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by Doris Strub Epstein


Several months ago, the Globe and Mail reported that a “group” that monitors militant groups online found a hit list with scores of Canadian on it.  The list names individuals, e mail addresses and home addresses of thousands of others around the world.  It was accompanied by a graphic that stated: “You are gathered against us. We will kill you all (together)”.  It was discovered by the Washington -based Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI.

The list was on the Telegram messaging app from a group calling itself the United Cyber Caliphate, MEMRI deputy director Elliot Zweig said.   The group supports the Islamic State, and offered to do hacking or provide technical assistance to IS followers. The RCMP is investigating.

Every day, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, MEMRI researchers around the world are monitoring ,translating and analyzing thousands of sources – print, televised and online.  They provide translations and analyses of the latest developments in the Arab and Muslim world.   No other organization does this.

Ambassador Alberto Fernandez , Vice President of MEMRI spoke recently at Beth Shalom Synagogue.  Born in Cuba, Fernandez grew up in Miami after his family fled Cuba as political refugees in l959.  He spent 32 years in the US foreign service, including stints as director for Middle East public diplomacy, ambassador to Equatorial Guinea and Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.  He has been in senior public diplomacy positions at US embassies in Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Yemen and speaks fluent Arabic.

Outspoken and insider-informed , he believes the West is not grasping the power of Islamic ideology, its world view that it is determined to impose and its rapidly growing following.  “Although IS is losing ground it, as a state of mind is flourishing,” he said. ” Like National Socialism and Communism, Islamism is a modern ideology not from the middle ages.  The intellectual framework is the same as Saudi Arabia’s, just the violence is missing. And the ideology is a loaded gun, ready to be picked up by anyone at any time.”

He retired from public diplomacy in 2014 because he was due to retire but with the rise of ISIS ,tensions arose in the US government because “there were suddenly lots of cooks who weren’t there before  and they would second guess you.  They had superficial ideas about Islam, media in Arabic  and terrorism,” he said in an interview in World Magazine. The Obama administration, he said has a “fascinating disconnect in the Middle East”.  “It has been outsmarted not just by some guys in a cave or by Salafi  jihadists like ISIS ,but also by the Russians …”

The greatest problem of jihadism is ideological,  he told the audience.  “Even if ISIS ceases to exist tomorrow, this ideological challenge that translates to violence on the ground is not going to go away.”

MEMRI-Canada has chapters in Montreal and Toronto.  Irwin Cotler says this about MEMRI:  (“Its) work has educated and informed governments, parliaments, universities, policy specialist and Middle East scholars in the labyrinth of the Middle East and Islam.  (Its) contribution is invaluable and unceasing.”

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