Staff and faculty at a small university in the B.C. Interior are asking themselves how a former student ended up joining an extremist group in Syria, and how they can prevent young men from following in his path.
Collin Gordon, of Calgary, Alta. was an athletic and highly social student at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, B.C., who joined the school's volleyball team in 2008.
CBC News learned last week that he and his brother Gregory, who are recent converts to Islam, were recruited out of the Muslim community in Calgary to join the ranks of foreign fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
TRU Political Science professor Derek Cook hosted a forum last night to try and address how Gordon and other young men like him end up joining the extremists.
"How could that be, that young people are being seduced to join a group of mass murderers that have an ersatz view of Islam, and really, are pretending to advocate religious ideology when they are advocating a political ideology?" he asked.
"It's a con game. It's phony. They're fooling people into joining them," he answered.
"This group needs to be confronted and identified for what it is: a variation on political neo-fascism, not a religious movement," he said
Because ISIS has been able to weave a compelling narrative around it, it has been successful in drawing in said young people in the West who see injustice and want to act to combat it.
"ISIS is extremely effective in propaganda and in using social media," Cook said.
Cook said many people on campus are shocked by the revelation about Gordon, and those who knew him and still care about him are understandably worried.
But, he said, the former volleyball player's old acquaintances should be wary of trying to contact him.
"It's impossible to know whether you can communicate with him because the cadre of ISIS elite control the media. Even if you think you may be engaged with him on Facebook you don't know that for sure," Cook said. "If we tried to persuade him to come back, what would happen? He'd be killed."
"Unfortunately, he's lost," Cook said.
The goal now is to ensure others don't follow the Gordon brothers' path, he said.
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