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Toronto 18 informant: ‘We need to get our act together’

Mubin Shaikh, the informant who foiled the Toronto 18 terrorism plot, on the need to act on Islamic self-radicalization


 
Paid RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh in 2009. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)

Paid RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh in 2009. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)

That a shooter got past security at the Centre Block of Parliament, sending MPs and staff scuttling for their lives, came as a shock to Mubin Shaikh, the police informant who infiltrated the so-called Toronto 18 back in 2005.

That a Muslim raised in Canada might launch such a suicide mission didn’t surprise him one bit.

“I know how these people think and how they operate,” he says. “Yes, I’m shocked that they got past security. But this just shows us that we need to get our act together. We have all these discussions about this issue as if we’re inside a bubble. As public safety policy, it’s just disastrous.”

Shaikh says Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies have consulted him repeatedly in recent months, as the pattern of self-radicalization he witnessed nine years ago repeats itself among young Muslim Canadians—many spurred on this time by the militant group Islamic State. Governments are now scrambling, he says, to catch up to the new paradigm, where Canadian youths sign up to fight in Islamic State’s wars abroad. “From what we’ve just seen,” Shaikh adds, “it might be too late.”

Shaikh, a former Islamic activist, was invited to join the al Qaeda-inspired plot of the Toronto 18 after several members came to him to learn more about Canada’s security certificate program. He turned informant shortly thereafter, allowing police to follow the scheme from the inside until the day they broke it up in a series of raids.

Related:
How the terror unfolded in Ottawa
Remembering Cpl. Nathan Cirillo
Ottawa shooting: In the shadow of the Toronto 18
Interactive timeline: What happened in Ottawa

He had thought the Toronto 18 case would prove a turning point that would halt the drift of young men toward extreme Islamist ideology. That was before Islamic State formed in Iraq and Syria, restarting a drift of Canadian-born youths toward its extreme ideology and what is now referred to as the “foreign-fighter” phenomenon. On Wednesday, it emerged that the gunman shot to death in the corridors of Parliament, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had had his passport seized to prevent him from going overseas to wage jihad. Martin Couture-Rouleau, the man who killed a soldier in a Monday hit-and-run that took the life of a soldier in St-Jean-sur-Richilieu, Que., reportedly had his passport seized for similar reasons.

In light of these attacks, Shaikh believes Canada must take more concrete steps against those espousing extremist doctrine—especially when authorities know the individuals plan to wage jihad.

“If somebody goes on Facebook and posts, ‘I’m going to Syria to fight in jihad,’ then we’re going have a discussion over whether this qualifies as evidence. I think, yeah [it does]. Should we wait to arrest somebody? Or release him to go and do something like what we’ve just seen? I mean, come on.

“This is what pisses me off,” Shaikh goes on. “I’ve been going to governments telling them we need something, on-the-ground counter-radicalization programs, something. Instead, they’re giving money for academic research on what causes radicalization. I mean, we’re eight years after the Toronto 18, 13 years after 9/11 and we’re just starting to look into what causes this? While all this other s–t is going on?”

Shaikh says he’s recently discussed self-radicalization with members of the U.S. Counter-violent Extremism (CVE) initiative, advising them where to find converts both on the web, and in person. He makes little distinction between the new generation of jihadists and those he informed on—at least when it comes to background and ideology: “Young, impressionable, alienated—or so they claim. Ignorant of the religion. It’s almost like a cult mentality, with virulent anti-Western sentiment, to the point that they’re cheering online when a Canadian gets killed.”

(On the question of religious ignorance, many Muslim leaders agree: “These acts of terror have no basis in any religion,” leaders of the religious revival movement Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada said in a statement Wednesday night. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the deceased and we offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the soldier who gave his life in today’s attacks in Ottawa as well as the soldier who was killed earlier in the week in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu”).

