June 22, 2006
We have heard many times that the vast majority of Muslims in the West are decent, law-abiding citizens who do not engage in jihad terrorism. That is manifestly true: most Muslims in the West are not engaging in terrorist activity. Many no doubt have no intention of ever doing so. But the recent arrests in Canada have raised questions about to what extent Muslims in Canada and other Western countries who are not engaging in terrorist plotting actually disapprove of such plotting – and how many passively allow it to continue under their noses either out of fear or because the ideological kinship between them and the plotters is closer than most Western authorities would like to believe.
In a meeting with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police just after the arrests, one Canadian Muslim leader asked Canadian officials why they hadn’t informed Muslim leaders about the plot, so that those leaders could have stopped it.
But there is mounting evidence that many Canadian Muslims did know – and yet did nothing to notify Canadian authorities of the plot. The Toronto Star reports that another suspect, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, actively spread the jihad ideology at the Ar-Rahman Islamic Center for Islamic Education in southern Ontario. Indeed, his “outspoken Wahhabist views” had “alarmed” some of the directors of the Islamic center. But by the account of mosque officials, because Jamal unlocked the mosque for daily prayers and they valued his services as a caretaker, they did nothing to stop his preaching. The Washington Post reports unironically: “He cleaned the rugs and took out the trash at the mosque. For those services, the directors tolerated his vitriolic speeches that portrayed Muslims as oppressed by the West, according to people familiar with the mosque.” No mainstream media outlet seems to have asked Ar-Rahman Islamic Center officials why they thought taking out the trash was a sufficient counterbalance to preaching hatred and violence. Sidestepping the fact that Jamal had been allowed to preach freely, Center Imam Qamrul Khanson said of those arrested: “I will say that they were steadfast, religious people. There’s no doubt about it. But here we always preach peace and moderation.”
Yet another imam in Toronto, Sayyid Ahmed Amiruddin, noted that three of the plotters, Saad Khalid, Zakaria Amara and Fahim Ahmad, “would enter into the mosque to pray, and they would pray in a very aggressive manner, and they would come in military fatigues and military touques and stuff. It looked to me that they were watching a lot of those Chechnyan jihad videos online and stuff.” Amiruddin said that they were influenced by jihadist material from Saudi Arabia, including Qur’ans with inflammatory explanatory notes: “In the back of these Qur'ans that are being published in Saudi Arabia, you have basically essays on the need for offensive jihad and the legitimacy of offensive jihad and things like that. Very alarming stuff."
According to the CBC, “Amiruddin said many mainstream Muslim organizations in Canada are really part of the problem, standing by as extremist propaganda spreads in the mosques.” But while Amiruddin points out that these young men would attempt to win others over to their point of view, he says nothing about having done anything to stop them, or about resisting jihadist recruitment in general -- much less working with authorities to help them apprehend jihadists.
Also according to the Star, some of the plotters belonged to a school Muslim association in which they “discussed at an association gathering whether suicide bombing was permissible in Islam. Their views were so violent that the other association members threatened to have them banned.” But they apparently did not actually have them banned, or alert anyone to their violent views.
Likewise another Toronto Muslim, Mohammed Robert Heft. Heft said that one of the plotters, Fahim Ahmad, “believed the 19 people involved in the World Trade Center bombings were martyrs and he was handing out DVDs openly of wills and testimonies of those 19 people suggesting what they did was right.” According to the CBC, Heft asserted that “a lot of young Muslims are angry and extremism is prevalent in the Toronto area.” Heft claimed that he was dedicated to combating this “extremism”: “For the last two years I’ve been involved in this mentality. I was dealing with it on a grassroots level. All it takes is a little education and sorting out who to take religion from.” Yet he too apparently did nothing to alert Canadian authorities to Ahmad’s views.
And after all this, Canadian Muslim leaders complain that authorities did not go to them.
Canadian authorities, and officials in all Western countries, have been supine in the face of all this kind of thing for far too long. The jihad arrests in Canada should focus scrutiny not on the alleged misbehavior of Canadian law enforcement officials, but on the Muslim communities tolerance of the jihadist evil they profess to abhor. Law enforcement authorities in the West should call Muslim communities in their countries to account on this, and quickly -- or risk the successful execution of a jihad plot planned and executed under the noses of silent and supposedly moderate Western Muslims.
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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.