A Calgary Mosque closed its door last Friday when it became the focus of radicalization. According to the Mosque’s Imam, Navaid Aziz, there were several men who had regularly visited the Mosque but left to fight abroad with IS.
Aziz said that now that the doors were closing, he finally found some relief from the constant barbs aimed at the Muslim community.Three years ago, Damian Clairmont, Salman Ashrafi and some other Muslims left Canada and joined Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria. Most of the men were killed while fighting abroad.
The Mosque is now being moved to a new location and will be led by Aziz. The closing of the old Mosque has deeply saddened Aziz as he says the place was a sacred area for him where he gave lectures, celebrated people’s births and oversaw the rites for people’s marriages.
In March, he organized a conference in Calgary called “Stronger Together”. It was attended by hundreds of Muslims where Aziz told them about how radicalization was looming over their community and people were still being ignorant of it. Aziz further said that he had never thought that something like this would happen to his Mosque and had no clue that the people he prayed with would turn Jihadist.
Other men who were identified as Jihadists included Tamim Chowdhury, brothers Collin and Gregory Gordon and Ahmad Waseem. One other man who was also a part of this group was Farah Shirdon. He achieved worldwide notoriety through an ISIS video, where he burned the Canadian passport and issued a threat to the US, Canada and all oppressors.
Shirdon has not been declared dead and faces six criminal charges.
During the time of the investigation, Aziz was also considered a suspect and was questioned for months. Due to his dedicated cooperation, Canadian police saw him as their ally and he became Calgary Police Service’s Muslim chaplain. Aziz says that now he can spot signs of radicalization and wants to help these people before they throw away their life.
Phil Gurski, a former CSIS strategic analyst says that Aziz has become a role model for Muslims and his acceptance of radicalization will help other people to accept that this problem does exist.