Hoping to escape stigma, mother of Islamic State militant leaves Canada

Sad, given her courage in going public to encourage more open discussion on the radicalization process and related efforts to help reduce the risks (see Mother of fallen Canadian jihadi launches de-radicalization effort):

A Calgary woman whose son was killed while fighting for the Islamic State in Syria has left Canada, saying she was labelled “the mother of a terrorist” and unable to find full-time work.

Christianne Boudreau said she moved to France two months ago, hoping to escape what she called the stigma linked to the activities of her oldest son, Damian Clairmont, 22. His reported death in January, 2014, prompted Ms. Boudreau to ask questions in hopes of understanding his slow slide into extremism. She has done multiple media interviews and spoken with researchers delving into radicalization.

She also needs to work again to pay the bills that piled up during her bereavement. In search of a full-time job, Ms. Boudreau said she was met with a recurring theme: She would call for an interview and leave her name, only to be told there was nothing available – a possibility given Alberta’s slumping economy. But when she did secure an interview, she was told hours later that the company had changed its mind.

Ms. Boudreau hired a headhunter to find her work in Calgary and elsewhere across the country, but the results were no better.

“The headhunter told me it was because I was seen as the mother of a terrorist. [Companies] would say, ‘Something’s come up. We’ll call you back later.’ They’d be, ‘Yes, we know who you are. We’ve heard you on the radio,’” Ms. Boudreau said. “I never went through anger with that. I think it was more fear and frustration, not knowing where to turn next.”

What did happen was most unexpected. Ms. Boudreau was contacted by Eileen Thalenberg, a writer/director at Stormy Nights Productions in Toronto. She was looking to do a documentary on how young Canadians were being recruited to renounce their heritage and take up arms with the Islamic State or other smaller militant groups. In the pursuit of her story, Ms. Thalenberg looked to the families for answers. The only person who would talk was Ms. Boudreau, who is a central figure in an upcoming television documentary called A Jihadi in the Family. It airs Thursday night on CBC’s Firsthand.

“I started looking at questions: How vulnerable are we? What are we talking about, the number of kids going over there?” Ms. Thalenberg said. “And I went and looked at who I could speak to in terms of families, and nobody would speak to me, except Christianne. She is the only Canadian from the families who has spoken out about their kids going overseas.”

Source: Hoping to escape stigma, mother of Islamic State militant leaves Canada – The Globe and Mail

Calgary mom whose son died in Syria opposes Harper’s proposed travel ban

Good interview with Chris Boudreau who nails the problems with the Government’s approach:

Why are you opposed to Mr. Harper’s proposed law?

A few people have said it’s a great idea. But then I explain to them it’s smoke and mirrors because the politicians are not really doing anything about the problem. They’ve cut back all the programs in prisons for counselling. They’ve cut back a lot of resources for youth. That’s what they’ve done; it’s cut, cut, cut … [The politicians] are thinking, ‘We’ll give it harsh words and it will look like we’re doing something.’ The only way [the terrorists] are getting in is through other countries. So what are you going to do – stop them from going to the surrounding countries as well? It’s not well thought out. It’s just whole window dressing, smoke and mirrors. They can fool everybody because people are just not educated in this topic and that makes it easy for politicians to turn it around for an election program.

If the federal government passed a law forbidding travel to terrorist regions, would it make a difference?

A lot of the fixes and the laws and the rigidity, that’s at the back end. That’s dealing with the symptoms. The root cause of the problem is something completely different even if it’s not radicalization in this sense. And going over to join ISIS – you’re still looking at white supremacy on the rise and lots of other different cults. So there’s a root problem we really have to start looking at. We can’t just turn a blind eye and think that by throwing everybody in jail that fixes it.

Calgary mom whose son died in Syria opposes Harper’s proposed travel ban – The Globe and Mail.

Damian Clairmont’s mother says Harper pushing ‘quick fix’ on terrorism

Captures it exactly (Michael den Tandt made similar arguments in Michael Den Tandt: Harper pandering with plan to make it illegal to travel to terror-stricken zones):

An Alberta woman whose 22-year-old son was killed while fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria says Stephen Harper is looking for a “quick fix” to deal with terrorism instead of addressing the root cause of radicalized youth.

The Conservative leader promised on Sunday that, if re-elected, his government would make it a crime for Canadians to travel to countries or regions where they could fight alongside groups identified by the federal government as terrorist organizations.

He said the government would establish “declared areas” — parts of the world where terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, hold control and use their base to recruit and train followers.

“Anybody can pick up and travel and book a flight to anywhere, and if you really want to go badly enough, you can book your flight to Europe and then from there book yourself into somewhere else,” Chris Boudreau of Calgary said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“It’s window dressing. It’s not realistic.”

Damian Clairmont’s mother says Harper pushing ‘quick fix’ on terrorism – Politics – CBC News.