The real difference, says Shaikh, lies in their methods. The new self-starters have abandoned the grand spectacle, à la Sept. 11, 2001, in favour of smaller attacks on symbolic targets that are harder to prevent. “They’ve realized, hey, if our intent is to scare the s–t out of people—to trigger heavy-handed responses by government, to force isolation of the Muslim community, pushing them to more radicalization—what do you have to do? Take two guys into a mall, shoot it up, and you’re done. You’ll be out of there in 15 minutes, and we’ll be talking about it for days and weeks and months.”


 

Toronto 18 informant: ‘We need to get our act together’

  1. What this guy is talking about is preventative detention – which it might come to if it gets much worse, and it becomes clear these threats are all home grown. But the way he talks he just doesn’t understand the law; like it or not, it isn’t a crime merely to think radical thoughts. It’s a bit like arguing the way to stop shop lifting is to go arrest them if they talk about it in online chat rooms. Maybe so, but apart from raising all kinds of red flags – good luck getting a conviction. And surely we aren’t going to contemplate the Guantanimo model!

    • There are provisions in law already to deal with these types of special situations. They require security certificates and hearings before special courts. Any new laws would simply build on the existing framework that has been brought in since 9/11. The Supreme Court has already upheld those provisions, with some caveats.

      • PD is allowed for in that frame work then i suppose?

        • If by ‘PD’ you mean ‘public defender’, then yes, that is already in place.

          • No, meant preventative detention; I think it is on the books? But now i’m not sure the measures you suggest apply; there is no secret intelligence, or sources to protect; so far this is home grown. This seems to boil down to a mentally deranged person who is most likely self radicalized. We need to stop this dead, and it will be difficult. But it is a very different types of pseudo – terrorism that does not justify changing our country forever, as some in the media irresponsibly regurgitate.[cbc worst of all]

          • Oh my mistake. There is a provision for detention as well, but it has never been used. The burden of proof is such that you may as well charge the guy and bring him to trial.

  2. comparing the continual and sensless murder of innocent people to just “shop lifting” stuff is not even in the same universe.
    Our present freedoms for Canadians is not perfect, but yet, imagine trading in that,
    for nothing more that a paranoid closed-border gun-weilding police-state ! – who would the “radicals” be then ?!-which we must never let happen to Canada.
    Law and freedoms go hand in hand, they protect each other, without one, there is no other, and that would be the end of us.

    Mubin Shaikh is right, maybe it is too late. The radicalized-Islamist cells have simply morphed into any number of much smaller and smaller suicidal splinter-cells, even “lone” ones, invisible until it’s too late.

    Even if we round up the ones that the RCMP, CSIS, …, already know about and deport them everyday, dropping them off where they want to go in syria, or iraq, never to be allowed back in Canada again, that won’t stop the radicalization of newer, or other Canadian born extremists.

    Anti-radicalization programs, with the support of all Canadian Muslims, with knowledge, understanding, caring, and vigilance, is more than just a start, it’s hope the right way.

    We survived the FLQ, and we will survive this too, somehow.

    • We didn’t “survive” the FLQ, we crushed them. Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act and ran rough-shod over basic human rights for months. One can quibble about the tactic, but it absolutely worked. He used a sledgehammer to swat a fly, and the flies bothered us no more.

      In any case, nobody is talking about invoking the WMA now. Whatever action taken will be far less drastic and far more targeted.

      • Good because there is no WMA anymore. It’s also important to remember Trudeau did nothing illegal.
        The only concern i have about the more targeted present system is that so much of it is secret; not that is illegal either. But i still don’t like i personally.

    • I didn’t make a direct comparison, not even close.

  3. Rickster69 writes that we survived the FLQ, and will survive this. I agree. But he shouldn’t forget how we snuffed out the FLQ.

    Totally agree with Mr. Mubin Shaikh. This is not Canada’s first experience with homegrown terrorism and we know what needs to be done, and yes it’s not for bleeding hearts. The legal framework is on the books. Prosecutors should be receptive to information provided to them. Certainly there was enough information on Zehaf-Bibeau to warrant detention. Prosecutors should more concerned about preventing the death of innocent Canadians then about possible charter right infringements.

    • It is remarkable how people forget how we dealt with the FLQ isn’t it?

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