While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to be on perpetual holidays this summer, one of his cabinet ministers has finally addressed an issue the Liberals have long avoided — how to combat jihadists in Canada.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was in Montreal this week to announce a new strategy for fighting home-grown terrorism.
In the wake of a thwarted attack by ISIS-connected jihadist Aaron Driver, Goodale says he wants Canada to become a global leader in understanding and countering radicalization.
This will be no easy feat.
Earlier this year, Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Michel Coulombe told a Senate national security committee that 180 individuals with ties to Canada are fighting alongside foreign terrorist groups — including about 100 with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — while another 60 or so are back in Canada.
Many more ISIS sympathizers and supporters remain in Canada, some having had their passports confiscated to prevent them from joining a terrorist group abroad.
The Trudeau government has been reluctant to talk about the threat of home-grown jihadists in Canada. But Goodale’s new interest in counter-radicalization is better late than never.
A great resource on this topic is UK-based writer and liberal activist Maajid Nawaz, who has long warned of a global jihadist insurgency. And he would know.
Born and raised in England to a Muslim family, Nawaz became radicalized as a young man. He joined a local wing of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and, in the aftermath of 9/11, was arrested and imprisoned in Egypt.
It was during his five years in prison that Nawaz renounced jihad and began to champion what he calls “Secular Islam”.
He is now a global expert on Islamist extremism and a leading voice calling for modernization within his religion.
He’s also the author of an excellent book, Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism and the co-founder of Quilliam, a think tank focused on counter-radicalization in the UK.
Nawaz was in Niagara Falls last weekend and, in an exclusive interview with Postmedia, called for a society-wide effort to combat Islamists and jihadists.
Military, intelligence and security forces are not enough to stop this political ideology, warns Nawaz. “We do need a serious, civil society-led effort.
“All of society needs to be involved. Whether it is teachers … mosque imams … policy makers. They need counter-radicalization training.”
If the Trudeau government is serious about combatting radicalization, it must follow the prescription set out by Nawaz.
This is not an issue that will be solved with a news release and blank cheques to various community organizations.
This is, as Nawaz calls it, a generational struggle against Islamist ideology.
Nawaz even has a handy language guide for defining terrorism and differentiating between everyday Muslims, Islamists and jihadists.
According to Nawaz, a Muslim is a person who follows the religion of Islam. An Islamist is a Muslim who wants to impose his or her religion upon society through mandatory sharia, and a jihadist is an Islamist who uses violence to spread fear and serve Islamist goals.
To fight jihadists, we must also deal with Islamists.
Trudeau, unfortunately, has failed to make this distinction.
Instead, he hides behind politically correct jargon and lacks the courage to name our enemy.
After 10 months in office, Trudeau has finally taken a first step towards combatting Islamist extremists.
But he’s still got a long way to go.
This column appeared in Sun papers on August 18, 2016