Mother of fallen Canadian jihadi launches de-radicalization effort – Canada – CBC News

Good grassroots initiative led by Christianne Boudreau, mother of Damian Clairmont, and Dominique Bons, mother of Nicholas and Jean-Daniel Bons, all of whom were Western converts and were killed while fighting in Syria.

No universal strategy but the more grassroots and community level “soft” initiatives, the better, to complement the “hard” security measures. Sheema Khan also advocates a strong role for mothers (Partner with Muslims to root out extremism).

And for the mothers themselves, likely part of the grieving and healing process regarding their sons:

After sitting for hours and sharing lovingly built photo albums of their sons as little boys, parsing their lives and deaths and constantly replaying the questions about signs they saw or missed, they got to work.

Canadian-born Muslim convert Damian Clairmont left Calgary in 2012 for Syria, where he was killed in during battle against a faction of the Free Syrian Army.

The pair decided to form an international mothers group, determined that there must be a way to intervene and stop the radicalization process before it’s too late. They are sharing best practices as they find them and are both poking at their respective governments to step up.

Boudreau has also set her sights on establishing the Canadian chapter of a German group called Hayat. That means “life” in Arabic, and its aim is to work with families to help de-radicalize young men and women.

Hayat is an offshoot of a German organization called “Exit,” which has had good success in deprogramming neo-Nazis; as if plucking them from a cult. Hayat adopts similar methodology and applies it to dealing with militant Islamists.

After meeting with its organizers in Berlin, Boudreau came away convinced that with the right funding and staff, a Hayat chapter could make a difference in Canada.

“Its a sense of reining them [radicals] back in so they are closer to the family again,” she said. “They work with them closely after theyve taken a step back and decided maybe this is not for me, and help them get reintegrated within the community, finding a job, so they focus on the normalities.”

Mother of fallen Canadian jihadi launches de-radicalization effort – Canada – CBC News.

Satyamoorthy Kabilan of the Conference Board has a somewhat naive view of government and social media and its potential to reduce radicalization:

Despite the risk of individual mistakes and the required change in mindset for bureaucracy, I would also argue that the risk of not being a core part of the conversation and simply remaining mute, is far more dangerous. The benefits simply outweigh the risks.

We have recently seen successful uses of social media by authorities in emergency situations such as the 2013 Calgary flood and the tragic shootings in Moncton. Organizations like the Toronto Police Service TPS have had policies in place for some time that allow members of the force to represent the organization on social media. TPS has also been very vocal in sharing experiences. Learning from these and continuing to build a social media presence can help combat the threat of violent extremism in the virtual world. We simply cannot afford to have the extremists leading the conversation on social media.

By quickly occupying the public space around social media before someone else does, we can prevent others from setting the agenda and grant ourselves the opportunity to tell our own story first.

Hard to imagine any federal government taking such risks, let alone the current one, given the need to control messaging. One thing for local issues like the Calgary flood, another for issues related to radicalization where government will be very risk averse.

Better at the community level where there is likely more credibility than government.

To beat terrorists online, let’s raise our social media game – The Globe and Mail.

Calgary mom targeted by jihadist blogger after her radicalized son killed in Syria

Not exactly a nice gesture to a grieving mother seeking explanation for her son, Damian Clairmont’s, turn to radical Islam and death in Syria:

Chris Boudreau has been reeling for months after learning her son died fighting with a terrorist group overseas. Now, a self-proclaimed jihadist is urging the Calgary mother to embrace an extremist ideology she suspects was used to brainwash her son.

On his blog, Abu Dujana al-Muhajir claims he was among a group of young men who left Calgary to join “various fronts of Jihad” after forming a study group at a downtown mosque. Damian Clairmont, Boudreau’s son who was also part of the group, was later killed during rebel infighting in Syria.

Clairmont’s death devastated and confounded his mother, who continues to struggle with how her boy, raised in a loving Canadian family, could adopt radical views and die fighting for them.

In his latest blog post, Abu Dujana writes an open letter to Boudreau in which he explains the ideology behind her son’s path to violence and encourages her to become sympathetic to the cause.

“The attempt to get me to fall for the same thing just made me shake my head,” said Boudreau, who has branded herself an advocate against homegrown radicalization, and has met with officials across Canada and abroad to advance her cause.

“At least it means I must be getting to somebody enough that they are trying to find another way to get me to see their point of view, so that I don’t continue what I’m doing.”

… Boudreau recently returned from Europe, where she met with three other mothers whose sons had also died fighting alongside radical Islamic groups. One of those sons was killed just two months before Clairmont in the same Syrian town northwest of Aleppo.

She was able to build a bond with the other women, something she had been searching for, and learned their sons spouted the same kind of rhetoric she read in Abu Dujana’s blog.

“After talking to these mothers and hearing the exact same story over and over again, you know that (radicals are) using the same verbiage with everybody.”

… The blog posts offer an apparent window into the group’s ideology and their path to violence.

The latest missive advances a form of Islam based on a selective reading of the Qur’an, ignoring verses that contradict its point of view, said Aaron Hugues, an author who has written extensively on religion and holds a PhD on Islamic studies.

