Most mosques in Canada are “incubators of Islamism,” a controversial Muslim commentator told a startled parliamentary committee Monday, an assertion that was challenged by the panel.
“Any legitimacy given to them as a matter of community or political outreach only further entrenches the practitioners of Islamism disguised as religion and spreading their ideology,” Salim Mansur, a provocative University of Western Ontario academic, told a Senate inquiry into national security threats facing Canada.
He blamed imams and what he sees as the failed policy of multiculturalism for helping radicalize young Muslims and others to embrace jihadi doctrine.
“At homes and around family gatherings, political discussions abound as families remain tied to their native lands and cultures despite having settled in Canada,” said the India-born Mansur, a long-time public critic of multiculturalism.
“The exposure of Muslims on Fridays during communal prayers to sermonizing from pulpits by imams of political situations in Muslim lands and Muslims as victims of the U.S. foreign policy, of Jews and Zionism and of Hindus in India. This is a combustible atmosphere.”
His appraisal appeared to startle some senators. “I know many wonderful and amazing remarkable Muslim people, Canadians and otherwise,” said Liberal committee member Sen. Grant Mitchell. “When you say that mosques are the incubators of Islamism, surely you’re not saying that they all are?”
Mansur didn’t back down. “I don’t want to say you’re entering Potemkin village, but there’s lot of play going on when people come to worship (at) these places. And the hard reality is not shown.”
Mitchell tried again: “There’s billions and billions of non-radicalized radicalized Muslims who go to mosques frequently, pray five times day. It’s got to be more complicated than that?”
Mansur: “It is very complicated but we cannot walk away from the ugly reality that we, that I as a Muslim have been confronting all my life.
“The young people and others are not breathing in the bacteria of radicalization in the air. They do get that bacteria virus somewhere and one of the areas is the mosque. And because the mosque has that symbol of sacredness to it no one from the outside wants to question it.”
Mitchell: “What you seem to be implying that we should restrict religious freedoms in Canada and wouldn’t that be exactly what they want us to do? The Muslim religion is intrinsically a good religion. People warp all theologies.”
Conservative Sen. Vern White stepped in. “I’m trying to be fair, if I may sir, I’m trying to figure out why we should believe what you’re saying to us because I have others that are telling me the opposite.”
Mansur: “The simple and quick answer is there are many faces of Islam and you have to become a student of the subject matter to understand the many faces of Islam and be able to discern them.”
White questioned Mansur’s statement that an estimated 15 per cent of Muslims in Canada harbour extremist beliefs – or worse. “Out of that percentage what number actually take it to action (violence) in your mind, because I don’t see 15 per cent?”
Mansur: “A very small fraction.” White: “So, less than one per cent?” Mansur: “Yeah, less than one per cent.”