Signs of the times – 2

It is comforting and yet humbling to see a news article that conveys information which confirms a lifetime’s work.  I studied radicalisation to violence, as inspired by Al Qaeda (and increasingly nowadays the Islamic State) for 15 years from a privileged position as a senior strategic analyst at CSIS.  I was able to leverage that experience into my forthcoming book with Rowman and Littlefield, The Threat From Within (available for pre-order and on the stands October 16).

The news article – or better, articles – have appeared in the National Post and Montreal Gazette (here is one of the articles) this week and concern a 15-year  old boy picked up for armed robbery in Montreal. The boy’s father suspected his son’s involvement in the crime, but was also increasingly worried about his son’s transformation along a radical path.  In the course of interrogations by both the SPVM and the RCMP, a number of behaviours and attitudes have surfaced that are associated with this form of radicalization.  Here is a sample:

  • Canada is massacring Muslims in Iraq and is thus Dar al Harb (land of war)
  • Muslims cannot work for the military or law enforcement because that represents a betrayal of Islam
  • he called his family apostates
  • Canadian officials should not enforce laws that are contrary to Islam
  • Martin Couture-Rouleau’s terrorist attack last October 20 in which Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed as “good”, but would have been better if civilians had been targeted.
  • democracy must be removed, “by force if necessary”

Every single one of these indicators is a classic sign of violent radicalisation and is discussed in great detail in my book.  What is also of supreme significance is the fact that the boy was a good student in a private school, came from a good family and had no previous brushes with the law.  All these “characteristics” belie the commonly held view that terrorists are “losers” or are stupid or come from troubled backgrounds.  It is also worth underscoring that he had contact with Couture-Rouleau: no “self-radicalisation” here.

Fortunately, the boy’s father saw enough to convince him that his child needed help.  The trial may be one avenue to get that help.  It is very worrisome that a boy this young is so heavily radicalised.  The prognosis for reversal is questionable in my opinion. I wish everyone involved all the best.

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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