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The Toronto 18
July 9, 2010 6:44 AM   Subscribe

The Toronto 18. "The [Toronto] Star was the first to break the news, just over four years ago, that an al-Qaeda inspired homegrown terror cell had been busted in Toronto. ... Numerous publication bans have kept the full story from the public. Now, with the case over, we can present the complete narrative of the Toronto 18: Who they are, how they met, what they did." This is a great example of how to present long-form journalism online.
posted by chunking express (46 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hm. All males between the ages (at the time) of 19 and 30. All Muslim. Most (all?) from countries (or with close ethnic ties to countries) that are predominantly Muslim.

But we can't draw any conclusions or generalizations from this. Oh no, that would be bigoted.
posted by resiny at 7:23 AM on July 9, 2010


Well, bigoted maybe (spoiler: yes). But also! Wildly ignorant of statistical method and the notion of confirmation bias.
posted by penduluum at 7:27 AM on July 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


> Oh no, that would be bigoted.

Yes, yes it would.
posted by Skorgu at 7:29 AM on July 9, 2010


Reisny, what is your proposal? What conclusions should we draw? Real question.
posted by leftoverboy at 7:37 AM on July 9, 2010


an al-Qaeda inspired....

Al-Qaeda was "behind" this in the same way that Jodie Foster masterminded the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.
posted by rokusan at 7:37 AM on July 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


But we can't draw any conclusions or generalizations from this. Oh no, that would be bigoted.

That would depend on what the conclusions were, and what one proposes to do with them.
posted by rokusan at 7:38 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Muriel Degauque - white, Belgian, female.
Nicky Reilly - white, British, male.
Adam Gadahn - white, American, male.

Bonus link: why profiling doesn't work.
posted by knapah at 7:43 AM on July 9, 2010


But we can't draw any conclusions or generalizations from this. Oh no, that would be bigoted.


They also met at a restaurant called Turtle Jack's.

Statistically, more people that have dined at Turtle Jack's have participated in terrorist activities than Muslims.

But I can't draw any conclusions or generalizations about Turtle Jack's patrons.

Do you know why?

Because that would be stupid.

But if more Turtle Jack's patrons are terrorist participants -- percentagewise -- than Muslims, wouldn't drawing conclusions or generalizations about Muslims be equally stupid?

No.

It would be even more stupid.
posted by Shepherd at 7:46 AM on July 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


[Statistically, I suppose that "people that dined at Turtle Jack's in Mississauga in April of 2006" would have been a better cohort to make my point with, but I think the point still stands.]
posted by Shepherd at 7:51 AM on July 9, 2010


Speaking of restaurants and food...DON'T FEED THE FUCKING TROLL. Not a single comment about the actual article.
posted by spicynuts at 7:52 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wildly ignorant of statistical method and the notion of confirmation bias.

I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Really, I would. It makes me sad that, as best I can tell, such a disproportionately high percentage of fundamentalist adherents to the world's second largest religion see terrorism as going hand-in-hand with their religious commitments.

If you can show me some study/statistic/etc. that shows that Muslim extremism is not responsible for a highly disproportionate share of major terrorist incidents then I will retract my comments in this thread.

I submit as evidence for my point of view the Department of State's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
posted by resiny at 7:55 AM on July 9, 2010


This is a great example of online long-form journalism. Bravo Toronto Star!

Regarding resiny's comment, I think you can only say that most people involved in terror plots in North America have been young, Muslim men. There are exceptions however - that middle-aged American female convert to Islam who was arrested a couple months ago comes to mind.

But let's bring the focus back to this site: great expansive layout, easy to navigate, simple and clean. It's a good story. You're a smarter person for having read it. It will help you get that hot chick at that bar tonight which is across the street from J school.
posted by boghead at 7:58 AM on July 9, 2010


Yeah, about that: the article is fantastic. I'll freely admit to believing that this was something that CSIS and the government drummed out of all proportion to score points and get funding, so I'm surprised at how -- real? -- the plot has turned out to be.

That being said, it's amazing to see how things veer from "a group of dedicated fanatics with a coherent, if somewhat fuzzy, plan" to "the gang that couldn't shoot straight" and back again with almost every page.

And the conclusion echoes something that was being discussed on MeFi last week -- how easy it is to radicalize and crazify people with a leaning towards an extreme direction via the Internet. Last week it was a discussion of the Freemen and the right-wing fringe in the States, but crazy comes in all flavors. Whether you're a right-wing lunatic or a jihadist Muslim, there are huge bad noise loops on the Web that are really easy to get locked into.

