Security expert Scott Newark writes that Canadians and their leaders must accept that there is a serious threat from radical Islam in this country, and take significant steps to counter radicalization and potential acts of terror.
By Scott Newark, July 31, 2015
It’s time to confront the reality that a new front on the Islamist war has opened up and it’s in our own backyard. It is all too easy for al Qaeda, or ISIS, or whatever new Islamist group, to publish propaganda to incite radicalized or radically prone young Muslims living in the West, and to hand them chillingly accurate information to “build bombs in your mother’s kitchen”. They are recruited to kill soldiers, police and civilians in their own countries. And while there has been some success in suppressing the capabilities of international Islamist networks, it is clear that, in Canada and the West, the threat itself has not gone away or even been diminished. And that in turn means our approach must also evolve.
First and foremost, it’s time for a reminder that this threat comes from people and groups who have an extremist and unyielding belief that their version of Islam calls for the submission of the world to its dictates, and that killing those who oppose or resist this is not only permissible but obligatory. We must never lose sight of this basic truth because this variety of terrorism is the attack dog of extremist Islam and, while it takes many shapes and has many targets, its motivation remains constant.
Second, it is long overdue that, uncomfortable or not, this “religious” motivation is candidly acknowledged by our official entities and the larger Muslim community within Western societies who want nothing to do with it and who reject its goals. For them, Islam may be a religion of peace that forbids killing of innocent civilians, but for others, their version of Islam commands it. There are clearly different conclusions being reached but the good guys and the bad guys are reading from the same book, and acknowledging this is essential if we’re going to be successful in this struggle. Candour, however uncomfortable, is a better long-term strategy than forcing the RCMP to twist itself into pretzels at each new incident to avoid offending anyone.
The final reality that needs facing is that for those that would do us harm, there is a long-term goal of establishing a “global Caliphate”, which involves different operational strategies. This includes the savagery that the Taliban and ISIS have wrought on their own people, al Qaeda terrorism against Muslims and the West alike, Salafist and Wahabbi funding of extremist Islamic ideology in the West in the name of “religion”, and the overt Islamist political efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), where democracy is but a means to their ultimate end which is Islamist rule.
For Western countries like Canada and the U.S, the Muslim Brotherhood has cleverly chosen a more opaque course through a shadowy network of benignly named groups that are actually dedicated to not only preventing Muslim integration into secular, liberty based, Western societies (which is what most Muslims left their home countries to achieve) but also to subvert Western societies from within. Lest there be anyone out there who still doubts the existence and clear purpose of this long-term strategy, let me suggest you read the judgment and supporting evidence in the US v. Holy Land Foundation case or the compelling 2011 book, The Grand Jihad by Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, for the first World Trade Center bombing. You’ll find it in the non-fiction section of your local bookstore.
Although the Holy Land Foundation prosecution was specifically focused on a phoney charity illegally raising and transferring money to Hamas, the evidence exposed intricate details and recorded conversations and documents from a purposely constructed network of organizations with the ultimate goal of “destroying from within and sabotaging this miserable house” that is, for them, Western society. Those are quotes from intercepted conversations of persons who went on to lead various MB linked Islamic groups which remain active in the U.S. and Canada. One other quote worth keeping in mind is the official motto of the Muslim Brotherhood which says it all:
"God is our goal, Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death in the service of God is the loftiest of our wishes."
As we enter this new phase of working to prevent the Islamist radicalization that leads to domestic terrorism, it is also important to understand that for the Muslim Brotherhood network of groups, “war is deception” and that lying to the kuffar (non believers) is fully authorized by the Quran itself through the doctrine known as taqiyya.
Since 2006, Canada has experienced multiple incidents where radicalized young Muslims, including converts to Islam, are alleged to, and in some cases had confessed and been convicted of, having been involved in planning terrorist acts of mass casualty violence which were intended within Canada. These include the 2006 Toronto 18 cases, the 2010 Ottawa plot, the VIA rail plot and the Canada Day plot in Victoria, and more. Tragically, to this litany of prevented attacks we must now add the recent premeditated murders of two Canadian soldiers by Islamist inspired terrorists.
