Dealing with homegrown terrorism

Homegrown Terrorism 2 copy

(Illustration by Dasha Zolota / Ryersonian Staff)

Canadian Muslims from the Ottawa al-Mahdi centre shared condolences at the National War Memorial last Saturday, where military reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, was shot to death. The shooter, a recent Muslim convert, was named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. This was the second deadly attack in the week involving a Muslim convert and Canadian soldiers.

The term homegrown terrorism is fairly new to our country. The theoretical article, Homegrown Terrorism in the United States, describes it as acts undertaken by an individual born or raised in the West, who aspires to be part of a greater foreign terrorist group, and a threat to national security. Some argue that this radicalization is a reaction to the country’s foreign policy; others say it’s sympathy for those foreign groups.

Zehaf-Bibeau, 26, was a man with a troubled past, a criminal record and signs of mental health illness, who converted to Islam. For a three-month period in 2007, Bibeau attended congregation at a Burnaby mosque. His radical views clashed with those of the mosque’s leader, leading to him being expelled. Here was an individual in desperate need of help, but he faced isolation from society.
In an open letter to Postmedia, Susan Bibeau, Michael’s mother, sad her son was “mentally unbalanced,” and the shooting was a desperate act.

Martin Rouleau, a Quebec man, converted to Islam after his small business began to fail. Rouleau had no ties to local mosques, and surveyed videos of Islamic State propaganda before killing a soldier and injuring another in a hit-and-run. The RCMP had confiscated Rouleau’s passport and added him to the high-risk travellers list in July, because of his Facebook activity reflecting extremist views.

While addressing the public on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Ottawa shooting was linked to terrorism and that anti-terrorism legislation is in the works.

A 2008 report by British intelligence said those involved in domestic terrorism were from various backgrounds, had issues with substance abuse and were from non-religious households.According to an article by Mehdi Hassan, “wannabe jihadists” purchased books titled, Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies.

To add Canadian insight, Muslim activist and convert, Muhammad Robert Heft, says the cause of this extremism is lack of integration in the Muslim community. He says coverts are ostracized.

“Working in social services for past 10 years, I realized that there’s a lot of people coming into Islam with baggage,” Heft told The Ryersonian. “They distant themselves from their past life, are not well integrated into Muslim community and tend to get isolated.”Heft, who acts as a liaison for CSIS and the RCMP, offers rehabilitation and counselling to these individuals, including one from the Toronto 18. Heft adds that social assistance should be the “first line of defence” for mosques.

To say homegrown terrorism is a budding threat in Canada because of two isolated incidents would be premature. Currently, the RCMP is investigating the incident.

We should wait for those findings before coming to our own conclusions.

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