Our Image Of Terrorists Is Not Accurate (By Jeremy Loome in The Ottawa Sun)

September 13, 2005: Our Image Of Terrorists Is Not Accurate (By Jeremy Loome in The Ottawa Sun)

Tue, September 13, 2005

The enemy within
TERROR ON OUR TURF DAY 3: Our image of terrorists is not accurate

The Imam states his case

A hard choice

Terrorist attacks on the London transit system in July, including the bombing of this train at Aldgate station, resulted in 50 deaths. (File photo)

In the years since 9/11, almost every major terrorist act involving extremist Islam has been committed by a person raised in the West. While the image of the bearded, robed Arab wearing a suicide vest comes to mind when the public thinks of terrorists, it is not reality.

As a country with open-door refugee and social safety net policies, Canada is an ideal breeding ground for extremism, say researchers.

It is a born-again process, says French researcher Olivier Roy. The author of Globalized Islam: The Search for A New Ummah, Roy spent years researching the mujahidin in Afghanistan. They make a comeback to Islam but not to the traditional Islam of their country of origin or of their parents.

Many of them marry western girls and go to western schools. And when they convert to Islam, its not to traditional Islam but to a kind of neo-Salafism.

Salafism is an ancient term meaning to follow the way of the Salaf, or religious messenger the Prophet Muhammad. It has been co-opted over, the last century to represent a blend of orthodoxies, and is sometimes called Wahabism although some Salafists consider it a derogatory term and prefer to think of themselves as unitarian.

Its followers support the views of political theorists such as the Indian philosopher Sayyid Maududi and the Egyptian philosophers Hasan Al-Bana and Sayyid Qutb, who believed western culture had so corrupted Islam and its political leadership that a world-wide Islamic homeland is required. Its largest exponent is a social movement called the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. They also proposed it can be accomplished through aggressive measures.

Salafism is not necessarily politically radical, says Roy. Every Salafi is not a terrorist, but all of the terrorists are born-again Muslim Salafists. The problem with the (Salafist Islamic leadership) is that they condemn the terrorists actions but cant condemn the religious ideas behind them, because they agree with them.

The term jihad means struggle. Whether it is an armed struggle or not often depends on the individual. Some clerics believe it can be aggressive, some believe the Quran dictates that it can only be in defence of a homeland. And some believe that homeland is the entire world.

But the effect is that orthodox imams and sheikhs across the West preach a message terrorists want to hear: Islam should be the only law, the West is corrupt and Muslims have a moral responsibility to jihad. One moderate American Muslim leader has suggested as many as 80% of the mosques in North America are run by Salafists spreading that message. It is popular with a disaffected, angry audience surrounded by people living better lives. Theyre disconnected from traditional Muslim life, have even less of a role in their new society, and seek glory.

Young guys, rebels without a cause who are looking for something bigger than themselves, will be fascinated by the message and try to emulate it in how they behave, says Roy.

The new generation of terrorists is being created in our own backyards, through a combination of social factors familiar to anyone who has studied the roots of violence: social disconnection, cultural disillusionment and the need to improve their social standing.

In Canada, the pattern seems intact:

The As-Sunnah An-Nabawyah and Masjid as-Salam Mosques in Montreal preached a Salafi message to members of the GIA, an Algerian terrorist outfit that included Ahmed Ressam and supporters as a Canadian terrorist cell.

The Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Scarborough, Ont. was spiritual home to the Khadr family and at least two Canadians missing while fighting the U.S. in Iraq.

In Wetaskiwin, Alta., the local mosque was used as a front by Kassem Daher, an al-Qaida affiliate with the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam.

In British Columbia, a sheikh at the Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society mosque has been criticized for preaching in favour of violent jihad, and one of the mosques members has gone missing while fighting with rebels in Chechnya.

Using mosques to spread violent ideology or even just as a gathering place for extremists has become so common attendees across Canada complain of being harassed by CSIS intelligence officers.

There have further been ties between various university student associations and Salafist mosques and suggestions that the next generation of young muslims are being co-opted into a violent Salafist message even their own parents dont always agree with.

Most of the parents, they dont notice that their children are becoming radicals, says Roy, who notes that attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid was a good example of how even children raised outside Muslim homes can be co-opted.

