Former CSIS analyst on homegrown terrorism and Islamic doctrine – The Globe and Mail

Good interview with Phil Gurski, former CSIS homegrown terrorism expert, regarding the messages in his new book, The Threat From Within. Last para particularly noteworthy:

You write that extremism is like the aphorism about real estate and location – but “narrative, narrative, narrative.”

What they [al-Qaeda-inspired radicals] are propagating and distributing is this conviction they are responding to our aggression as Westerners, and they are merely defending themselves. And that’s not true, but it doesn’t have to be true to be effective. The whole point of the book is there is no pattern to this. We have to accept that terrorists come from us. They come from Canadian society. They are not off-the-boat immigrants.

You point out, though, the narrative is partly rooted in religious doctrine, or at least concepts like jihad, hijra …

Here’s the dilemma that mainstream Muslims face: The people who commit these acts of terrorism see themselves as actually representative Muslims. In fact, they see themselves as the only true Muslims and start criticizing everyone else as being non-Muslims. So it comes from within Islam, but it is not Islam. How do we accept they have taken pieces of 1,400 years of Islamic history, and use it to their advantage?

You write that fundamentalist imams in Canada should be challenged.

Even if we’re not talking about terrorism, if we’re talking about small pockets of society that will basically advocate intolerance and rejection of other parts of society, do we want a country like that? What the [fundamentalist preachers] do is they are very intolerant and rejectionist of other Muslims, let alone non-Muslims. I think we have an obligation to challenge this, to argue against this.

But our political leaders don’t know the difference between Islamic doctrines.

Politicians are going to do what politicians are going to do. That’s fine. Everyone recognizes if we’re going to talk about this issue, to do something about it at an early level, we need early intervention, before it becomes a security-intelligence issue. The government’s role is to foster and encourage the grassroots that are starting in this country. The government role has to be very much a background role.

But if the problem is narrative, and the narrative has had 1,400 years, how does someone in Ottawa come up with a program to counter it?

The line I like to use – and it really shocks some audiences – is that right now the only solution we have is to start with the four-year-olds. If we can get all the four-year-olds to understand what this narrative is saying and reject it, we’ll be fine.

Like in junior-high assemblies where the police used to say, “Don’t do drugs?”

No, it’s more than that. We as a society have to understand the child you’re raising has to be raised in an environment of tolerance and acceptance. So if you can get that right across the board – not just Muslim communities, not just immigrant communities, but in Wonder Bread white communities – we’re going to be in good shape.

Source: Former CSIS analyst on homegrown terrorism and Islamic doctrine – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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