What’s more, since the most recent terrorist killings in Quebec and Ottawa, we have learned from CSIS testimony before the Senate National Security Committee that more than 100 radicalized Canadians are believed to be abroad engaged in violent jihad and that in addition to that, approximately 80 persons who have been assisting Islamist terrorist groups in one way or another have actually returned to Canada and are here now.
While some cases have involved persons who appear to have received training abroad, the common theme in all these cases is that the radicalization that motivated these dangerous actions took place in Canada. That’s a chilling reality that must no longer be ignored and that includes determining how it took place and who was involved. That hard truth was summed up by a parent of one of the young Toronto 18 would be terrorists when he warned, “They’re stealing our kids.” It’s time we started focusing on who “they” are.
The federal government’s recently passed counterterrorism legislation, Bill C-51 was largely, and appropriately, focused on measures to detect and interdict persons who have already become radicalized, but it also includes new tools which may be useful in preventing the radicalization itself. Specifically, the information-sharing authorizations for Canadian authorities included in Part 1 of the bill. These are discretionary and not mandatory, and do not reduce any authority of the Privacy Commissioner as some have claimed, and may be of assistance in identifying persons or groups involved in radicalization. Most important, the Part 3 amendments to the Criminal Code, which now permit court-authorized seizure and Internet take down of terrorism propaganda, may be a significant tool to disrupt ongoing radicalization. Time will tell if the new authority is used that way as a preventive tool.
Also of relevance is the recently released interim report from the Senate National Security Committee on Countering the Terrorist Threat in Canada. The Senate committee wisely chose to focus on the issue of how radicalization is occurring in Canada and measures that can be taken to detect and prevent it. The committee heard blunt and informed evidence from multiple witnesses who reinforced the importance of better informed “outreach” by law enforcement, and proactive steps to ensure awareness of who is promoting what at mosques, learning centres and other Islamic organizations in Canada, as well as where their money is actually coming from.
These kinds of strategic actions are more important than some of the interim recommendations which have received public attention such as “certifying” imams, removing Crown approval requirements for police seeking terrorism prevention recognizances, criminalizing “membership” in a terrorist group, and publicizing lists of inadmissible “radicals”. Although well meaning, these recommendations are a distraction from the larger goals of the report which include identifying and taking action against the various means of Islamist radicalization in Canada.
While there has been significant work done on analysing the general psychological profile of persons vulnerable to such radicalization, very few concrete measures have been taken to identify and then proactively target the means by which such radicalization occurs. Inasmuch as the base motivation is linked to a “religion”, which itself is predominate within various visible minority communities, this kind of proactive approach no doubt causes anxiety in bureaucracies where risk avoidance is Rule No. 1.
No one understands this more than the bad guys who perceive and consciously use our society’s cherished civil protections as a weakness to be exploited, including claiming “Islamophobia” as a sword to prevent scrutiny of their behaviour. This also includes trying to paint actions taken by Western societies, including in countering radicalization, as simply another attack on Islam and Muslims generally. This is intended to reinforce the “us versus the non-believer world” philosophy which is at the core of the Caliphate message. These facts create enormous challenges, but the clear reality of the threat from Islamist radicalization is such that looking the other way is no longer an acceptable option.
In some ways, the strategy to combat domestic radicalization issues is similar to other specialized crime issues such as dealing with street gangs. Proactively working with appropriate members of local communities and taking informed measures to resist and prevent gang recruitment, while actively helping people leave the gang culture, has had some success and it may well serve as a template to prevent and reverse Islamist radicalization in Canada.
What’s needed is recognition of the reality of the threat of Islamist radicalization in Canada, and taking tangible and constitutionally permissible measures to deal with it effectively. At the same time, an upgraded series of proactive counter-terrorism measures to deal with the new iteration of Islamist terrorism is also advisable.
It should also be stated that what is proposed here is applicable to any religious group that is motivated by what they view as “religious duty” to cause death and destruction and the subversion of our Canadian society. The cold hard truth is, however, that there is only one such group with such an agenda today, but that must not be allowed to prevent us from taking action. What follows, therefore, are specific action item suggestions to confront and defeat this newest security threat.
1/ Ensure there is a clear and official awareness of the threat of extremist Islamism and domestic radicalization, and an understanding of the supportive Muslim Brotherhood’s long-term goals, including in Canada.
2/ Identify all Muslim Brotherhood links in Islamic groups including mosques and Islamic learning centres.
