September 14, 2016: Arson at Canadian mosque

A man received a 25-month jail sentence for trying to burn down a Hamilton, Ontario mosque to ‘bring jihad’ to Canadian Muslims.

Sometimes the line between terrorism and hate crime is a fine one.

NB With this piece we have officially gone through the terrorism ‘calendar’ once. Yes, this marks the first terrorist act of ‘year two’ on Borealis. Alas, there will be no shortage of violent attacks to discuss in year two (I wish that were the case!). Tune in to the accompanying podcast where I take an overall look at what we learned in year one.

HAMILTON, CANADA – Hate (or hatred) is a very strong emotion, isn’t it? We all use the phrase “I hate ____” but how often is it actually hate? Don’t we mean “I really don’t like ____” or “I’d really rather not ____”? Do we really ‘hate’ things? President Bush (the first one, not the second one) said he hated broccoli? Did he really?

When it comes to terrorism, now there’s real hate. You have to really harbour a grudge against someone, or more usually a group of someones, to want to kill them. So yes, terrorism is definitely associated with hate. But not all acts of violence associated with hate are also acts of terrorism. If there is no underlying ideology behind the act it does not meet the definition of terrorism, at least as I define it.

Furthermore, in many countries, including mine (Canada) there is a difference in law on how to treat violence motivated by hate vs violence motivated by terrorism. The latter is described in section 83.01 of the Canadian Criminal Code while the former is covered in section 319.

On this day in 2016

Then again there are instances where it is really hard to choose between the two. Today’s featured attack is a good example. On this day in 2016 a man tried to burn down a mosque in Hamilton, Ontario (just west of Toronto). A little over eight months later he was sentenced to 25 months in prison. His lawyer argued that his client, Keith Frederick, had expressed remorse.

Except that in text messages sent to his uncle Mr. Frederick wrote that he had more than one target “scoped out” and asking for help procuring explosives and firearms. In his own words: “I’ll bring my own jihad to those camel f—ers.”

The incident has left mosque goers fearful, apprehensive and anxious. Elders who wear traditional dress have been wearing different clothing. There’s been a decrease in the number of attendants, and children telling their parents they “don’t want to be burned alive.”

What an interesting juxtaposition of hate and terrorism. Mr. Frederick clearly hates Muslims and he chose to use a term – jihad – which Islamist terrorists themselves use to describe their type of violence. Confused yet?

I don’t think it is always easy to distinguish between hate and terrorism. So why don’t we just call both what they are: the use of violence to kill and maim? Would that not solve our quandary?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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