When citizens report radicalisers we all win

What is the duty of a citizen? How far should a taxpayer go in the interests of public safety? Are we obliged to cooperate with security intelligence and law enforcement agencies when we come across information that may relate to threats or crimes? Or is it ok to ignore what we see or hear, preferring to “not get involved”?

Well, the classic case of turning a blind eye is of course the Kitty Genovese murder way back in 1964 when people ignored the screams of a 28-year old woman as she was stabbed outside her Queens, New York apartment and later died (the initial account that ’38 people’ ignored her cries for help was later shown to be grossly inaccurate: nevertheless there were those who elected to ‘not get involved’). This incident led to the term ‘bystander effect’, meaning that the greater the number of people who witness a person in need of emergency help, the less likely an observer will take action.

So what if instead of a murder or assault there are some that are aware of an individual who is using his or her position of power and influence to radicalise others to violence? In other words, a radicaliser. What should, or do, they do?

A recent news story out of Edmonton, passed on to me by my good friend Andrew Griffiths (you should get on his feed ‘Multicultural Meanderings‘ for all things linked to immigration), illustrates when bystanders make the right call. A community centre in Edmonton has banned a local imam from holding services there because he allegedly used anti-Semitic tropes in his services and online. Sheikh Shaban Sherif Mady has allegedly claimed that international Zionism is behind all global terrorism, including Islamic State and the New Zealand shooter, and that the Muslims will kill the Jews on Judgment Day. The Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council (AMPAC) ┬áis investigating Sheikh Mady, and whether other individuals hold similar views and is working to prevent the imam from having any public platforms to advance his views.

Three cheers for AMPAC! Hip, hip…..hmmm. It appears that it may have taken the B’nai Brith, a Jewish organisation, to alert AMPAC to the shaikh’s hatred. If true, why did no one, either in AMPAC or those who heard the preacher’s bile, take action first? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

The point I am trying to make here is that many Canadian Muslims get upset when CSIS comes a calling, asking for information on possible radicalisation or radicalisers. And yet when it is clear that this is indeed taking place in the community do they call someone – CSIS, the RCMP or local police – or do they pull a Kitty Genovese?

I am not trying to say that all Canadian Muslims are actively failing at fulfilling their duties as Canadian citizens: I know many, many such people and I know them to be fine fellow Canucks. It is just that when something like this happens and it seems like a person of influence is allowed to spew intolerance and, worse, no one challenges him or reports this to authorities, two things ensue. One, these jerks are given time to get their hooks into impressionable followers and could contribute to their radicalisation to violence. And two, other Canadians will point a finger at those who stay silent or accuse them (wrongly?) of complicity. This eats away at Canadian Muslim claims that they are unfairly subject to investigation by CSIS and others and feeds the views of some that Muslims are not true Canadians. I can tell you this from my time at the Service: a guy like Sheikh Mady is exactly the kind of person whose actions fit the CSIS mandate to investigate possible threats to public safety or national security.

Every single Canadian has an obligation to help keep us collectively safe. This obligation trumps religion, or ethnicity or a sense of in-group. When this type of activity is seen it is not time to circle the wagons. It is time to make the call.

In this case it seems that a potential dangerous influencer has been sidelined – for the time being. Let’s hope we see more successes like this.

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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