3/ Identify all Wahabbi/Saudi/Salafist linked funding of mosques and learning centres and Islamic organizations in Canada.
This issue was the subject of reporting by CTV News and the Globe and Mail a number of years ago following like reporting in the United States. Given the charitable or non-profit status of such organizations, the required information should be available, although sorting through it and conducting link analysis to get an accurate picture will almost certainly be required.
4/ Improve “community outreach” efforts
Outreach to the Islamic community is a critical component of preventing radicalization, but it must be conducted on an informed basis so that the persons included are not pursuing a contrary agenda. This has demonstrably occurred in the U.S. and U.K. Authorities engaging in outreach activities must conduct sufficient background analysis to ensure that liaisons are established with persons genuinely seeking to prevent Islamist radicalization rather than with self-appointed “leaders” of the community whose views (public and private) are not representative of the communities they claim to represent.
The recent RCMP outreach debacle where they were forced to withdraw their endorsement of a counter-radicalization document, authored in part by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, because of its content, demonstrates that the appropriate outreach metric of success is actually preventing and identifying radicalization, not some bureaucratic check list of “meetings held”.
5/ Promote integration and identify segregation efforts
Successful integration into Canadian multicultural society is likely the best protection against radicalization, and thus efforts to promote it should be recognized and supported. Conversely, deliberate efforts by mosques, learning centres or Islamic organizations to promote segregation of Muslims away from the larger Canadian community should be recognized as cause for concern.
6/ Use civil regulatory tools
Use the full spectrum of civil regulatory tools to try and prevent publicly regulated facilities from being used to promote radicalization and terrorist recruitment or the promotion of eradication of free speech and secular democracy, or female subjugation, all of which are contrary to Charter-enshrined Canadian values. This strategy of “using all the tools in the toolbox” will be controversial but will also likely expose such anti-social practices to the light of day, which is a good thing.
7/ Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Citizenship Act
These statutes could be amended to modernize inadmissibility criteria to persons who actively advocate or promote cultural, religious or racial intolerance, gender inequality or the elimination of any of secular democracy, individual liberty or the rule of secular law for persons within Canada. It’s time we recognize that we do have a culture in Canada and it’s worth protecting and preserving. This could also be added as a ground for acquired citizenship revocation for persons who continue to engage in such conduct even after the law is changed to expressly create a consequence for doing so.
8/ Proactive cyber efforts against recruitment/radicalization sites
Self-radicalization, aided by jihadi websites, is a reality facing intelligence and law enforcement personnel. While monitoring such sites to stay on top of what’s being promoted and who’s visiting them is obviously a useful tactic, at some point the harm in allowing the glorification and recruitment outweighs the benefit of monitoring this activity. Deploying a proactive offensive cyber attack strategy to melt down the bad guys’ servers and websites is worth considering. The recent amendments in C-51 may prove to be an important step forward in this regard, especially if the authority is extended to social media applications which are demonstrably a key part of radicalization, recruitment and terrorism facilitation.
9/ Use existing legal preventive tools
There are a number of existing legal tools which are focused on prevention of terrorism, rather than “after the fact prosecution”, which could help prevent already radicalized persons from spreading their beliefs to vulnerable persons. These include supervision orders (with electronic monitoring) pursuant to s. 810.01 or s. 83.3 of the Criminal Code and the “Passenger Protect” database, whereby persons can be denied access to airplanes based on their perceived security risk. In the context, for example, of persons who have been fighting for al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, this could mean a dramatically reduced ability to return to Canada, and effective supervision, with penal consequences for any breach, for persons that do return. The RCMP should also bluntly be asked to explain why this existing tool has not been used as it could have been in cases such as those of Martin Rouleau, Farah Shirdon, Damian Clairmont, Hasibullah Yusufzai or Ali Mohammed Dirie, or the returning jihadis now back in Canada. Amendments to s. 810.01 should also be considered to stipulate that a finding of attempting to or participating in terrorist activity abroad presumptively establishes the grounds for the order. Once again, the changes in C-51 are a step in the right direction.
