Religious radicalization discussed in World Religions Conference in Guelph

Guelph (in Canada): Radicalization of men and women of all faiths – both in the west and east– has become one of the most significant threats of international terrorism in the world today. The 35th annual World Religions Conference at the River Run Centre on Sunday morning carried the theme of how to tackle radicalization in faiths.

National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (Primary Conference Host), Lal Khan Malik said, We feel it is the responsibility of faith groups and faiths leaders to address this growing global crisis. This year’s conference theme will therefore explore how radicalization of followers of faiths is tackled and what might be its underlying causes.”

The annual conference, which was open and free for the public to attend, has been hosted by Guelph for the past three years.

Seven speakers from different faith traditions sat together to speak about radicalization as pertaining to their own belief system. The speakers were Doug Thomas of Elmira, representing Humanism; Simerneet Singh of Chicago, representing Sikhism; Farhan Iqbal of Toronto, representing Islam; John Buttars of Guelph, representing Christianity; Walter Cooke of Hamilton, representing Aboriginal Peoples; Daniel Maoz of Cambridge, representing Judaism; and Praveen Saxena of Guelph, representing Hinduism.

CBC Radio host Craig Norris moderated the event as each speaker gave their inputs on radicalization and the ways to tackle it.

Farhan Iqbal is the Imam of the Bai’tul Islam mosque, one of the largest in Canada. He stated in his opening remarks that he saw no connection between Islam’s original teachings and what was propagated today by the radicalized and extremist groups around the world.

“The Islamic faith and radicalization are diametrically opposed to one another,” he said, hitting home the fact that even though radicalization and extremism may run parallel to any faith, they are never a result of that faith.

Iqbal, in an interview after the session stated that distortions in the teaching of Islam are partly responsible for radicalization but it wasn’t the only factor. Certain clerics with extreme views and a few online groups take phrases from the Qur’an out of context, thus distorting the original meaning.

“When they distort the faith, they tend to sometimes attract criminals to an extremist ideology,” he said.

The real, true teachings of Islam, which are based on peace, can be provided and promoted as one way to tackle the problem, he added.

“The real teachings of Islam have nothing to do with hatred or violence and all these things. That’s why our motto as Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at is ‘love for all, hatred for none’,” stated Iqbal.

Praveen Saxena, professor at the University of Guelph said that negative radicalization originated in the minds of people and was reflected in their attitude towards life.

He added that radicalization wasn’t always a negative thing, and could actually be positive.

“Hinduism proposes that everyone is consciousness and this consciousness is pure energy. Energy is neutral in nature, so if it becomes positive, it seeks the path of religion and spirituality. The end product of this is eternal peace,” said Saxena.

To keep the mind in control, Hindu scriptures propose simple strategies of meditation and karma yoga. Hinduism offers these two techniques as a solution to prevent radicalization.

“It’s about having control over your own thoughts, or being neutral to them, so you can analyze them objectively,” he said.

(Quotes and inputs from