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That Study About Extremist Mosques in Canada Is Mostly Bullshit

There are a lot of problems with a study that a bunch of Canadian media outlets were quick to publish.

A mosque in Ottawa. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Another day, another sketchy report alleging Canada's mosques are a hotbed for extremism.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Press published a story reporting that "many mosques and Islamic schools in Canada are placing young people at risk by espousing—or at least not condemning—extremist teachings."

The story was published in the National Post with the headline: "Extremist literature common in many mosques and Islamic school libraries in Canada, study says."

That study—which was purchased by VICE Canada for the outlandish price of $7—claims that "direct evidence shows that extremist ideology and radicalization are being advanced in Canada in mosques and Islamic associations."

The story says the co-authors "base their findings on research conducted quietly in mosque libraries and Islamic schools."

The report, called "The Lovers of Death?" says it "takes the reader inside the mosques [In Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto] and other forums to see the messages being put forward which are driving the youth into fighting for ISIS, dying as martyrs in Algeria or blowing themselves up as suicide bombers in Iraq or working against Canadian democracy and values."

The co-authors' strategy was to creep into mosques and take photos of bookshelves. The report doesn't include any interviews with Muslims, young or otherwise.

Read More: We Spoke to a Former Jihadist About How Young People Are Radicalized

However, that didn't stop them from concluding that: "Many of those present during the visits to the libraries seemed sullen and sometimes angry. The traditional greetings of friendship were absent. This is consistent with the increasing general angriness of Islamist/extremist views being advanced in some local mosques."

Apart from spotting grumpy congregants, the report's findings about mosques hinges on the claim that they contain little else but extremist literature. To prove it, the authors took several photos of bookcases.

Other parts of the study do not fare any better.

The report calls respected universities for Islamic scholarship, including al-Azhar in Egypt, "extremist organizations."

The report also cites "Sahih al-Bukhari" as an example of a scholar that can lead readers to extremism. Sahih al-Bukhari is actually a collection of hadiths, the actions and saying of Prophet Muhammad, not a scholar. It's author, Muhammad al-Bukhari, is one of the most widely respected Islamic scholars of all time.

Meanwhile, the report itself notes that more controversial works found on shelves are "to be expected, much as many libraries in the West have copies of Hitler's Mein Kampf."

Nevertheless, the report makes bold assertions about the potential effects of these works.

"The youth and others who see these books are left with the impression that this is what Islam is really all about–a politicized faith which is Islamist, Salafist, Jihadist and Takfirist."

The report claims mainstream Muslim organizations, such as the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Muslim Association of Canada, are "front groups who work on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaahe-Islami."

An NCCM statement about the report, released today, says the report's labelling is inaccurate, and that it is "yet another anecdotal attempt to vilify Canadian Muslims and their institutions."

The report also targets schools, both religious and public, claiming that Toronto District School Board is "re-enforcing the inferiority of women." The only evidence offered for this however is two unattributed photos of Muslim children praying, purportedly at schools in Toronto.

The report, co-authored by Saied Shoaaib and Thomas Quiggin, is self-published by "Second Star Publishing," meaning it has gone through no peer-review.

The report says Shoaaib, originally from Egypt, worked for various news websites, and published a couple books on the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as one titled, "How to be a Successful Journalist and to profit from the Electronic Media."

Quiggin, meanwhile, bills himself as a "subject matter expert on terrorism, recognized as such in both Ontario Superior (criminal) Court and the Federal Court of Canada." As proof, he cites the fact that he testified at the parliamentary committee hearing on Bill C-51. Other noted terror "experts," such as the Toronto Sun's Tarek Fatah, also testified at these hearings.

Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor of International Relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and a former national security analyst, called the co-authors "2 guys in a basement reading Breitbart."

The NCCM statement claims Quiggin "has a record of promoting discredited, conspiratorial ideas about Canadian Muslims and their institutions."

The statement adds that "such writing only fans the flames of ignorance at a time when vandalism of mosques and hate incidents against Canadian Muslims are increasing."