From The National Post
Canadian Muslim leaders shocked at Ottawa arrests
Megan O’Toole, National Post · Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010
Canadian Muslim leaders were variously stunned, outraged and wary at news from Ottawa on Wednesday that the RCMP had broken up an alleged terrorism cell with suspected links to al-Qaeda.
Few details were released about the people rounded up in the bust, but they are suspected of planning a terrorist attack in the country, and authorities anticipate more arrests.
“It’s sad to hear such news. It’s disturbing,” said Imam Habeeb Alli, secretary of the Canadian Council of Imams. “It’s very disturbing, and I hope the proper wheels of justice will be set in motion to ensure we get to the bottom of the story.”
The Muslim Canadian Congress expressed “shock” at the developments, but also commended RCMP for the operation.
“Thank God these men were stopped before they could carry out their alleged plot,” said vice-president Salma Siddiqui.
The organization warned, however, that until Canada’s Muslim leadership unequivocally denounces the doctrine of armed jihad, Wednesday’s terrorism arrests will not be the last. Radical figures are becoming “heroes,” Ms. Siddiqui said, and leaders in the Muslim community have a duty to diminish them.
“It’s more of an anger and a frustration,” she said of her reaction to Wednesday’s arrests, “because it shouldn’t happen. This has got to stop.”
The Ottawa case is considered the most significant counterterrorism operation in Canada since the 2006 Toronto 18 arrests, which saw a group of young men rounded up for plotting to storm Parliament and decimate blocks of downtown Toronto with powerful truck bombs.
When the Toronto 18 sweep first grabbed headlines four years ago, it was greeted with a combination of outrage and denial, with some members of the Muslim community viewing the suspects as wrongfully persecuted heroes, and others taking the opportunity to warn of the rising threat of homegrown terrorism.
The ringleader in the Ottawa case allegedly attended training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan; similarly, in the Toronto 18 case, ringleader Fahim Ahmad was linked with a network of extremists stretching from Canada and the United States to Pakistan and the Balkans.
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said yesterday’s arrests felt like “deja vu,” and blasted mosque leadership for failing to recognize the legitimate threat of homegrown extremism, even after a series of convictions in the Toronto 18 case. The mosque establishment, Mr. Fatah suggested, “keeps on saying that everything is safe, but it isn’t.”
Mr. Alli says Islamic leaders are constantly concerned about the threat of radicalization, and work to engage youths “in a constructive way.” But Scarborough imam Aly Hindy — who still believes too many people were rounded up the Toronto 18 case, and most meant no harm to Canadians — derides the “so-called war against terrorism,” suggesting the threat is largely exaggerated.
“We don’t have this feeling of any danger. We feel very safe,” he said.
Some said Wednesday’s arrests, though they came without warning, were actually no surprise — including Mubin Shaikh, the police agent who helped to dismantle the Toronto 18 cell and is now studying counterterrorism through a school in Australia.
“The trajectory toward radicalization is on an incline. It’s just going to get worse,” he said, calling for more government funds to address the issue. “There is no political will to engage the communities with any meaningful counter-radicalization program, and in the absence of such, these kinds of arrests will be inevitable.
“And these are just the people getting caught,” Mr. Shaikh added. “They’ll get smarter.”