BRITISH COLUMBIA

Minister, Muslim group say more needs to be done to stop radicalization

10/24/2014 06:04 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST
BURNABY, B.C. - The association representing a mosque that ejected the gunman who killed a soldier in Ottawa says people who commit such acts have no religion and no country.

In separate news conferences, the B.C. Muslim Association and Canada's Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney called for more action to fight radicalization.

Association spokesman Aasim Rashid told reporters on Friday that anyone who believes that attacks on Canadian soil are a form of jihad or acts of religious virtue has misunderstood or perverted Islam's teachings.

"Such propaganda is clear evidence that these groups or individuals are sheer terrorists. Whatever cause or mission they subscribe to is blackened by their methods," he said.

"They have no real religion and no country. Islam denounces their war mongering and murderous endeavours."

Michael Zehaf Bibeau prayed at the Burnaby, B.C., mosque for about four months in late 2011 and early 2012, but Rashid said he was asked to leave because of his "extremist" views.

Zehaf Bibeau largely kept to himself, he said, but the man also complained to elders that their teachings were too liberal and that too many non-Muslims were allowed at the mosque.

Security guards later found that Zehaf Bibeau had been sleeping at the Masjid Al Salaam and Education Centre, the same facility where the association held its news conference on Friday.

Rashid said they asked the man not to return and then changed the locks.

Last Saturday — days before Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run down and killed in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot at the National War Memorial — the association's members met to address the potential threat of people responding to Internet propaganda from ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Rashid said plans have been in the works for some time to get law enforcement, government, schools and religious groups to co-operate in preventing such violent activities in Canada and abroad.

"The scope of this would be to address religious or ideological radicalization leading to violence, as well as gang and organized criminal violence."

He said the goal is to train people to notice early when others are vulnerable to becoming radicalized.

Kenney told reporters at a separate Vancouver news conference that not every cultural practice is accepted in Canada.

A deeper understanding of the Canadian way of mutual respect, peace and rule of law needs to be understood, he said.

"I don't think political correctness should get in the way of the need to combat radicalization, some of which happens online. We are going to be looking at additional tools to combat websites that are luring some young Canadians into this path of violence," he said.

Court documents released this week from a Dec. 19, 2011 hearing show Zehaf Bibeau struggled with his addiction to crack cocaine.

In transcripts, Zehaf Bibeau told provincial court Judge Donna Senniw that he went to police to confess to a decade-old robbery, but officers refused to arrest them.

He told the court he then went out and committed another robbery.

"So my plan in here is, because I'm a crack addict and at the same time a religious person, I want to sacrifice freedom and good things for a year maybe so when I come out, I'll appreciate things in life more and I'll be clean ..."

He also suggested he could get therapy or detox while in jail, the court documents show.

A psychiatric assessment conducted for the same case at the pretrial centre in Surrey, B.C., found him fit to stand trial, but mentioned his unusual choice of asking for a jail sentence.

"He has been a devoted Muslim for seven years and he believes he must spend time in jail as a sacrifice to pay for his mistakes in the past and he hopes to be a better man when he is eventually released," the assessment states.

Three months after he made his submission to the judge he was sentenced to one day in jail after pleading guilty to uttering threats.

-- with files from Terri Theodore