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Tough Questions for a Tough Time

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TORONTO, ON - JULY 25: Photos of victims Julianna Kozis, 10, left, and Reese Fallon, 18, are seen during a vigil for victims of Sunday night's mass shooting on Danforth Ave. on July 25, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Cole Burston / Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – JULY 25: Photos of victims Julianna Kozis, 10, left, and Reese Fallon, 18, are seen during a vigil for victims of Sunday night’s mass shooting on Danforth Ave. on July 25, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Cole Burston / Getty Images)

On Sunday 22 July, 2018, on a peaceful evening on busy Danforth Avenue in Toronto, girls aged 10 and 18 were shot and killed in an attack that terrorized this beautiful Greek town neighborhood while 13 others were injured, some critically.

The facts of the incident are as follows:

  • The shooter was identified as 29 year old Faisal Hussain of Thorncliffe Park. Hussain was a Muslim of Pakistani heritage.
  • Files being reviewed by police include concern Hussain expressed “support” for a website that was seen as “pro-ISIL,” says a law enforcement source.
  • Police in Toronto and CSIS officials in Ottawa, as well as the RCMP, acknowledge they were aware of Hussain’s past, which sources say include visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • ISIL claimed responsibility for Sunday’s mass shooting saying the gunman was among “the soldiers of the Islamic State.”
  • However, Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the minister responsible for counter-terrorism in Canada, said Tuesday that at this stage of the investigation, “there is no connection between that individual and national security.”
  • Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun reported that Hussain apparently had been spoken to by authorities about his online activities. Sources say the Toronto Police, the OPP and the RCMP had an interest in the now-deceased shooter.

It’s tragic enough that an innocent 10- year-old child and an eighteen-year old in the prime of her youth, full of aspirations and hope for the future, lost their lives in this incident. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine what their families must be going through right now.

But then comes the drama.

A well crafted apology letter was released attributed to the Hussain family. The letter was provided by Mohammad Hashim who is described as a driving force behind the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). As a reminder, NCCM used to be CAIR-Canada until it changed the name and was affiliated with CAIR USA which has been pinpointed as unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism trial in the US and declared a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

As a Muslim journalist, I would be interested to meet and speak to the family member who wrote this letter.

Ironically the chants of “Toronto the strong” and “Toronto the resilient” ring hollow at this time when terrorist attacks are becoming the norm. Toronto needs to be vigilant and get over the denial that radicalization is thriving and unless we start asking some hard questions, this will only continue. Our politicians do not want to touch this issue with a 10-foot pole and like the previous attack on Yonge Street few months ago; I fear the details of this attack too will hit the dust.

I have my own questions for the government and law enforcement:

  • Are you doing enough to ensure that Canada remains safe for my children and grandchildren?
  • I understand that mental illness is a serious issue. But there are thousands of people suffering from some form of mental illness who do not go out and shoot innocent people in the street so is radicalization not a form of mental illness?
  • Have we gone after the recruiter in this case? Has the imam of the Mosque that Hussain went to, been questioned?
  • If mental illness is the main claim here, then did Hussain’s doctor ever warn the family about his potential for violence?
  • What is the Muslim community doing? Are we owning up to the problem or we just hiding behind the facade of interfaith dialogue? The community has to come to the realization that we are NOT the victims and that we have evil in our midst which we must weed out.

When I first heard about this attack and mentioned Islamist/jihadist ideology being the culprit, I received a huge back lash from well-meaning Canadians. My response to them is that we are living in a post 9/11 world where Islamist terrorism is a reality and not a myth to be pushed under the carpet. We have seen what happened in UK and Europe with car ramming and gun attacks.

Do we want this in Canada?

If not then from the parliament to the pulpit, these tough questions MUST be addressed before we face another attack.

 

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Raheel Raza

Raheel Raza is ​an adviser to Clarion Project. ​She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.