July 17, 2006


Nobody knows exactly what happened.

There are a few questions that nobody has really asked yet. Since when has playing paintball been a terrorist activity? In the months following the March 2004 anti-terrorism arrest in Ottawa, much was said about the local youth going out for jihad training at nearby paintball sites. Nobody raised the point that paintball is a fairly innocuous activity, enjoyed by thousands of people who haven't the slightest desire to harm anyone.

If paintball was the incriminating factor, then why not shut down the paintball sites? After all, they breed terrorists. It's a ridiculous claim, but one that has not been questioned at all during these last few weeks. It is a sad reality that such paranoia exists only as it applies to Muslims. While Al, John, and Joe can play paintball with no repercussions, suspicion will always follow Ali, Yahya and Yusuf if they engage in such activities.

Did Mubin Shaikh really encourage the suspects? Were they really "time bomb[s] waiting to go off," as Mubin stated, or were they pushed towards that direction by Mubin himself? Or were they not inclined towards that direction at all, and have been incarcerated unjustly? At this point, no one really knows.

The reaction to this story has been predictably polarizing. Mainstream reaction amongst Canadians to his work has been particularly effusive, with readers of CBC.ca calling him a hero, and deserving of the Order of Canada. He has been called a "a wonderful example of a true believer in Islam", and one wrote that "[his] hope is that your story will shed some light on the fact that most Muslim people are peace loving." Another wrote, "[we] as Canadians are very fortunate indeed to have the true spirit of Islam come forward in Mubin Shaikh." This is easily the best press Islam has gotten in the Canadian media that I can remember.

On the other hand, many Muslims, frustrated by our perpetual misrepresentation in the media, have attacked him. While eager to defeat stereotypical representations of Muslims as violent zealots, the verbal assault laid upon Mubin Shaikh has been frightening. The milder ones have called him a munafiq, or hypocrite, a very harsh term in terms of Islamic jurisprudence. Others have called him a "kafir", and desired that he be "tortured in this life and his next life, and that he [be] ripped from his family so that his daughter would be fatherless." Many wish that he be thrown into hell, something the Prophet Muhammad (saw) did not desire even for his worst enemies. And to label someone a "kafir", or infidel, in Islam is perhaps one of the riskiest allegations one can make. If you label someone a "kafir", it is said, the kafir is either him or you. That is, if you incorrectly assert that someone else is a disbeliever, it is akin to disbelief in itself.

Clearly, emotion has suffocated the rationality of many Muslims, as it often has. The ironic part is that the criticism is coming from both the secular camps as well as the religious ones. The secular side falls victim to the ad hominem fallacy; they attack Mubin because of his earlier support for Shariah. That is, they are attacking the person, not the idea he presented. The religious side tends to get lost in what is apparently known as the straw man fallacy. They have set up Mubin as someone who encouraged the youth to terrorist leanings, and then had them arrested. That is a position easy to refute, but it is most likely a misrepresentation of Mubin's actual position. In either case, there are significant gaps in logic with the way Muslims are reacting to all this.

The most common criticism of Mubin was his role as a CSIS spy. Many argue that it would have been more appropriate that he report the individuals to the local mosque, or that he himself try to discourage the youth from hateful tendencies. This is all fine and good, but perhaps it would not have been enough. If the alleged plot was indeed true, then discouragement alone wouldn't have changed the minds of those people. I have dealt with such people personally, and they do not answer to reason in most cases. And then perhaps instead of writing about this "foiled terrorist attempt" right now, I would be writing about the destruction of the Peace Tower in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill. Or perhaps I would have been amongst the rubble, as Parliament is only a couple blocks away from my office. And that would have decimated all hope any of us might have for a relatively peaceful future in this country.

It is perhaps more likely that the suspects were simply angry in talk only, and were unlikely to actually do anything. Often, it is difficult to distinguish violent tendencies from occasional violent thoughts. Everyone, at some point or another, has said something like, "man, I wanna kill that guy." This does not mean, of course, that one actually intends on murder. In the same way, perhaps someone did mutter, "man, I wanna cut that damn Harper's head off." But is that enough to prosecute a person? And if so, was Mubin responsible for this critical misunderstanding? At least one of the suspects has been released on bail, so it is likely that the jury is beginning to realize that these youth did not have the capacity for such evil acts. Details will hopefully begin to emerge as to how feasible the entire operation was, and how far from action the suspects actually were.

