Spies, re­searchers probe anti-Mus­lim back­lash

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Ji­hadi-in­spired extremism has dom­i­nated dis­cus­sion of ter­ror­ism in Canada in re­cent years.

But the shoot­ings at a Que­bec City Is­lamic cen­tre may well rep­re­sent the flip-side of that coin: the hate-killing of Mus­lims.

It is too early to know what prompted the crimes and, so far, ac­cused shooter Alexan­dre Bis­son­nette has been charged with mur­der and at­tempted mur­der, but not ter­ror­ism.

Still, Bis­son­nette’s so­cial­me­dia his­tory sug­gests he was a fan of far-right, anti-im­mi­grant French politi­cian Marine Le Pen.

Canada’s spy agency and aca­demic re­searchers have been qui­etly prob­ing the phe­nom­e­non of right-wing extremism, and the con­cerns will fig­ure into fed­eral plans for a na­tional of­fice of counter-rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

In a Septem­ber 2014 brief­ing to fed­eral of­fi­cials, the Cana­dian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice warned of the threat posed by ter­ror­ist groups al-Qaida, Hezbol­lah and the more rad­i­cal Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant.

But un­der the head­ing Do­mes­tic Extremism, the spy ser­vice also un­der­scored the re­cent devel­op­ment “of a Cana­dian on­line anti-Is­lam move­ment, sim­i­lar to ones in Europe.’’

CSIS char­ac­ter­ized it as an “on­go­ing risk, par­tic­u­larly as its pro­po­nents ad­vo­cate vi­o­lence.’’

Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale says the planned of­fice of counter-rad­i­cal­iza­tion will serve as a cen­tre of ex­cel­lence and help key play­ers un­der­stand what draws the vul­ner­a­ble down a dark path. The idea is to in­ter­vene with the right peo­ple at the right time to head off tragedies be­fore they hap­pen, Goodale said this week af­ter the Que­bec shoot­ing.

Ji­hadi-in­spired vi­o­lence has drawn most of the at­ten­tion in re­cent years, noted Lorne Daw­son, a Univer­sity of Water­loo so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor and co-di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Net­work for Re­search on Ter­ror­ism, Se­cu­rity and So­ci­ety.

“To be hon­est, we have to ad­mit that the bulk of the prob­lem is a ji­hadist rad­i­cal­iza­tion and that’s where the fo­cus is,’’ he said. “But ev­ery­one ac­knowl­edges it’s not the only form of rad­i­cal­iza­tion.’’

Daw­son pointed out that Nor­way, Swe­den and Ger­many have long had pro­grams aimed at steer­ing young peo­ple away from neo-Nazism _ ini­tia­tives that served as tem­plates for pro­grams de­signed to pre­vent ji­hadist rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

“They were all up and op­er­at­ing years and years be­fore Europe re­ally be­came con­cerned with an Is­lamist rad­i­cal­iza­tion is­sue,’’ he said.

“It’s a lesser is­sue than ji­hadism, but it’s not some­thing that’s be­ing ig­nored.’’

Canada has many of the same ba­sic in­gre­di­ents that drive right-wing ter­ror­ism in both the United States and Europe, says a re­cent pol­icy brief pub­lished by Daw­son’s re­search net­work.

A large-scale at­tack by ISIL might spur a call for the kinds of at­tempted purges seen in Europe or tar­geted killings in­tended to scare com­mu­ni­ties by demon­strat­ing they are no longer safe within Canada, said the brief by Richard Par­ent of Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity’s school of crim­i­nol­ogy and re­searcher James El­lis.

“While pre­dict­ing the fu­ture can be chal­leng­ing, Cana­dian se­cu­rity agen­cies should re­con­sider their pub­lic stances on the po­ten­tial for vi­o­lence from right-wing ter­ror­ists,’’ the brief added. “Given data on at­tacks in the United States and Canada on ter­ror­ism and extremism, right-wing or­ga­ni­za­tions and lone wolves are ca­pa­ble of vi­o­lence.’’

Phil Gurski, a former CSIS an­a­lyst who spe­cial­izes in counter-rad­i­cal­iza­tion ef­forts, sug­gested it’s too early to tell how con­cerned Canada should be.

Fi­nite re­sources mean rightwing ter­ror­ism and sin­gle-is­sue vi­o­lence _ such as eco-ter­ror­ism _ get short-shrift at a time when groups like ISIL dom­i­nate head­lines, Gurski said.

“I do know that it doesn’t get the at­ten­tion it should,’’ he said.

“Is this the next big wave? Well, I know the Euro­peans are wor­ried about it. I’m not sure we need to worry about it as much here in Canada.’’

CP PHOTO

A po­lice of­fi­cer stands at a road block near the site of the mosque shoot­ing, Tues­day, Jan­uary 31, 2017 in Que­bec City. The mosque is in the back­ground.

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