“What these guys do is they have very little understanding of the tradition … and they tell themselves these ludicrous stories that they’re waging jihad and that if they die they’ll go to paradise, and it’s brainwashing,” said Hughes, who used to teach at the University of Calgary but now lectures at the University of Rochester.

“In many respects, I think this radical Islam is a cult, and these kids need to be deprogrammed,” Hughes said.

“This thing that he wrote is really meant to unsettle us, Canadians, because it’s very articulate … and he’s trying to say, we know full well what we’re doing and we’re not brainwashed,” he said.

Mubin Shaikh, a former Muslim radical who joined CSIS as an undercover operative in a Toronto terrorism investigation, said he was considering a formal response to the blog post on behalf of Boudreau, whom he’s been helping.

He called the open letter propaganda that “cherry-picks” verses of the Qur’an to promote a radical version of Islam.

He said the missive is simply an attempt to justify Clairmont’s “indoctrination.”

“These guys are relative nobodies, and they put on this hero costume and they want people to follow them,” Shaikh said. “He’s wrong on so many levels.”

Calgary mom targeted by jihadist blogger after her radicalized son killed in Syria

It’s a mystery how middle-class Calgary man turned suicide bomber was recruited into ISIS terror group: family

More on the cases of Salman Asrafi and Damian Clairmont:

“To be honest, we don’t know what happened to Salman,” a relative said in an email exchange. He asked not to be identified because he did not want to be associated with Mr. Ashrafi’s suspected involvement in terrorism.

While his recruitment into ISIS is puzzling, it is evidence the strength of the extremist group is due partly to its recruitment of foreign fighters. Founded by Al-Qaeda members, it is one of three armed groups in the region that have attracted the most outside volunteers.

Mr. Ashrafi was a Pakistani-Canadian with no affiliation to Iraq. But in Calgary, he had apparently fallen in with a circle of extremists who lived in the same apartment building above a small Islamic centre. Those who run the centre said they had tried to discourage the zealous young men, but they formed their own prayer group.

According to an account posted online by one of the men, who now goes by Abu Dujana, they worshipped Anwar Awlaki, the pro-Al Qaeda propagandist whose videos urge Muslims in the West to either go abroad and fight or conduct terrorist attacks at home.

Isolated by their own accord and with no guidance except the Internet, they decided that being a Muslim meant “jihad and sacrifice for Islam” rather than attending seminars in “an air-conditioned university hall,” wrote Abu Dujana.

The historical figures they admired were uncompromising men of action. “They were not just talking the talk,” he wrote, “but actually walking the walk. They were busy either killing the enemies of Allah or being awarded with martyrdom by being killed in the battlefield.”

There were between three and five members of the group. They included Damian Clairmont, a Muslim convert with a history of mental problems, but another was an engineer named Wassim who divided his time between Toronto and Calgary.

Under the Government’s proposed revocation measures, if they hadn’t been killed, but returned to Canada, and convicted, Salman could be stripped of his Canadian citizenship as a dual national while Damian could not. Same crime, different punishment.

It’s a mystery how middle-class Calgary man turned suicide bomber was recruited into ISIS terror group: family | National Post.

Suicide bomber killed in Iraq part of wider jihadi base in Calgary

More on home-grown radicalization, the most recent case being Salman Ashrafi:

Calgary is earning a reputation as a breeding ground for jihadi fighters.

The Muslim convert Damian Clairmont, who later took the name Mustafa al-Gharib, was killed while fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group in Syria whose membership is made up largely of European, Australian and North American extremists.

Clairmont was also raised in Calgary, as were as many as two dozen other young men who, according to sources, have travelled to Syria to join rebel extremist groups to wage jihad in the last two years…..

“He might have been around certain charismatic preachers in the community that might not have had his best interests in mind,” he added.

It’s a thought shared by Soharwardy, the Calgary imam, who has received death threats for speaking out about this topic, but feels compelled to in order to stop men in his city from killing and dying on jihadi missions abroad.

“It is impossible for me to think the intelligence people do not know who is radicalizing Muslim youth. It is going on undercover; it is going on openly sometimes,” he said.

“The thing is they are recruiting Muslims to go and fight in Syria and getting them killed. It is horrible.… What is the Canadian government doing? Nothing. I mean this guy died, many, many … people died from our country. For what?”

While theoretical, given that both Clairmont and Ashrafi are dead, it is interesting to see how C-24 revocation provisions would apply in each case.

Clairmont was born in Canada and likely had no dual citizenship. Asrafi moved to Canada when he was in Grade 5 or 6, became naturalized but also has Pakistani citizenship.

Clairmont would keep his Canadian citizenship; Ashrafi would lose it even though he spent most of his childhood and early adulthood in Canada.

Easy to understand why most lawyers argue that this kind of different treatment would not be ruled Charter compliant.

Suicide bomber killed in Iraq part of wider jihadi base in Calgary – Canada – CBC News.