Ultimately, justice will be served by Allah. My opinions on the matter truly are irrelevant, as are the opinions I've been reading. Personally, I am not prepared to take any position, nor do I see a need to. I am responsible for my actions, you are responsible for yours. None of us have enough information to pass judgement on anyone else, and the most crucial information will always lay within the hearts of those involved. We don't have access to that, nor do even the Angels. Protect yourself from hatred, and pray for justice. Do not let your emotions cloud your better judgement and bring you to vilify others. Vilification will only worsen the situation, and shatter whatever efforts we have made towards unity.

Pray for me.



  1. There is still the issue of the tons of fertilizer they were hoarding. Unless ofcourse they were planning to start one of those back to nature communes that seem to have popped up everywhere. :) A friend's husband recently managed to burn all his grass by overfertilizing. I believe that was one of the few times in my life I nearly saw a grown man cry.

    Whistler eh. Hopefully shall visit BC one of these days. Just so darn far. It's always a toss up. Like would I rather make a trip to South America for a couple of 100 extra or go to BC. hmm. Till then Northern Ontario and Quebec shall have to suffice.

  2. Actually saira, they did not have "fertilizer" but some fake stuff sold to them by CSIS. The point is taken but remember at some point, after two years or so of CSIS surveillance and possible encouragement and definite training from a CSIS mole it escalated. What happened during that period of time?

    Faraz, yes it is definetly a possibilty that these people wanted to commit terrorism. In that case, I hope the justice system, which operates on the principle of innocent until proven guilty, prevails. This is not in dispute.

    Given the larger context of many supposed terrorism cases that fizzled (the Pakistani students in 2003 was it? Maher Arrar and others) and that fact that Muslims are being scrutinized so closely and subject to increasing surveillance I think that a critical position -- especialy given the lack of details/publication ban in this case -- is warranted.

    And given the disgusting racist coverage of this case in the media... I don't even want to get started.

  3. Sister Saira, they may have had what they believed to be ammonium nitrate, but the question is to how far they went to actually purchase it. It is already established that CSIS orchestrated the actual sale; the question is, were CSIS not there as a "seller", would they have gone out to find somewhere else to buy the stuff?

    Or were they simply quick to purchase the stuff from CSIS because the opportunity was presented to them, and would have not done so had no such opportunity come about?

    Again, I'm not taking a position either way at this point.

  4. Interesting. I'm probably a classic case of someone who just gets the bare minimum news mostly from Metro. Wasn't aware it was only a substitute for fertilizer.

    I agree with Faraz though. The suspects thought it was fertilizer right? As for whether they were egged on in a classic Othello like scenario, could have happened. For one I doubt they would have been as organized and as bold if they had felt at any point that there was no way they'd get away with it. Might have just fizzled out and ten years down the road they'd have wondered how idiotic and horrifying the scheme had been. But then again who knows. Maybe someone else would have taken the helm if the mole hadn't.

  5. It's also very possible that they were coerced into the whole situation by the moles of CSIS. There's precedence for this as a man was wrongfully accused in Australia after authorities there convinced him into the entire situation. He was ultimately declared innocent by the courts when they realized that it was the authorities that were perpetrating the whole situation... a very similar situation recently took place in Miami as well though the interesting thing is that the group were Christians yet the media tried to play them off as Muslims...

  6. Saira: yep, according to the reports, the suspects thought they had purchased fertilizer. I doubt they were really very organized, myself. Some of them have been granted bail already, while some of them have been denied bail, so the jury is fortunately not just lumping them all together. We'll see how it plays out.

    Nauman: I was in Chicago the weekend that the alleged attacks on the Sears Tower were exposed. The American media was calling it a Muslim group on the first day, but stopped saying that the day after. Apparently, they were called "the Seas of David", and they were "inspired by Al-Qaeda". Very silly, all of it.

