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Discussion Questions: What do you think the key factors were that inspired Mubin Shaikh toward extremism? This is the first case we have looked at that deals with a homegrown group (terrorist cell). In week 2 you read the Radicalization Puzzle by Hafez and Mullins (2015) who described one of the four key factors (‘pieces of the puzzle’) in their model is networks. What impacts do you see with regard to social networks, group dynamics, and other non-family associations for the Toronto 18
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1. Based of the course material from this week (and YouTube video Undercover Jihadi) I think it can be said that one of the biggest key factors which inspired Mubin Shaikh to extremism was the apolitical group Tablighi Jamaat (APUS, n.d.). Although the Tablighi Jamaat is a nonviolent group I believe that they ultimately led him to his path to extremism by opening doors to it. As Mubin even implied in the video I watched, Quran school and groups like Tablighi Jamaat do not necessarily encourage Jihadism but some of their teachings and fundamentals lay the groundwork for extremism (The Agenda, 2014). In addition, the Tablighi Jamaat sent Mubin on a four month trip between India and Pakistan where he met and became inspired by Taliban warriors (APUS, n.d.). The next major factor to consider would be the fact that Mubin had a significant identity crisis during his adolescent/teenage years where he felt torn between two worlds, being a conservative Muslim or embracing the highly liberal Canadian society (APUS, n.d.). I think identity crisis is a major contributing element to a lot of people who eventually become involved in foreign or domestic terrorism. A person who doesn’t know who they are or where they belong can potentially be easily persuaded into joining a terrorist group as a misguided attempt at finding family or purpose in life. As for the Toronto 18 they were similar to Mubin Shaikh in the sense that they felt like they didn’t really fit into Western Society and were also outraged by unfair treatment of Muslims around the world and Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan (APUS, n.d.). It was very fortunate that Mubin eventually reformed from his extremist ways because as it stated in the reading material the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was able to take advantage of Shaikh’s connection in the Toronto 18 and thwart a major terrorist plot (APUS, n.d.)
2. Mubin Shaikh was born and raised in Canada and at the age of 19 became fully emersed in jihadist beliefs only to later renounce these beliefs and partnered with Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) as an undercover operative to infiltrate the ‘Toronto 18’. Shaikh forming two identities, attending public school during the day and Quran school by night. He explains that he was given two cultures to decide between and at that age it was rather challenging and confusing to navigate these two worlds. Furthermore, he explains how being taught two cultures simultaneously can send mixed messages about freedom of speech, religion, equality in the West and then the religious component from the Quran that contradicts these beliefs (Mubin Shaikh: Undercover Jihadi, 2014). The interpretations from both can significantly impact one’s worldview and their sense of self-worth and sense of purpose while trying to appease and live up to the standards of each religion. Following the attacks that took place on September 11th, Shaikh expressed that he initially celebrates the attacks but ultimately had a change of heart when others expressed their concern for his safety and well-being, his realization of the magnitude of the attack, and when his distraught wife questioned his involvement and friends questioning the extremist related views of his religion. Young people are drawn to extremists and terrorism as they are beginning to find their purpose in life and external influences play a heavy hand in the direction of their path. For Shaikh, the confusion and conflict presented between the two religions, identify crisis, his upbring, and the extremist views that were later debunked, set him on the course for extremism.
Toronto 18 was Canadian terrorist cell comprised of 18 young men from middle class families who planned retaliated against their own country in response to their participation in the war in Afghanistan by detonating explosives packed into trucks in front of the Toronto Stock Exchange, Canada’s Parliament building, opening gunfire in a crowded public area, and even beheading the Canadian Prime Minister (Contenta, 2010; Silber & Bhatt, 2007). Group dynamics play an inherent role within the terrorist organization, especially within Toronto 16, as it makes it far more challenging to exit, creates significant uncertainty about starting a new life, creates emotional and psychological damage, increases likelihood of feeling guilt towards the members, and fear of reprisals (Hafez & Mullins, 2015).