Muslim group working with police to create de-radicalization program
Published Wednesday, November 12, 2014 6:37PM EST
A Muslim organization is working with police north of Toronto to create a new program aimed at stamping out homegrown extremism.
The de-radicalization program -- which will be introduced in Canadian universities, colleges and community centres –- is being spearheaded by the Ahmidyya Muslim Community of Canada.
The group is partnering with York Regional Police, and together they are hoping to spark a national conversation about the "unprecedented" number of Canadians who have travelled abroad and joined an extremist group.
"We have never seen (this), and that is why our reaction is unprecedented," Imam Mubarek Iqbal, who attended the press conference announcing the joint program, told CTV Toronto.
The federal government says more than 130 Canadians are believed to be fighting with extremist groups abroad, with several dozen estimated to be in Syria and Iraq.
"The phenomenon of radicalization and extremism…has (become) a cause for concern across the country," Lal Khan Malik, president of the Muslim organization told reporters.
The group's new program is also a direct response to the recent deadly attacks on two Canadian soldiers.
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down on Oct. 22 while standing guard at Ottawa’s National War Memorial. Days earlier, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed in a hit-and-run attack on Oct. 20 in Quebec.
The federal government has previously said that attack was linked to "terrorist ideology."
Imam Farhan Nazir -- who also spoke at the press conference -- told CTV Toronto the program will offer a "counter-narrative" to those who may hold extremist ideas.
"It's about…making them aware about the true preachings of Islam, and also what is radicalization and what are the steps we can take to counter radicalization."