Threat to the Maple Leaf

Can Canada counter Islamist terrorism?

By Farhan Zahid.

On April 14, 2014, Canada’s National Post reported a threat from ISIS against the country: “This is a message to Canada and all the American tyrants: We are coming and we will destroy you, with permission from Allah the almighty”. Six months later, on October 24, 2014, Islamic convert Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian War Memorial near Parliament Hill before being shot dead within Parliament itself, as members of Parliament, including the prime minister, huddled in caucus rooms he could easily have entered. It became clear that the government of Canada would need to revisit its counterterrorism policies.

Despite its reputation as a peaceable kingdom, Canada has been fully implicated in the global war on terror. Moreover, a wide range of terrorist groups of varied ideological backgrounds have used Canadian soil for launching attacks in the past; Islamist terrorists are in fact latecomers in the field. Since 1970, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), there have been 76 incidents of terrorism in Canada, in which 345 people lost their lives. The Sikh terrorists of Babbar Khalsa operated from Canadian soil during the heyday of the Khalistan Independence Movement in India, and the terrorist cells of the Quebec Liberation Front spread fear and insecurity through Canadian society in the late 1960s, culminating in the October Crisis of 1970. Before the 9/11 attacks, the largest terrorist attack in North American history, in terms of fatalities, was the 1984 bombing of Air India Flight 182 by Babbar Khalsa. Perpetrated by Canadian citizens Talwinder Singh Parmar, Inderjit Singh Reyat, and Ripudaman Singh Malik, this anti-India attack—carried out in response to anti-Sikh pogroms in India after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards—cost the lives of 329 people, all on board.

Islamist terrorism in Canada has deeper roots than is always realized. The involvement of some Canadian Muslims in the U.S.-backed Afghan War against Russian in 1979-89 seems to …

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