Hussein Hamdani: A “misunderstanding of Islam” fed by petrodollars leads to the radicalization of Muslims
Author: Scott Deveau
Source: The Globe and Mail, June 5, 2006
Original title: Accused face several terrorism charges
All 12 men arrested for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack in Canada are facing one count each of participating in a terrorist group.
Three of them — Fahim Ahmad, 21, Mohammed Dirie, 22, and Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24 — also face charges of importing weapons and ammunition for the purpose of terrorist activity.
Nine of the men are facing additional charges of receiving training from a terrorist group, while four of them are also charged with providing training.
Six are also charged with intending to cause an explosion causing serious bodily harm or death.
Five youths have also been charged in connection with the alleged plot, but details of their charges were not released.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday during question period that investigator’s had full support and assistance from members of several communities.
“The terrorists used the symbols of a faith to justify their acts, but in reality, they only represent hatred,” Mr. Harper said.
Mr. Harper also said he would work to counter “inaccuracies” in the American media about Canada having lax immigration policies.
“The American media generally has covered the story accurately and we will deal with the inaccuracies that are being perpetrated in some circles,” he said.
Ten men and five teenagers were taken into custody late Friday and early Saturday in and around Toronto in co-ordinated raids that involved more than 400 officers. Two other suspects were already in custody in Kingston on separate offences.
Mr. Dirie and Mr. Mohamed were already in jail serving two-year sentences for weapons smuggling when they were hit with new Canadian terrorism charges Friday.
Although Mr. Dirie and Mr. Mohamed were arrested Aug. 13 after crossing the Peace Bridge from Buffalo into Fort Erie, authorities in Buffalo said they were not aware of any ties to western New York. Both men were Somali immigrants residing in Kingston.
Assistant RCMP Commissioner Mike McDonell said that it was possible that more people involved in the plot could be taken into custody in the coming days as the investigation unfolds.
“It’s fair to say that from my experience there will be more arrests,” Mr. McDonell said. “We have a lot of leads yet to follow and we’re going to pursue those leads to the nth degree. And when we find anyone that aided, facilitated or participated in this event they will be arrested and brought to the courts.”
Mr. McDonell said the RCMP is currently comparing notes with its international partners.
“The fight against terrorism is an international fight, so we can’t operate in a bubble. We have to take our information and run it against the information of our allies.”
The accused are suspected of allegedly planning to bomb several locations Southern Ontario, including Peace Tower Parliament buildings Ottawa, and the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in Toronto.
The suspects were reportedly arrested after RCMP staged a controlled delivery of more than three-tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which when mixed fuel oil becomes highly combustible. A similar bomb was used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings that killed 168 people.
Muslim leaders and relatives of the accused the government and the intelligence community Monday of convicting the men in the public realm without trial.
Aly Hindy, an imam at the Scarborough Salaheddin Islamic Centre, has condemned Mr. Harper for publicly congratulating the security forces and the intelligence community for the arrests on the weekend.
“I think he’s used it for his political advantage,” Mr. Hindy said. “This is a court case, he shouldn’t speak.”
Mr. Hindy, who knows nine of those arrested, told globeandmail.com that he was concerned that public pressure would influence the judge at the men’s bail hearing Tuesday, making it harder for them to get a fair hearing and trial.
Tariq Abdel-haleem, the father of one of the accused, Shareef Abdel-haleem, expressed concern Monday on CBC Newsworld that the public scrutiny on the arrests would interfere with the men’s chances for a fair trial. He also defended his son, saying he had no animosity toward Canada or Canadians.
“This pony and cart show that they are putting on in order to incriminate before any kind of trial. We have to understand one thing, that the basic fundamental on which democracy is built on is a person is innocent until proven guilty,” Mr. Abdel-haleem. “I am saying it here loud and clear. I, myself, my son, the people I know, we do not believe in violence, in killing innocent people, period.”
Several of the accused are in their early 20s and late teens. CSIS reportedly started monitoring the group on an Internet chat room in the fall of 2004 when they started to espouse anti-Western sentiments.
Hussein Hamdani, a Hamilton lawyer involved in the federal Cross-cultural Roundtable on Security and special investigations unit in Ontario, works with Muslim youth to provide them with what he says is a better interpretation of their faith.
“Some people have a misunderstanding of the faith, and it’s because of that misunderstanding it leads to interpretations that are foreign to the tradition of Islam, that are very radical,” he said. “They just look at the letter of the (Islamic) law, not the spirit of the law.”
He said the issue has really come to the fore in the past four or five years. He said young, disaffected Muslims are drawn to extremist ideologies by wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya that have solidified perceived divisions between Western governments who support those wars and the Muslim faith.
“The way they look at it is that the war against terrorism is really a war against Islam,” Mr. Hamdani said.
While most Muslim youth are able to deal with living in a Muslim community in Canada, he said, a few feel that their own citizenship is against them.
“Really it’s a battle for the hearts and minds of Muslim youths away from these types of teachings,” he said. “It’s hard to compete with petrodollars sometimes.”