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.