Fighting Terrorism by Preventing Domestic Radicalization

When al-Qaeda, or what it’s become, is publishing propaganda and chillingly accurate instructions to incite radicalized or radically-prone young Muslims living in the West to “build bombs in your mother’s kitchen”, 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.

This reality of the threat from within has been the subject of largely ignored warnings from before and after 9-11 which were relegated to the back burner following those international network-driven attacks. And while there has been unquestionable success in suppressing the capabilities of international Islamist networks, that does not mean the threat itself has gone away – nor even diminished – and that means our approach must also evolve.

First and foremost, it’s time for a reminder that the threat comes from those 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 that oppose or resist this is not only permissible but obligatory.

We must never lose sight of this basic truth because terrorism is the attack dog of extremist Islam and, while it takes many shapes and targets, its motivation remains constant.

Second, it is long overdue that, uncomfortable or not, this motivation must be candidly acknowledged by both our official entities and the larger Muslim community which wants nothing to do with these radical views and who rejects Islamist 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 the RCMP twisting 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” that involves different operational strategies. This includes a full spectrum of actors from the Taliban savagery wrought on its own people to al-Qaeda terrorism against Muslims and the West alike, to Salafist and Wahabbi funding of extremist Islamic ideology in the West in the name of ‘religion’, to 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 95% of 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 (www.investigativeproject.org/case/65) or the compelling 2011 book, “The Grand Jihad” by Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the Blind Sheikh for the first World Trade Centre 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 that was 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 quotes, by the way, are from intercepted conversations of persons that 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.”

Most important of all as we enter this new phase of working to prevent the Islamist radicalization that leads to domestic terrorism, this MB network of groups was shown in the HLF prosecution to have demonstrably embraced that ‘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 confessed and been convicted of having been involved in planning intended terrorist acts of mass casualty violence within Canada. These include the 2006 Toronto 18 cases, the 2010 Ottawa plot, the VIA rail plot, and most recently the Canada Day plot in Victoria. In addition to this, there have been several incidents of radicalized young Muslim males, again including converts, who are alleged to have travelled overseas or had been planning to do so to commit terrorist acts of violence motivated by their extrem- ist Islamist beliefs.

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. This chilling reality 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.

While there has been significant work done on analysing the general psychological profile of persons vulnerable to such radicalization, very little 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 #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. The clear reality of the threat from Islamist radicalization is such, however, that looking the other way is no longer an acceptable option.

In some ways, the strategy to combat domestic radicalization issue is similar to other specialized crime issues like dealing with street gangs. Proactively working with 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 Islamist radicalization in Canada.

What’s needed is recognition of the reality of the threat of Islamist radicalization in Canada and the design and implementation of tangible and constitutionally permissible measures to confront and 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 is applicable to any religious group who are 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, domestic radicalization and the supportive Muslim Brotherhood 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 funding of mosques, 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 similar 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 to the Islamic community. This is a critical component of preventing radicalization, but it must be conducted on an informed basis so the persons included are not pursuing an agenda at odds with those seeking the outreach, such as has demonstrably occurred in the U.S. and UK. This involves conducting sufficient background analysis to ensure that liaison is 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.
  5. Promote integration and note segregation efforts. Successful integration into Canada’s multi-cultural 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. If an organization can be shown to be using its facilities for the promotion of anti-social values such as gender inequality, homophobia or eradication of free speech and secular democracy, the potential exists to use local government regulations that have ‘public interest’ requirements to prevent building permit re-issuance or expansion etc... 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 IRPA and Citizenship Act. These statutes could be amended to render inadmissible non-citizens or persons with acquired citizenship (through revocation) who 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.
  8. Proactive Cyber efforts regarding recruitment/radicalization sites. Self radicalization aided by jihadi websites is a reality that is facing intelligence and law enforcement personnel. While monitoring such sites to stay on top of what’s being promoted and who is visiting it is obviously a useful tactic, at some point deploying a proactive offensive cyber attack strategy to ‘melt down’ the bad guys’ servers and websites is also worth considering.
  9. Use existing legal preventive tools. There are a number of existing legal tools which are focused on prevention, rather than after-the-fact prosecution, which have the potential to prevent already radicalized persons from being able to spread their beliefs to vulnerable persons. These include supervision orders (with electronic monitoring) pursuant to section 810.01 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.
  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 Asqa 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, Somalia or Afghanistan, the rest of us have a right to notice.
  12. Support emigration for those seeking to live under shari’a law. To date, the political leadership of Canada has not unequivocally stated that shari’a law will not be invoked or allowed in Canada, despite the obvious reality that it won’t. Implementing the counter radicalization measures proposed will clearly create some discomfort for persons who are so inclined but, as always, telling people the truth is good policy. Accordingly, it may be possible to negotiate agreements with countries that have an Islamic culture and gover- nance so as to facilitate emigration of persons from Canada who prefer to live in that environment.

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 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, it is recommended that it be confronted – beginning 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 themselves and their families.

It is clearly a difficult challenge, but one that must be undertaken, and one which I am confident we can meet – if truth and candour are our guides. To paraphrase a previous commentator... “If not us then who... and if not now, then when?”

The reality of domestic radicalization also creates a new scenario of terrorism threats within Canada and thus a need to consider refined domestic counter terrorism initiatives and priorities. The following actions merit consideration:
  1. Deploy a modern face recognition biometrics and Global Name Recognition lookout system that includes international participation.
  2. Maximize the use of international the ‘No Fly’ List.
  3. Deploy fully integrated (lookout) screening at critical infrastructure, for employees and for site access.
  4. Deploy specialized mass population venue security measures.
  5. Create an Office of the National Security Coordinator, to ensure accountability.
  6. Deploy automated analytical border surveillance with mobile interdiction teams that include the CBSA and local police.
  7. Expand safe third country agreements to prevent “asylum shopping”.
  8. Modernize security inadmissibility/removal processes under IRPA to replace the security certificate process with expedited removal on defined grounds, but with full disclosure sufficient to support an inadmissibility claim.

Scott Newark is Associate Editor of FrontLine Security magazine.
© FrontLine Security 2013