The London bombing story is interesting. The mother of one of the suicide bombers called the police because she assumed her son was a victim. When she realized and was told he was a bomber, she was devastated.

Closer to home, Mahboob Khawaja may be going through similar turmoil, although given his years of writing about the evils of western culture and its destruction of Islam, the public might be forgiven for doubting his sincerity. The professor, a Pakistan national who teaches in Saudi Arabia, insists his son Mohammed could never have taken part as authorities claim in a plan to blow up parts of London, England.

Eight British nationals face trial on the charges there this fall, while Khawaja, a former computer programmer for the federal government who was recently denied bail, remains the only person charged so far under Canadas Anti-Terrorism Act for aiding a terrorist plot.

Who else would know my son better than myself? says Khawaja. Hes brought up well and I do not even think for a second that he could do something like this.

Heard it before

Canadians have heard that before. Until he was killed in a firefight on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the family of Ahmed Said Khadr insisted he was just an aid worker. Once he became a shahid, a martyr to Islam, the tune changed.

Ahmed Khadr taught his children those values. For 30 years, Khawaja has followed a similar political perspective as many Salafists.

He says he does not support violence. Whatever happened in London, no civilized society can accept this way of life.

Is he sincere? In his writings, Khawaja makes no attempt to hide his disgust for western values and the expediency of relationships between Islamic leaders, Israeli leaders and the U.S. Hes said as much in a series of books as well.

Some of his contentions:

America will impose its dictates to utilize (Pakistani Gen. Pervez) Musharaf and his collaborators to eradicate Islamic values and influence from this region. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are readily available myths and stunts which are being used by the western world, and America in particular, to check and stop the popular Islamic evolution for a future state.

India and America believe that Islam Breeds Terrorism and freedom fighters in Kashmir, the Middle East and elsewhere are seen as terrorists.

The nation will mourn the loss of time and opportunities for change only after General Musharaf is either replaced, killed or exiled.

American Zionists planned the war against Iraq, made the Arab leadership fearful more of Commander Bush than All-Powerful God. Educated Arabs begged their leaders to speak out, challenging the western nuance of Islamic Terrorism and its linkage to the occupied Arab heartland, Iraq.

Those are familiar extremist views. But familiarity can breed contempt, and many muslims believe that if they complain about America, they are automatically labelled.

Religion is in charge

To Khawaja, there is no conflict between supporting a theocratic government and free elections he supports democratic reform in another article and rails against the use of military power to run a country. You can, he proposes, have your faith and voting, too. Its just that ultimately, its religion that is in charge.

I do not believe that terrorists represent Muslims or Islam when they commit these acts, and none of them claim to be representing Islam, says Khawaja.

Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi says Khawajas perspective is common. A former professor of Sharia law at King Faud University in Saudi Arabia, where Salafism is the state religion, Nadvi is imam of a mosque in Oakville, Ont.

I can explain in my own way that these are two different things we are talking about, he says. One is that some Muslim countries are actively doing resistance against people in their own lands. This is one issue.

But to expand this resistance outside those lands is a different thing.

This kind of action, this feeling, does not exist properly within jihad.

If I see what the majority of intellectuals think about this issue, they feel the efforts are now going into creating divisions between the Christian and Muslim worlds and there are many factors contributing to that division.

The rich irony, notes Internet terror expert Evan Kohlmann, is that the people who flock to support jihad as an offensive tactic are looking for easy answers, as were Germans who flocked to support national socialism during the 1920s and 1930s even though Maududi and Qutb both preached against nationalism, fascism, feminism and capitalism.

But both advocated all-or-nothing dogma, attracting the kind of supporters wholl kill innocent civilians just to make a point, like any good Nazi mightve done.

Social disconnection also helps to explain why small terrorist cells began appearing in Europe 40 years ago, but are only just now becoming known in North America.

Social dimension

The patterns of immigration are different, says Roy. In Europe, we have an overlap between immigration and social exclusion. In America, immigrants are part of a bigger picture and are not lower class and underclass. So there is a social dimension in the radicalization.

That social dimension is rearing its head in Canada due to two factors: public divisions between Muslims and the rest of society and, far more importantly, the disparity between the standard of living of long-time residents and recent refugees who, unlike legal immigrants, have plenty of trouble finding work and putting violent pasts behind them.

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