OTTAWA – Community groups expressed some surprise Wednesday after the RCMP warned a growing number of Canadians are becoming radicalized, taking up violent jihad and posing terror threats inside and outside the country’s borders.
The Canadian Somali Congress’ Ahmed Hussen said he is aware of seven individuals from Toronto who have disappeared to join Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaida-linked group known for its violent attacks in Somalia.
If more Somali-Canadian men involved, Hussen said, it only confirms the community’s concerns regarding Al-Shabaab and that “it is a bigger problem than we even realized.” Still, Hussen said, the Somali community has known about the growing radicalization trend which they “have been observing in the last couple of years.” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud told QMI Agency Tuesday the Mounties are concerned by increasing numbers of Canadians who are becoming radicalized and taking up the Islamist cause through violence.
“What we are seeing is that threat is growing from inside and is going elsewhere,” said Michaud, who is in charge of National Security Criminal Investigations. “It’s like we are exporters of terrorism to a certain extent.” The Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association’s Tanvir Chaudhry said in Vancouver there are “no such problems.” The Association held numerous meetings with its Pakistani-Canadian youth and believes that they have a “better understanding of the religion itself – that this is not something tolerated in Islam,” Chaudhry said.
Canada’s security agencies are actively working with immigrant communities to identify potential threats and encouraging members to speak openly to officials.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is also trying to understand how homegrown terrorists are bread.
“We do work with various communities in Canada via outreach and liaison programs to better understand how some youth are becoming radicalized,” said CSIS spokeswoman Isabelle Scott.
Former CSIS chief of strategic planning, David Harris, said attacks like Al-Shabaab’s bombings in Uganda, which killed 76 people Sunday, can draw supporters to the cause.
“We’ve got ample evidence to suggest that blood and guts can be an effective recruiting tool,” he said.
Martin Rudner, emeritus professor at Carleton University and the founding director of the school’s Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies, said it is not known why people decide to take up jihad, but the mechanisms that influence the choice are known.
One powerful source is American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have influenced the Christmas Day underwear bomber, said Rudner.
Al-Awlaki is in Yemen “propagandizing in excellent English on the web and mobilizing people in western English-speaking country for the jihad,” he said.
Khaled Mouammar, the Canadian Arab Federation’s national president, believes if the west wants to rid itself of “fanatics,” it must stop “invading and occupying countries and stealing their resources,” otherwise, he said, we end up with angry young people trying fight back.