A terror plot originating in Canada may not have been prevented, were it not for the intervention of Toronto’s Muslim community flagging a suspect to law enforcement officials.
News broke on Monday that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) — in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials — had foiled a plot targeting a railway between Toronto and New York. According to the RCMP, there was never an imminent danger from the plot, but the alleged perpetrators did have the desire and ability to follow through with their plans, which would target a passenger line between the two cities.
That plot, however, was only discovered thanks to a timely intervention from an imam based in Toronto. Worried that one of the suspects, Raed Jaser, was promoting extremist propaganda in his community, the imam — who remains anonymous — sounded an alarm with the Canadian Canadian Security Intelligence Service and RCMP over a year ago. That support did not go without thanks from Canadian law enforcement, the Globe and Mail reports:
The nation’s top counterterrorism police officials briefed reporters about the arrest Monday, but not before they made a point of summoning about 20 leaders of Toronto’s Islamic community to a meeting.
The message from authorities to the Muslim community? Thank you for a helping hand.
“The first comment they made, and they encouraged us to make it a talking point, is that, but for the Muslim community’s intervention, we may not have had the success we’ve had,” said Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer who was invited to the pre-briefing.
The two suspects are in custody in what is being called the first Canadian breakup of an allegedly al-Qaeda-connected terror plot. According to Canadian authorities, the two were receiving “support and guidance” from elements of Al Qaeda based in Iran. The Iranian government has denied any ties to the group and Canadian officials made clear there was no evidence of state-support for the plot.
Canadian law enforcement’s relationship with the Muslim community is markedly different from the relationship seen in the United States. The ACLU accused the FBI of using Muslim outreach as a cover for illegal information gathering, a charge that the civil liberties group say continues today. The New York Police Department hasn’t fared much better, with distrust arising out of its program to spy on Muslim communities including college student group.
Compounding the problem in the United States is the right wing’s ongoing suggestion that all Muslims as terrorists. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) in particular has a long history of focusing on Muslim communities as sources of terrorism, including once falsely claiming Muslims were responsible for 90 percent of all terrorism. King’s anti-Muslim hearings as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee were widely criticized as being discriminatory and drove a wedge between law enforcement and the Muslim communitiy.