London Muslims respond to local terrorists
April 9, 2013 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
LONDON-TORONTO - The Muslim community in London, ON has spoken out forcefully against terrorism following revelations that two young Muslim men from their city died in January while committing a terrorist attack in Algeria.
After a CBC report disclosed the identities of London natives Xristos Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej, the Association of London Muslims quickly arranged a press conference to condemn terrorism and disassociate themselves from the men.
“The implication was that there was radicalization that happens within our mosques, within our community centres, and that is completely, completely false,” said Dr. Hassan Mostafa, past president, Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario. “There is nothing of the sort going on in our communities, Islamic centres or mosques. Our doors are open for scrutiny, for people to come and see, as well as to cooperate fully with the authorities in any way possible.”
The Association of London Muslims is an umbrella organization that represents the London Muslim Mosque, Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, Muslim Association of Canada, Al-Mahdi Islamic Community Centre and Ahlul-Bayt Islamic Centre, said Mostafa.
Members of London’s Muslim community “were shocked and horrified” when CBC broke the news. “Also the fact that one [Katsiroubas] was a young convert to Islam was even more disturbing.”
Although some people remembered the men from “years ago, they were definitely not part of our inner circle of regular attendees. They’re not one of the boys that we’ve seen grow up in our community over the years who have been active in our community because, if they were, they just wouldn’t have gone this way. They quickly would have been pulled aside and shown a better way.”
He added, “Our imams are very vigilant as to the message that comes out from the pulpit on Fridays and the message that goes into our youth groups and our youth organizations: that this [terrorism] is contrary to the teachings and the beliefs of Islam and Muslims.”
When asked whether the two deceased men might have believed that terrorism was condoned by their religion, Mostafa responded, “I’m sure that in their minds they viewed that they were practising a perverse version of religion. Now you’re getting into geopolitical issues but, no, as far as we’re concerned, Muslims in Canada…there’s a demonization of the entire religion and entire religious community that happens under these circumstances and our job is to speak against that.”
The RCMP has confirmed the terrorists’ identities.