Calgary imam staging hunger strike to draw attention to home-grown terrorism
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, August 22, 2014 8:09AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 22, 2014 10:02PM EDT
A prominent Calgary imam is warning that Canadian youth are being recruited by terrorist groups to travel overseas and fight for Islamist militants.
Syed Soharwardy is hoping a two-day hunger strike, which began Friday, will draw attention to what he says is an increasing problem of home-grown terrorism.
"Muslim youth are getting recruited by these fanatics in Canada, in the United States, in Europe, everywhere," Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism, told CTV Calgary.
The issue of foreign fighters joining terrorist groups in the Middle East has come to the forefront following the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants in Syria.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the masked jihadi pictured holding a knife to Foley's throat is likely British, and linguists have said his accent suggests he is from the London area.
"If it can happen there (in the U.K.), it can happen here," Soharwardy said. "These people are Canadian who are fighting there."
Soharwardy said that after he denounced Foley’s brutal killing, he received a disturbing Facebook message from a former Ottawa high school student who now claims to be an Islamic State militant in Iraq.
“He was trying to convince me what I am saying is wrong and what ISIS is doing is right,” Soharwardy said.
University of Calgary political science professor Michael Zekulin said Canada's approach to fighting radicalization has fallen behind, and Islamic State's threat to the West should be taken seriously.
"They (Islamic State) have international appeal, but do they have the international reach to actually get people back to target the West?" Zekulin asked.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said terrorist groups like Islamic State represents an increasing long-term threat to Canada's security.