debunk the sort of cut-and-paste approach to religion that is employed by violent extremists.”