#Civil Rights
Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd.

On Wed June 3rd, 2009, the Toronto Star published an article entitled “’Detox’ Takes Care of Radicals” by Isabel Teotonio.

The article was a brief exposition of the new “ideological detox” program created by Toronto’s Sheikh Ahmed Amiruddin of the Al Sunnah Institute. This program was designed to “heal Muslim youth who are showing signs of extremist behavior”. Composed of twelve steps, “ideological detox” is supposed to help Muslim youth steer away from a path of “Islamic extremism”. As a program that purports to utilize theological clarity and positive spirituality, Amiruddin’s “ideological detox” assumes that “Islamic extremism” is a spiritual illness that stems from theological and psychological misguidance.

Unfortunately, Teotonio’s article does not deal with two important blind-spots of this proposed “ideological detox” program:

(1) As numerous academics have studied, noted, and concluded (Robert Pape of the University of Chicago chief among them, see: Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism; NY: Random House Inc, 2006), “religious/ideological extremism”, or the resorting to violence by certain individuals, is a specific product stemming from the frustrations caused primarily by political upheavals. The chaotic suffering induced by military occupations and wars are chiefly responsible for the recruitment of individuals into organizations such as, say, al-Qaeda. The article does not note this well-established argument.

(2) This proposed program would work by having concerned individuals “red-flag” those within their community that exhibit “signs of extremism”. This procedure refers to an extremely vague methodology of identifying danger. Effectively, individuals will be “red-flagged” not for their deeds, but for expressing their thoughts. One can easily see how such a suggestion may prove intrusive upon the rights to free speech and expression that are so sacred to Canadian democracy. It is in fact an explicit replica of the Red Scare days of the 1950s, where McCarthyism indicted those who “appeared to exhibit signs of supporting communists”. Teotonio’s article does not probe critically into the implications of Amiruddin’s program. If picked up as a governing policy of sorts, this program can evolve into a damaging element within our democracy. The Canadian intelligence service CSIS has already shown interest in such a program, also espoused by Toronto-based Sheikh Mohammed Shaikh, and his respective organizations.

As one of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Toronto Star is responsible for informing the Canadian public on pertinent issues that may affect the well-being of our national security and democracy. In order to successfully excel in its responsibility as a vital cornerstone of Canadian democracy, the Toronto Star should consider critically probing the idea of endorsing a program of “ideological detox”.

We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who oppose the idea of an "Islamic Ideological Detox" program, its political implications, and believe that the Toronto Star should act now to either…

(1) Publish the attached op-ed that explains the blind-spots, risks, and shortcomings of the “ideological detox” program.


(2) Publish an article detailing the implications of the Canadian government adopting an “ideological detox” program for purposes of domestic security.


What is Islamic Ideological Detox?

“Islamic Ideological Detox” is Canada’s latest “terror-preemption” technique. Unlike the Bush Doctrine’s oft-discussed method of military preemption (which has all but co-opted the term out of the political lexicon), the “ideological detox” program promises to be bloodless and painless. In fact, it is described a little like positive psychology. The philosophical outlook of “detoxofiction” assumes that the “Islamic extremist” suffers from an illness of the heart, curable with the correct dosage of theological remedy, to be administered by an individual (usually a Sheikh) who’s familiar with the procedure.

Also known to some as the “De-radicalization Intervention Program”, ideological detox is now a burgeoning practice in several Islamic institutions. Sheikh Ahmed Amiruddin of the Alhus Sunnah Foundation of Canada and Sheikh Mohammad Shaikh of Masjid el-Noor are the pioneers of the procedure. Composed of twelve steps, the ideas first came to the fore after the 2006 terror scare dubbed the “Toronto-18 Terror Plot”. Muslim leaders jumped at the opportunity to cleanse the image of their religion by appeasing authority figures and those in the media, swearing that these were minor radicals that could be “cleansed”. Unfortunately, these leaders (Amiruddin and Shaikh chief among them) failed to ask the right questions.

The largest blind-spot of the ideological detox program is its inability (intentional?) to address the root causes of terrorist activities, or what they call “Islamic extremism”. The “Toronto 18” case is not without historical analogues: 9/11, Madrid, London, “The Shoe Bomber”, “The Underwear Bomber”, Fort Hood, etc. In all these cases, extensive investigations have explicated that the grievances felt by the perpetrators derived from the frustrations they felt when they saw fellow Muslims languish in the military occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip, and so on. In fact, theology here is not the anchor that incepts all action. Instead, religious dogma is nothing but a conduit that can be de-contextualized to justify any action—with or without regard for human life.

Canada’s intelligence agency, the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS), has shown interest in institutionalizing “Islamic ideological detox” procedures as a means to prevent terror. But who is to say which individual “exhibits signs of Islamic extremism” (and what do these “signs” look like?)? In a community where any individual can “red flag” his or her neighbor as a “potential terrorist” based simply on a person’s political or theological views, the rights to freedom of expression and speech, rights we so value as Canadians, would be infringed upon. It would in fact evolve into a system where thoughts are criminalized instead of deeds. To have such a system that criminalizes certain political views is to descend into a practice that simply falls out of favour with the Canadian constitutional framework.

What “Islamic ideological detox” amounts to, in the end, is a Canada with a two-tiered system for freedom of speech and expression. Those who tow the conventions thrown around by the political figures, pundits, and mainstream publications are allowed their ranting and raving. Those who prove to be contrarians will be flagged down as “potential terrorists” and sent to individuals like Amiruddin and Shaikh to be “detoxed”.

The Inform the Canadian Public Regarding the Shortcomings of Adopting an “Islamic Ideological Detox” Program petition to Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. was written by steven and is in the category Civil Rights at GoPetition.