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'They are terrorists and must be punished:' Calgary imam speaks out against ISIL

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CALGARY - A prominent imam intends to draw attention to what he calls the "un-Islamic" beliefs and actions of militants claiming responsibility for the murder of a U.S. journalist.

Imam Syed Soharwardy of Calgary plans a 48-hour hunger strike beginning Friday to create awareness about the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, is condemning the beheading of journalist James Wright Foley.

"I want to let everyone know that (ISIL) is not a part of the Muslim community," said Soharwardy, who also plans to address his congregation before his hunger strike.

"(ISIL) is using Islam to destroy peace and create a negative image of Islam. They are terrorists and must be punished."

The imam said Foley's death and that of thousands of civilians in Syria and Iraq are "crimes against humanity." He predicts the violent activities of ISIL won't remain limited to the Middle East.

"They are actively working and recruiting Muslim youth in Canada," he said.

Last week, Foreign Affairs said it had reports of a Canadian being killed in Iraq. But officials couldn't confirm it was Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a former Calgary man the CBC identified as having been radicalized in Canada and as having gone to the Middle East to fight for ISIL.

Soharwardy said he is worried that could inspire other radicalized youth to follow Shirdon's example.

Earlier this year, the CBC aired a propaganda video of Shirdon burning his Canadian passport and threatening U.S. President Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday that Foley's murder by Islamic State militants in Iraq is part of a "disgusting" terror campaign across the entire region and which threatens more and more countries.

"This terrorist caliphate in our judgment represents an increasing long-term threat to the security of our own country. It is that serious,'' Harper said.

"We have been in ongoing contact with our principal allies, and we will be announcing some additional steps that we will be able to take with them in the days ahead."

Soharwardy said ISIL must be stopped immediately.

"They are terrorists and must be punished. If the United States and all other governments will not unite against (ISIL) and free the areas of Syria and Iraq occupied by (ISIL), the (ISIL) sympathizers will create havoc everywhere."

Islamic State militants beheaded Foley and posted a video online entitled "Message to America." They said he was killed in retaliation for air strikes ordered by Obama against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Foley, 40, disappeared in northern Syria in November 2012 while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. He had not been heard from since.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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