Islamic association President Omaer Jamil, left, with Ibrahim Balal, says a proposal to certify imams will make them feel like outcasts.
Islamic leaders in Saskatoon are saddened by a recommendation calling for all imams in Canada to be certified, saying it could further isolate the Islamic faith in Canada.
The Senate's security and defence committee issued an interim report this week on countering the terrorist threat in Canada that said foreign-trained imams "have been spreading extremist religious ideology and messages that are not in keeping with Canadian values."
Omaer Jamil, president of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, said he feels the recommendation is "oppressive" as imams are the only religious clergy members recommended for certification. "We all agree that there is a problem, but that problem is not something that can be resolved with legislation which makes people feel like outcasts," he said.
He said although there is a possibility imams in North America are encouraging radical behaviour, he thinks it's uncommon, and the legislation is targeting an entire faith based on a small group of people.
"It's like trying to kill a fly, essentially, with a sledge hammer," he said. "There's other ways, really, to deal with these situations."
Imran Desai, an imam with the Prairie Muslim Association, said the certification is a "good idea," as most imams are dedicated to spreading the true word of Islam as opposed to extremism.
"It's going to help to build a strong community," he said on Friday.
"It is very important for us to build a strong community and explain to them how we have to live and how we have to benefit this country."
Some Islamic academics elsewhere in Canada have expressed concerns about the recommendation, saying it unfairly targets the faith, further marginalizing it in Canadian culture.
The report - which also recommends prohibiting the glorification of terrorists and terrorist acts and establishing a wanted terrorist list - said some teachings have been contributing to radicalization and could raise "serious concerns" if left unchecked.
Jamil said the issue is something that needs to be addressed within the community on the ground level. "We understand our communities," he said. "The vast majority of people who have actually moved here have come here for a better life for themselves and for their kids. They're not here to cause problems."
On Thursday, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told Postmedia the recommendation to certify imams "is not something our government is considering."
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