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Toronto18 conviction should be an awakening call about extremism

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by Abubakar N. Kasim -Toronto

I don't think we should celebrate this conviction as much as we should discuss the root causes of why a young boy would be attracted to such a trend and what should we as a society do about it.

The conviction of the member of the so-called Toronto 18 should be an awakening call about the danger of extremism and what it could do to a person.

Muslims ought not to shy away in discussing this unhealthy phenomenon that exists in all other societies.

In spite of media's portrayal of this disease as exclusive to Muslims, no one is immune from this disease.

The responsibility of tackling extremism is not only on the shoulders of Muslims but everyone else irrespective of creed, nationality or country.

Muslims do indeed have a major responsibility to deal with this illness that is affecting many of its youth.

They ought to understand that the threat is real and is not part of the media's conspiracy against them as some choose to believe.

The New York Times had featured an article about a group of young Somali students in Minneapolis who were influenced with extremism.

They were transformed into hardcore fanatics who returned to their country of origin to join the battlefield.

The teenagers fled their war torn country and immigrated to the United States to pursue their American dreams.

They had assimilated into the American culture - embracing basketball and the prom, hip-hop and the mall of America as outlined in the article entitled A Call to Jihad, Answered in America, published July 11.

Their lives had taken a dramatic turn last year. They had dropped out from school and returned to Somalia to join the extremist Al-Shabab group which has been accused of human right violation against anyone who don't agree with their narrow minded views.

As the article explained, the students are among more than 20 young Somalis who are the focus of what may be the most significant domestic terrorism investigation since Sept. 11.

One of the students blew himself up last Oct. becoming the first American suicide bomber in the war torn country.

Their friends told the reporter, "While religious devotion may have predisposed them to sympathize with the Islamic cause in Somalia, it took a major geopolitical event - the Ethiopian invasion of their homeland in 2006 to spur them to join what they saw as a legitimate resistance movement.

As the report continues, the case represents the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining an extremist movement affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Although friends say the men have never thought of carrying out attacks in the United States, F.B.I. officials worry that with their training, ideology and American passports, there is a real danger that they could commit sinister acts in the land.

I personally used to dismiss the issue of extremism within the community as something that has been designed to smear the name of Islam and make Muslims look evil.

I was naïve until recently when hardcore fanatics called Alshabbab had occupied a large portion of the southern part of Somalia.

They have been waging a ruthless war against their fellow Muslims who don't agree with their narrow interpretation of Islam.

They had demolished graveyards of scholars; exhumed their remaining claiming that they were worshipped by Somalis. They had also closed mosques that are surrounded or adjacent to graveyards.

They are forgetting or choosing to ignore the fact that the main mosque in Medina contains graves of Prophet Mohammad and his close companions.

They are spreading terror in the land in the name of Islam. They are currently extracting molar teeth that are made of silver and gold from people and forcing Muslim women to wear burqas.

They are also accused of marrying young girls by force.

Muslims need to tackle this phenomenon and try to find the solution that would bring the youth back to the basics of the teachings of the religion that is based on balance and respect.

The society at large also has a greater responsibility of tackling the problem of extremism.

It is sad and depressing at the same time not to see any politician including President Obama taking a constructive approach in trying to tackle the root causes of this trend.

Extremism will always exist. It will always find disciples in all religious and secular movements.

Avoiding it however is part of the problem.

Only when we are honest about this issue and discuss it openly and objectively will we ever see a real difference in our effort to win the battle against terrorism.

Sending troops to Afghanistan and invading other countries will only fuel more extremism rather than curbing it.

If we have managed to dismantle and arrest the Toronto 18, tomorrow another group might surface.

Without going to the root causes of the problem, we will only be lying to ourselves and we will be going into cycles of madness and frustration without achieving anything at the end.

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