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Al-Hayat

Canada in the face of terrorism

The recent terror acts in Canada have raised fears over the threat of extremist Islamist ideology in the multi-cultural country that includes a large Arab community

A bouquet of sits flowers is attached to the Queen

It is a phenomenon similar to black magic. Its victims in Canada, youths suffering from mental illnesses, found in the Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS) a “utopian” Islamic world that convinced them that killing Westerners and Arabs was a jihadist act that could grant them a ticket to heaven.

 

On October 22, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot dead a guard at Ottawa’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before running into Canada’s Parliament, where he was killed by security. The gunman, a recent convert to Islam who sought to travel to the Middle East, went on his spree only two days after an ISIS supporter in Quebec rammed his car into two Canadian Armed Forces members, killing one.

 

The attacks deeply impacted Canada, shaking the peaceful country’s conscience while threatening to harm the public perception of the growing Arab immigrant community. Omar Alghabra, a former Liberal Party MP of Syrian descent, spoke to Al-Hayat about the repercussions of the Islamist-inspired terrorist acts on Canada’s Muslims and Arabs.

 

“It is important to remember that the Arab community has an important role in fighting this phenomenon, and that we should not ignore this issue. We have become a part of this, whether we like it or not, and we need to counter and expose extremism,” the former parliamentarian said.

 

“At the same time, we need to work for positive coexistence and political and social interaction with the environment we live in.”

 

“We will not abandon our role and responsibility. This is Canada, our country, our future and the future of our children. We should not hesitate to publicly denounce all forms of terrorism, because extremism is the worst way for change and self-expression.”

 

Rex Brynen, a professor at the McGill University’s Political Science Department and an expert on Middle East politics, said that the last two attacks may result in stricter and more developed legal and security measures. These measures have been the subject of discussions in recent weeks, especially since Canadian authorities have been monitoring more than 90 individuals who returned to Canada from Iraq and Syria.

 

Martin Rouleau, the assailant who converted to Islam and killed a Canadian soldier in southern Montreal, was closely monitored by the authorities and banned from traveling to the Middle East because of his extremist leanings.

 

“I do not think that the new measures will bring major changes, but they will certainly help protect people better. There is no magic bullet to resolve this phenomenon, but there will be a combination of political work and coordination with the [Arab] community to [help] reach a solution,” Brynen told Al-Hayat.

 

“We are not dealing with criminal groups; we are dealing with people who suffer from psychological disorders, have criminal records, and adopted a wrong version of Islam and Salafist Jihad. ISIS has become very popular; it has been attracting people around it like a [cult]. It is driving its members to conduct acts that are mostly racist and sectarian,” he added.

 

Meanwhile, Lebanese-Canadian independent MP Maria Mourani, who has conducted extensive studies in crime prevention, called for a nuanced approach to facing the threat of jihadist ideology.

 

“There should be awareness and educational programs to counter extremist ideas. We need to allocate financial and human resources for these programs, and actively work with the Arab community in this context. This is an issue that we cannot solve simply through legal procedures, such as passports,” she said.

 

“Canada is in a state of war as it is participating in a military confrontation in the Middle East. Reactions to what is happening in Syria and Iraq were anticipated. We do not want military involvement here or there, and we see that Canada is better at its role in making peace. However, regardless to our stance on Canada’s participation in the war, what matters is for Canada to be ready to foil any terror attempt on its territory and remain a country of peace and security,” the MP added.

 

“Every day on my way to work, I see in the parliament’s garden women practicing Yoga and other people playing music or walking. We want to preserve this country and the beauty of its culture.”

 

This article originally appeared in Arabic on Al-Hayat

"Every day on my way to work, I see in the parliament’s garden women practicing Yoga and other people playing music or walking." (AFP Photo/Peter McCabe)

This is Canada, our country, our future and the future of our children. We should not hesitate to publicly denounce all forms of terrorism, because extremism is the worst way for change and self-expression.”