10/ Protect children from radicalization by their parents
Children living in Canada should receive the full benefit of our laws that are explicitly designed to protect them from harm, including anti-social indoctrination or abuse from their parents in the name of extremist Islam. This is not an academic situation as the experiences of the Khadr family and the fate of the murdered Aqsa Parvez and the Shafia sisters demonstrate. Surely, as residents of Canada they deserved better and we are obliged to ensure that such abuse does not continue because of some politically correct aversion to confronting the truth.
11/ Track visits to defined countries of interest
Canada has now begun a process whereby destination information on persons leaving Canada can be tracked and analysed for defined purposes. One such purpose could be to monitor persons visiting defined “countries of interest” with respect to Islamist indoctrination and training which are clearly relevant to the potential of radicalization in Canada. While persons may have a right to visit Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan, the rest of us have a right to notice.
Develop and implement a “deradicalization” strategy to attempt to remove the motivation of would be jihadis in Canada and those who return from abroad after being radicalized. Such a strategy will inherently involve members of the Muslim religious community who can demonstrate in relevant terms how their religion has been perverted for Islamist political purposes. This will not be easy, but like rehabilitation efforts in our justice system it is a necessary component to a public safety strategy. Deterrence and “punishment” are not enough.
The reality of domestic radicalization and terrorism means that we must be increasingly prepared for terrorism threats from within Canada. We need to consider refined domestic counterterrorism initiatives and priorities. The following actions should be considered:
1/ Deploy a modernized face recognition biometrics and a Global Name Recognition national security “bad guy” database and lookout system at ports of entry, and before departure for persons departing for Canada under the Advanced Information Passenger Program that includes international participation to detect and interdict departing and returning jihadis.
2/ Maximize the use of the international “No Fly” list with appropriate notification to those listed and a right for them to challenge such a designation.
3/ Deploy specialized domain awareness technologies and targeted lookout screening at critical infrastructure facilities such as power plants and seaports for employees and for those seeking site access.
4/ Deploy specialized Mass Population Venue security measures such as targeted screening and on site surveillance for people identified as security threats with enhanced inter agency communications to help secure against terrorist attacks where large populations gather.
5/ Create an Office of the National Security Co-ordinator to ensure inter-agency co-ordination and independent operational oversight, and after the fact accountability.
This oversight body would cover the RCMP, CSIS, CBSA, CSE, local police and potentially other agencies. It would be similar to the existing Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) model but with someone independent of the partner agencies to make sure that intended commitments, information sharing and operational co-ordination are achieved. This is similar to what Justice John Major suggested in the Air India inquiry, which the federal government has not acted on to date.
6/ Deploy automated analytical Canada-US border surveillance with Mobile Interdiction Teams that include Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and local police as well as US authorities.
7/ Expand and improve Safe Third Country Agreements to prevent “asylum shopping”
This would prevent persons from entering Canada from an already safe jurisdiction (the U.S., France, etc.) to make a refugee claim simply because they prefer to live in Canada or because they perceive Canada to be an easier place to gain refugee status.
8/ Expand the authority of CBSA to deny entry to persons determined to be inadmissible on security and criminality grounds, with any appeal taken from outside Canada rather than from within.
9/ Develop and deploy targeted cyber security systems, with mandatory breach reporting for critical infrastructure operators and personal information holders as well as Government and security-relevant industries.
Like other Western countries, Canada is facing an unprecedented threat to domestic security through the radicalization of persons to a nihilistic Islamist ideology, where death is a preferred tactic to discussion. While there is legitimate room for debating the extent and thus severity of the threat, there can be no doubt of its unprecedented nature and its growing presence.
The suggestions offered here will legitimately generate controversy precisely because they go to the core of the threat, which is violence predicated on religious beliefs. Rather than shy away from that controversy, we must confront it. This should begin with candid consultations with individual Muslims and Muslim organizations in Canada that want no part of this radicalized political Islamist agenda, and who look to Canada for a tolerant multicultural society which ensures better lives for them and their families.
It is clearly a difficult challenge but one that must be undertaken with truth and candour as our guides. As the expression goes: If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?
Scott Newark’s 30-year criminal justice career began as an Alberta Crown Prosecutor, with subsequent roles as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair and Special Counsel for the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations for the DC based Investigative Project on Terrorism, and as a security and policy advisor to both the Ontario and federal Ministers of Public Safety. This article contains updated materials from the author’s previous columns which have appeared in Front Line Security magazine.