In May of last year, Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in the streets of London by two British extremists. It was an incident that shocked London, the United Kingdom and the entire global community. In an eerily similar incident this past Monday, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed after being run over by a Canadian extremist in Quebec; another solider who was also struck remains hospitalized. Raising tensions yet higher, Wednesday saw the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Memorial in the Canadian capital, at the hands of yet another extremist. The extremist proceeded to run into the House of Commons and fire several more shots, injuring three others, before being gunned down by the Sergeant-at-arms.
In all three cases, the extremists were raised in the West in Christian families. Somewhere along the line, they converted to Islam, and further along the line, they took to jihadist extremism. These men turned against their families, their friends and their country. They somehow found it within themselves to also turn against the very individuals who have put their lives on the line to defend their families, their friends and their country.
While Canada has faced several domestic terror threats in the past, they've largely been thwarted by security forces. Following the attack in Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged "Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks that we have seen elsewhere around the world', but he added, '...Canada will never be intimidated. "
Although the incident in London last year and these two incidents in Canada share many similarities, there is one stark difference. Whilst past domestic terror attacks in the West were often influenced by general jihadist ideology yet isolated from larger outfits - as in the case of London - these new episodes seem to be very much connected to a terribly conspicuous terrorist organization.
While it may be more comforting to consider these men but lone wolves acting upon their own deranged ideas, that no longer seems to be the case. In this age of social media and easily accessible information in which we live, it is no longer necessary for contact to be made for a message to be passed on.
Last month, ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad Adnani, in a 42-minute audio taped message, unambiguously called for attacks against Canadians. He went on to specifically ask supporters to single out a victim and "run him over with your car."
Martin "Ahmad" Rouleau, who converted to Islam about an year ago, and started embracing jihadist ideology around April or May (even professing his admiration and support for ISIS on his Facebook account) seems to have followed Adnani's orders to a tee when he ran over two Canadian soldiers on Monday.
Adnani had called for "muwahhidin in Europe, America, Australia and Canada" in retaliation against those countries that had formed a military coalition against them. The attack on the capital comes a single day after six Canadian CF-18 fighter jets left their airbase in Alberta for the Middle East.
While these extremists in Canada most likely did not have any of direct form of contact with ISIS, they most certainly seem to have been following the terrorist outfit's publicly declared instructions.
Now whilst the gravity of this situation is all too clear, the enormity of it was made truly apparent when the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Bob Paulson, confirmed these men are just two among ninety individuals suspected of extremism currently under RCMP surveillance. Matters seem much worse in the UK where Boris Johnson revealed earlier in the month that security services are monitoring "thousands" suspected of Islamic extremism in London alone.
The two disconcerting episodes in Canada this week make it glaringly evident that current policies for dealing with individuals suspected of extremism, who often can't be arrested on account of a lack of evidence, is simply not working. As seen in the case of Rouleau, before he actually committed a crime, he was merely having radical thoughts, and there was no evidence of him even planning to commit a crime. In liberal societies like Canada and the UK, one cannot be arrested for their thoughts, however radical they may be.
This makes the threat presented by such radicalized individuals, who may or may not turn violent, that much higher. ISIS has potentially found a powerful tool in attacking the open democratic societies that have come together in a coalition against them. It would seem that the most effective shield to this new weapon would be the preemptive incarceration of those suspected of harbouring jihadist ideas. Yet unlike in the dystopia presented in George Orwell's 1984, a thought crime is not a crime in our countries. Indeed, to subject one's thoughts to prosecution would be an affront to the very civil liberties and rule of law that our societies hold dear.
While this new weapon may well be strong, and the growth of homegrown terror certainly needs to be expressly dealt with, it is important that we do not give in to pressure and focus on not only the weapon but the wielder of the weapon as well. We must most certainly look into trying to prevent our citizens from falling into a social milieu where they turn to extremism but we must not forget those that targeted our citizens with their vitriolic propaganda.
The extremist, jihadist and terrorist outfit, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, warrants our attention now more than ever before. This is a group that has been accused by the United Nations of committing "mass atrocities," not limited to executions, kidnappings, torture, rapes and slavery. This is a group that has brought its marque of hateful violence to our shores.
It is essential for those nations around the world, now specifically targeted by ISIS, to not only to raise pressure on them militarily but also financially. While a coalition has been formed for this express purpose, certain members of that very alliance, like Qatar, are accused of allowing its exceptionally wealthy citizens to fundraise and launder money to the terrorist outfit.
While Qatar has publicly acknowledged its financial contributions to terrorist outfits like Hamas, confirmed as recently as last month in an interview the Emir gave to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, it has denied allegations of funding ISIS. However, allegations to the contrary have been made by everyone from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to top-ranking officials in the US Treasury.
Seeing as past military intervention in the region has shown to only breed increased sympathy if not support for the jihadist outfits, a shift in focusing on their financial lifelines in the region would be a shrewd move. ISIS is able to be the terribly effective messenger of jihadist extremism it is today due to its being better funded than any of its contemporaries, al Qaeda included.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is set to arrive in London tomorrow and scheduled to partake in various high level meetings including at least one at No 10 with David Cameron. In light of recent events in Canada, and widely known domestic threats in the United Kingdom, it is high time Her Majesty's Government put a strong step forward by applying pressure on the Gulf state to take swift action against their nation's jihadi financiers. Billions of pounds of potential investment should neither deter not take priority over the security of the United Kingdom and its people.
We should not succumb to pressure and dismantle our open liberal democracies in the face of what these extremists have perpetrated. Doing so would only serve to actualize their mendacious portrayal of Western society. We must use our political, diplomatic and economic clout and take steps to ensure states enabling the fundraising efforts of ISIS are stopped. The Islamic State will not stand a chance, either in the Middle East or in foreign shores, once its coffers are bled dry.