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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

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Florida-based Pro Jihad Mentor Abu Taubah was the mentor to Orlando Nightclub Shooter Omar Mateen

In the videos dating around 2008, Robertson has expressed his strict opposition to western culture and upbringing abroad

Toronto vigil for Orlando shooting. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • In 2012, Robertson said he “attended a meeting of Egyptian and American intelligence officials.”
  • In the videos dating around 2008, Robertson has expressed his strict opposition to western culture and upbringing abroad
  • Robertson has also blamed the American ideals of freedom as the root-cause of homosexuality

A senior official in the Law enforcement has identified Abu Taubah, a Florida-based cleric, as the mentor to Omar Mateen, who killed 49 at a gay nightclub in orlando.

Abu Taubah, formerly Marcus Dwayne Robertson, has been a convicted bank robber and the trustworthy body-guard of the ‘Blind Sheikh’ alias Omar Abdel Rahman. The Daily Mail had reported in 2015 that Robertson had radicalized 36 of his fellowmen inside the prison which ultimately led to his solitary confinement.

“As a result of the horrific harm his religious principles are teaching his other inmates,” Abu Taubah was confined to solitary imprisonment. Lesser known facts about Robertson are his previous job with the Marine and various stints as an author and teacher of Islamic Education across US and Egypt. He was also involved with the secret police, working as an undercover FBI agent.

Abu Taubah—aka Marcus Dwyane Robertson. Image source:
Abu Taubah—aka Marcus Dwyane Robertson. Image source:

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In 2012, Robertson said to a news portal, that he “attended a meeting of Egyptian and American intelligence officials.” He further added that his job was “to perform covert operations in places that American government had no credible operatives.”

A three-part video series entitled “Khutbah (Homosexuality)” illustrates Robert’s views on the topic. These are samples of what motivates people like Omar Mateen who do not bother to go deeper into religious texts but chose to get radicalized by extremist preaching of certain self-declared Islamic clerics.

In the videos dating around 2008, Robertson has expressed his strict opposition to western culture and upbringing abroad, which contradicts his own childhood spent in New York. He holds homosexuality as “sinful, illegal, worthy of penalty.”

An undated photo from Omar Mateen's social media account. Image Source: REUTERS
An undated photo from Omar Mateen’s social media account.
Image Source: REUTERS

Robertson has mentioned the Quranic story of Lut (Lot), and the devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah as the right way to look at homosexuals. He further states that the Muslim community has been “too weak and not ready” to deal with this issue “in a proper manner.” In the stated example, however, clerics like Robertson tend to go overboard with their extremist views by forgetting that the story of Lot is one where calamities were brought by a supernatural force, and not by the direct action or violence of different communities.

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Robertson has also blamed the American ideals of freedom as the root-cause of homosexuality, saying, “The concept of America is that you are God: you do what you want to do; you follow your desires.”

While Robertson claims being a preacher, it is essential to refer to his own actions and compare them with Islamic ideals for a better understanding of the difference between radical Islam and the real Islam. In a November 5, 2012 government memo, his criminal history is summarized as:

“The defendant, MARCUS DWAYNE ROBERTSON, has been an extremist for many years. In the early 1990s, the defendant was a leader of the ‘Forty Thieves,’ which was a group of Muslims who conducted numerous armed robberies of Government installations and banks to generate funds that were used, among other things, to buy weapons and explosives. As part of his crimes, the defendant murdered several individuals; participated in assassination attempts; used pipe bombs, C-4, grenades, other explosives, and automatic weapons; participated in a robbery resulting in a hostage situation; and attempted the murder of police officers. Following the first Gulf War, the Forty Thieves stockpiled weapons and explosives in preparation to fight against the perceived threat of internment of Muslims by the United States. The defendant served as personal protection for the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, and personally gave over $300,000 of the stolen funds to mosques that the defendant attended.”

All three of Robertson’s siblings have served in the Armed Forces, the CIA, the NSA and the military police. While his is a family history of community service and dedication, Robertson’s extremist views can be blamed for him becoming mentor for such Muslims who do not pay heed to verses of the Qur’an that strongly condemn killing of innocents.

In contrast to aggressive preaching and sowing seeds of hatefulness against ‘non-believers’ which is prominent among Muslims like Omar Mateen and Abu Tawbah, Muslims who sadly look at their television screens at such events are suffering the brunt of Islamophobia. These are Muslims who know the significance of living in peace with other communities, not enforcing religion upon others, and not killing innocents as depicted in varieties of examples throughout the religious scriptures.

– by NewsGram team with assistance from Maariyah, an intern at NewsGram