Yes, terrorists can come from YOUR community

In recent days I have been slammed on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter) for blogs I have written on terrorism.  The one had to do with whether CSIS has a right to investigate terrorism on university and college campuses (answer: YES!) and the other was on the threat from Sikh extremism in Canada. The criticism on the first count has come from a few Muslims as I was talking about Islamist extremism while the second came, not surprisingly from Sikhs.  To summarise what they wrote to me:

a) on Islamist extremism I was taken to task for not talking about right wing extremism and giving the impression that post-secondary campuses, all Muslim students and MSAs – Muslim Student Associations – were full of jihadis (NB I responded that I write about what I know – i.e. Islamist extremism – and that I have ALWAYS said that the numbers of worrisome radicalised Muslims is very, very small.  But that yes some MSAs and universities have had Muslim terrorists in their midsts).

b) on Sikh terrorism I was accused of having bought the Indian intelligence services line that all Sikhs are terrorists and I had no evidence that Sikh extremism is a real problem (NB I replied that I am not that gullible and that yes, Sikh extremism is still an issue, as sources have told me).

These sets of negative feedback do not bother me.  When you have elected to write about terrorism you are bound to piss someone off.  I take all feedback – good and bad – in stride and strive to get back to those who post in a measured way (although I do get frustrated at times).  What does bother me is that there are those out there who do not seem capable of accepting that a small number from their community, whether that community is defined as religious, racial, ethnic or whatever, can in fact turn to terrorism.

The bottom line is that anyone, and I do mean anyone, can become a terrorist (remember that terrorists are made not born).  There is no community that is immune from this.  So yes, we do have Canadian terrorists who also happen to be Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.  Saying this does not imply that every member of the Muslim, Sikh…community is a terrorist.  But some are.

I kinda understand why there is so much sensitivity over this issue.  Some morons do believe that every ____ (Muslim, Sikh…) is a terrorist and have taken to calling for immigration bans from certain parts of the world (the boy president Trump is the epitome of this) or even harassed or attacked  those whom they perceive as belonging to these groups of people.   This is, of course, stupid and unacceptable and could, in some instances, constitute hate crimes under Canadian law.

At the same time it does not help that community members put their heads in the sand or enter denial.  If one of ‘yours’ engages in criminal activity, terrorist or otherwise, acknowledge it.  Not only do you have an obligation to assist security and law enforcement to stop these individuals from committing their intended acts of violence, but pretending that no one from among your group could ever engage in such activity actually feeds the morons who paint you all with the same brush (they accuse you of either supporting it or hiding it).

It is important that we call terrorism what it is and not allow ourselves to think that it is only a problem for one segment of society.  Of course our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies must not target communities in their investigations: they must target individuals, which they do by the way.  At the same time we cannot assume that any one of those segments is somehow miraculously inoculated from terrorism, because they are not.   To paraphrase PM Trudeau: “A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist”.

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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