    I don't believe that this guy was entirely responsible for leading the suspects towards the crimes they're accused of plotting. I have trouble accepting that he elaborately conspired against 17 random people for personal gain. He must have expected the extremely harsh reaction most Muslims have had, and still went through with it. I'm sure that wasn't easy for him or his wife, who has also been victim to a lot of verbal abuse. Either way, what many Muslims are saying is inexcusable. I'm not saying I support the guy or his actions, but I definitely don't support people who are praying for his torture, for his death, or for him to burn in hell. This sort of reaction only strengthens the perception that Muslims are hateful, violent people.

    Khair, Allah knows best.

  7. From all I've read about this so far, and from all that I've learned over the years about the way things happen in the world, I have to say that the real truth is never portrayed by the media. Things are never as they are shown to be, and people go along with them only because

    - they have no other verifiable news source
    - they trust the West/their governments
    - they're convinced the rest of the world has no real brain of its own (I'm not generalizing).
    - they're scared, and images of Muslims 'terrorists' being cuffed gives them some relief

    I hope I'm not offending anyone, especially Faraz Bh, but I don't know whether anyone can be trusted anymore, especially in sensitive matters such as these. And yes, I, too, am of the people that go for the '9/11 Conspiracy theory'. There's one clear motive for all of this, and it's very simple... the Crusades never ended, and they never shall... we're all the same.

    I'm not supporting one group against the other or saying that I support the likes of Osama, etc. There's much confusion about what goes on today. An Israeli air-raid can kill dozens of Muslims women and children in a matter of seconds. And... what?

    One cannot just close one's eyes forever, trying to shut it out, trying to find some justice, through some court of law. Things don't work that way anymore, and may Allah help us, it won't work like that.

    Call me pessimistic or anything but facts are facts. The world has changed drastically in the past few decades. Don't you feel it? Things moving towards some sort of climax? Spiralling out of control?

    You're right, very right, when you say that we musn't hate or point fingers at all. I agree. We must, indeed, look at our own actions, our own souls. May Allah help us, we have no right to point to others. But the situation in the Middle-East and the blackening label of 'terrorists' on the Muslim Ummah?

    It's not very long before, like it or not, we will have to face up to this (it was our duty anyway), once and for all. In what face or form, only Allah knows.

    May Allah guide us and protect us, in every part of the world.

    May Allah save us from transgression of others' rights, be they Muslims or Non-Muslim, and may Allah, in these very confusing times, guide us in fulfilling our obligations.

    Ameen. Ameen. Ameen.

  8. Sister Ameera: You're right, the media will never give the full picture, and I don't think anyone can expect it to. But I'm less bothered by the media right now (because I don't expect much of them to begin with) than the reaction of Muslims, from whom I do expect integrity and honesty. Unfortunately, many have surrendered to their emotions and have uttered things that should be best left unsaid.

    Like you, I'm not trying to support one group over another, or even one opinion over another. Regarding the whole situation, I'm fairly ambivalent. But given the utter chaos we find ourselves in - as you say, things are completely spiralling out of control - I think we should refrain from fighting amongst ourselves. But our ummah loves doing that, unfortunately. It makes us feel smug when we can so liberally call others kuffar and curse them to hell. By doing so, we're just saving the enemies of Islam a lot of trouble; we're destroying ourselves internally more than the bombs are. May Allah protect us all.

    I'm very happy to hear your thoughts on all this, since you're physically separated from the whole situation, and thus, somewhat emotionally separated as well. I think that gives you a much clearer mind when it comes to all this, and I appreciate that.

    I hope these are my final words on all this, but it is likely that this situation will continue to increase in complexity.

    Ameen to all your du'as. May Allah protect all of us from all fitna, hatred, and injustice. Remember me in all of your prayers.


  9. Jazak-Allah, Faraz bhai, for those kind words! I wrote all that late at night while I was quite emotionally charged up, having watched news of more bombardment by Israel, all day. I thought there would be some backlash for the strong words I used.

    I very much support unity, especially at this time. I don't know if you've heard but last Friday, a suicide bombing lead to the death of a top Shia leader Maulana Hasan Turabi. Since his death, Muslims leaders in Pakistan have called for more unity in the face of such attempts to divide us.

    Someone's trying to drive us apart; first the Nishtar Park suicide bombings that killed Sunni leaders and then this one.

    Allah is Witness to all. Help will come inshAllah.

    Remember us all in your prayers!