Believe you me

On one level, it amazes me how open people are with their hateful ideology.  Part of me thinks that supporters or fans of extremism would be a little more careful in displaying their beliefs given society’s opprobrium and the fact that, at least in today’s Canada, their activities could cross the criminal threshold.

Take the case of Aaron Driver, the Winnipeg Muslim convert arrested by the RCMP a few weeks ago and against whom a peace bond is being sought.  In a 90-minute interview with the CBC, the young man said, among other things: (click here for full article)

– “I think if a country goes to war with another country, or another people or another community, they have to be prepared for things like that (i.e the terrorist attacks last autumn in Canada)  to happen.”

– “And when it does happen, they shouldn’t act surprised. They had it coming to them. They deserved it.”

– “These are not attacks on malls or any kind of public place, like churches. These are attacks on police officers and these are attacks on soldiers. These are people who are part of the system. It’s entirely different,”

– “I think the big issue is I’m a Canadian living in Canada, and I’m OK with soldiers or police officers being targeted for what they’re doing to Muslims.

– “Seeing some of the things that happened in Syria, it infuriates you and it breaks your heart at the same time. And I think that if you know what’s going on, you have to do something. Even if you’re just speaking about it.”

“Something has to be done. People need to know what’s happening to Muslims so I think maybe that’s why.”

There is so much to work with here: anger at Canadian foreign policy, frustration at the deaths of Muslims, a desire to do something to help, the need for retribution, the casting of blame…  All part and parcel of the grand Common Narrative made popular by Al Qaeda and picked up by many other groups and individuals.

But what really interests me is the fervour with which the young Driver proclaims his deeply-felt ideology.  He sure isn’t hiding it.  Which seems a little counter intuitive- wouldn’t people engaged in quasi criminal behaviour be less open about it?

This is what largely separates your average criminal from your violent extremist.  The latter are all too willing to share their views, partly to convince others to join in but mostly because they “know” they are right.  They are the “true believers” in the Eric Hoffer sense of the phrase.

When you are a “true believer” you can’t help but shout your beliefs from the rooftops.  You are so convinced that you are right and everyone else is wrong (as Columbia U scholar Bernard Lewis so aptly put it: “I’m right, you’re wrong, go to hell”) that it just comes out.

And not only is Mr. Driver convinced we in Canada are wrong, he would pit himself against the vast, vast majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.

The government wants the young man to get religious counselling.  I hope it helps (but I am skeptical).

After all, if I am right and the rest of you are wrong, who are you to tell me otherwise?

And while you’re there, enjoy hell.

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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