Stewart Bell/New details about Canadian jihadist Farah Shirdon reveal militant ideology behind ISIS


 New details about Canadian jihadist Farah Shirdon reveal militant ideology behind ISIS
Stewart Bell | October 7, 2014 | National Post

New details about Canadian jihadist Farah Shirdon reveal militant ideology behind ISIS
More from Stewart Bell | @StewartBellNP

TORONTO — In his propaganda video debut, Farah Shirdon threatened Canada and the United States, warning “we are coming and we will destroy you, with permission of Allah.” He then tossed his Canadian passport into a fire.
The stunt last April by the Toronto-born Somali-Canadian was a symbolic rejection of Canada in favour of the puritanical utopia the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham wants to impose by force, first in Syria and Iraq and then worldwide.
It is a stark and intolerant vision but one that has hypnotized youths like Mr. Shirdon. Despite having been raised in countries like Canada, they have turned their backs on Western society. And now they are at war with it.
As Members of Parliament voted Tuesday to join the air campaign in Iraq, new details about Mr. Shirdon, an outspoken Canadian foreign fighter, show that the international anti-ISIS coalition is up against both a military force and a militant ideology.
“To understand the appeal of ISIS to young Canadians, you have to understand it as a religious sect within Islam, one made up of conservative Salafism, mixed with the more violent ideology of thinkers like Sayed Qutb,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University’s Resilience Research Centre.
“ISIS follows the thinking and writing of early 20th century thinkers like Maulana Maududi and Qutb, both of whom argued that the establishment of an Islamic state was a necessary prerequisite for the fulfillment of a Muslim’s faith,” said Mr. Amarasingam, who is involved in a study of Canadian foreign fighters.
The Islamic state is portrayed by its strident champions as a perfect society, unlike liberal Western culture, which they disregard as corrupt. Those who buy into this vision face the option of either remaining within the West world they despise or fighting it to create their fantasyland. “For them, the choice is a no-brainer,” Mr. Amarasingam said.
A letter written by a 19-year-old arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Saturday as he was allegedly leaving to join ISIS expressed similar views. He told his parents it was an obligation to migrate to the Islamic state. “We are all witness that the Western societies are getting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this,” he wrote.
Impudence like that is hard to hear, but particularly coming from Mr. Shirdon given that, when Somalia collapsed in the early 1990s, it was Canada that offered his family refuge from the lawlessness that ruined their homeland.
HandoutAt school Farah Shirdon had been a chubby class clown and small-time dope dealer.
The Shirdon family is originally from Dhusamareb, Somalia. Farah Shirdon’s father was born there and studied at the Somali National University, later becoming dean of agriculture and director general of the Ministry of Agriculture, according to his thesis.
While he was studying plant breeding at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., Somalia disintegrated. The government fell in 1991 and warfare erupted between rival clan militias, forcing the Shirdons’ relatives to join the exodus across the border into the refugee camps of Kenya.
“I foresaw that trouble would start,” the father told the Cornell Chronicle in 1992, as a U.S.-led force landed in Mogadishu to ensure that humanitarian aid was delivered. “But I never imagined the government would collapse all at once.”
The father welcomed the U.S. military mission to Somalia. “The U.S. is doing what needs to be done,” he told the Cornell Chronicle. “It’s the right time to intervene — all other options have been exhausted.” He said his U.S. visa was about to expire but he could not go back to Somalia. “I don’t know where I go from here,” he said.
In 1993, after completing his PhD thesis — which he dedicated to his wife and three children, including Farah — the father left for Canada, giving his new address as an apartment in Toronto’s Jane and Eglinton neighbourhood. The family later moved to Calgary.
Farah Shirdon claims his awakening began with Al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the response that followed, which he saw as targeting Muslims (he was only eight at the time). “The war on terror was a key turning point,” said Mr. Amarasingam, who has been researching Mr. Shirdon and the wider circle of Calgary extremists for his study.
Mr. Shirdon was not part of a clique of Calgary jihadists that included Damian Clairmont, Salman Ashrafi and brothers Gregory and Collin Gordon, Mr. Amarasingam said. “He had mutual friends with them, but seems to have interacted with them very minimally.”
Although at school he had been a chubby class clown and small-time dope dealer, in September 2012 his posts on Twitter became more overtly religious. “I disown those who settle in the land of the mushrikeen [non-Muslims],” he wrote, quoting an Islamic scholar.
A Calgary youth who knew him around that time said the Somali-Canadian began to openly challenge speakers at Muslim seminars at the University of Calgary. “There seemed to be a kind of ignorant arrogance that he had,” he said.
Influenced by radical preachers like Anwar Awlaki, Mr. Shirdon “became convinced that by living and paying taxes in the West, you are contributing to the suffering of your fellow Muslims around the world,” Mr. Amarasingam said.
Mr. Shirdon claims nobody recruited him.
“Actually no one spoke a single word to me. All I did, I opened the newspaper, I read the Koran. Very easy,” he told the U.S. website VICE, boasting that Canadian authorities had questioned him five days before he left for the Middle East but had not arrested him.
Vice/YouTubeFarah Shirdon claims his awakening began with Al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the response that followed.
In April, Mr. Shirdon reappeared on Twitter after a long absence, calling himself Abu Usamah. He said ISIS was paying him a salary, and urged others to “run to the land of jihad brothers and help us in re-establishing the Islamic caliphate.”
He later wrote: “Beheading Shias is a beautiful thing.”
His posts were so offensive that Twitter suspended his various accounts three times, most recently last week. He did not respond to questions sent to him, nor did his family.
“I just heard that I was on the news and Canada fears I will return to attack them,” he wrote after the video of his passport burning was publicized internationally. “Rest assured,” he added, “I have no plans on returning.”
Instead, Canada is now coming to him.
National Post