“It’s better to be safe than sorry”.
By: Sammy Unterman
Today, there is a frightening phenomenon occurring called “homegrown terror”. It occurs when disenfranchised Muslims, born outside their natural homeland, find themselves without an identity. They feel their host country, whether it is Europe, the USA, or Canada, rejects them as ‘outsiders’. They often feel disassociated with the country of their parents or grandparents, as they have likely never lived, or even visited there. These disenfranchised Muslims find comfort and solace in anyone who shares their ideas and understands their pain. In today’s day and age, the people who capitalize and exploit these feelings are radical Islamists.
We can see painful examples of these homegrown terrorists in the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, where 3 of the 4 terrorists were born and raised in the UK (the 4th being Jamaican in origin). The Toulouse killings in 2012, which targeted French soldiers and Jewish school-children, were also carried out by a homegrown terrorist, Mohammed Merah- a child of Algerian immigrants to France. Lastly, in 2006, a plot was discovered where 18 men, known as the “Toronto 18” had planned to detonate truck bombs, open fire at a crowd, bomb the CBC, Parliament, and CSIS HQ, as well as decapitate Prime Minister Harper. The perpetrators were all Canadian- amongst them at least 6 Canadian-born.
Why is this information important? Because these terrorists, and many, many others were radicalized through the Internet on Jihadi web-forums. Some were radicalized at their local mosques, be that in London, Tolouse, or in the Canadian plot, Mississauga. What is more frightening is that it is extremely difficult to find and track these people- catching them before they carry out their attack. Many of them, like Mohammed Merah, are ‘Lone Wolves’, meaning they planned and carried out the attacks on their own without the inclusion of anyone else.
Homegrown terror is a very real and serious threat. It is incredibly difficult to find these terrorists prior to their attack, and usually, only in the aftermath of the attack does the public, or the security services first hear of them. However, in a world seemingly plagued by more extreme violence every day, what can we do? ‘We’ being the average app downloading, internet surfing adult. The common perception is that there is nothing to do about it and no adequate response by the security services. But, here are some practical things anyone who is a moderately technical web-surfer can do to help the security services.
- Report, report, report. Although you may think some super-computer somewhere is scouring the internet to search for these Jihadi websites that catalyze the transmission of hate and extremism into the minds of the youth, you are wrong. It takes a huge amount of manpower and time to find these websites (as new web sites pop-up every hour). If you see one, especially ending in the suffix ‘.ca‘ copy the link, and report it to the police
- Keep your eyes and ears wide open. Although the fear of being wrong or mistaken might be overwhelming, if you see a suspicious person/s, package, or hear something, trust your instinct. It is better to be safe than sorry. Report the location, date, time, and any other relevant information where you saw or heard the incident, and hand that information over to the police.
The other day, I got a call from a family friend, telling me that someone walked into an Aroma Cafe in Toronto, put their bag down at a table, and proceeded to walk outside. Both the friend and the person she was with, saw this occur, and immediately felt very uncomfortable- but did not take action! If it is Canada, what could possibly happen? In this case, the person who left the bag simply went out for a cigarette. But what if this was not the case? Despite our distance from Israel, where an act like that certainly would not go unnoticed, we must train ourselves to immediately report the incident, not let somebody drop a bag and walk away. Especially in an Israeli chain like Aroma.
- Some of you are advocates of using Facebook and Twitter. One simple search will provide an unimaginable slew of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel propaganda. Within these tens of millions of posts, tweets, images, etc. are the conversations of those in the radical Islamic community who create and disseminate this information- and those who respond and reply to it in the comments. Take a quick scan of the information instead of just passing it over. If you see something that looks like a direct threat- report it
A large amount of the intelligence gathered by security agencies and terrorists alike is found in the open-source, meaning it is not communicated secretly through some back channel, but rather is communicated freely online, in print, through video (on YouTube), and other media.. This information is accessible to you! You simply need to look.
It takes a community to protect a community. Be your own counter-terrorist. Look, listen, think, record, and report- it’s as easy as that. Homegrown terror plagues us all. It does not differentiate based on race, creed, sex, ethnicity or any other parameters. It must be stopped, and it will take all of us to stop it.
Sammy Unterman is a post-graduate student of counter terrorism in Israel