While pre-Internet there'd be reasonable voices in people's communities that could well talk people back off a bad path, now it's very easy to reject any opinion that doesn't reinforce your worldview and keep diving further into the community that validates and confirms your fears.

It's not a Muslim thing or a right-wing thing or a left-wing thing: it's a crazy thing. Lunatics of all stripes now have the power to connect, reinforce, and intensify their mutual lunacy. I can't imagine the amount of cybercrazy that CSIS has to keep track of in this country alone.
posted by Shepherd at 8:03 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I submit as evidence for my point of view the Department of State's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

This is about Canada, so this is a bit of a fuckup of yours out the gate, isn't it?
posted by mobunited at 8:26 AM on July 9, 2010


I have barely begun reading this but I'm so impressed by the way it's layouted I had to mention it. Love that there's little videos and bios to click on, this is great.
posted by dabitch at 8:34 AM on July 9, 2010


I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

You sure you wouldn't prefer to keep being afraid of MUSLIMS?
posted by chunking express at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2010


It's also interesting how proactive CSIS is, showing up at peoples homes so they know they are being watched, etc. I wonder if that deters a lot of half-assed terrorists-to-be.
posted by chunking express at 8:42 AM on July 9, 2010


This is about Canada, so this is a bit of a fuckup of yours out the gate, isn't it?

"The Canadian government has banned nearly 40 terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, the Armed Islamic Group, Babbar Khalsa, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Kahane Chai, the Taliban and Mujahedin e-Khalq."
posted by Behemoth at 8:43 AM on July 9, 2010


"But we can't draw any conclusions or generalizations from this. Oh no, that would be bigoted."

In terms of actual number of acts of terrorism (primarily anti-abortion attacks but reaching all the way back to church burnings and lynchings) white Christians are the most responsible group than any other in the USA.

Prior to 9/11 they were also responsible for the single deadliest attack on US soil at the bombing in Oklahoma City carried out by Timothy McVeigh.

I thnk it's only logical that all white Christians be put in camps.
posted by PenDevil at 8:45 AM on July 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is about Canada, so this is a bit of a fuckup of yours out the gate, isn't it?

Yes, the article is about a terrorist group in Canada. Extrapolating that to a discussion of terrorism in general, and within that extrapolation referencing the US Department of State's terrorist-related information doesn't seem to me much of a stretch.

It seems, however, that MetaFilter's liberal/progressive slant is such that the expression of any heterodox view is sufficient grounds to call someone a troll. I have no desire to spend the rest of my morning taking shit from anonymous people on the internet who don't even have the courtesy to address me directly. I would, however, be delighted to have an actual conversation on the topic I raised without having ad hominems tossed around. If anyone feels likewise feel free to MeFi Mail me.
posted by resiny at 8:48 AM on July 9, 2010


Actually, it’s a ridiculous method of presenting longform journalism, what with the absurd JavaScript popups, all unbookmarkable; a rogues’ gallery of unlabelled mugshots; and punishingly weird immovable footers.

Also, yes, Muslim extremists are a proven threat to Canada and can and should be singled out for investigation. So, of course, were Sikh extremists, from whom you’d think we’d have learned a lesson, and maybe we finally have. Fortunately, the moral relativists and Islamofascist apologists of MetaFilter aren’t running CSIS and the RCMP, or we never would have arrested these men and, through due process of law, found so many of them guilty. Because that would just have been profiling, a far worse sin that storming Parliament and beheading the prime minister.
posted by joeclark at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


All males between the ages (at the time) of 19 and 30 ... But we can't draw any conclusions or generalizations from this.

We can conclude that your reading comprehension sucks. 4 of them were under 19.
posted by dobbs at 8:51 AM on July 9, 2010


Joe, who's being an Islamofacist apologist in this thread? Has anyone posted anything here defending these fellows? I think people object to the idea that we need to be on the watch for scary observant Muslims, because some minority want to blow shit up.
posted by chunking express at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2010


Islamofascit apologists? Did somebody really just say that on Metafilter? I clearly lost my shit in the wrong thread. Oh well.
posted by Justinian at 9:16 AM on July 9, 2010


Yes, because Liberals are all about defending the right-wing theocratic muslim terrorists. Who are inspired by Mulsim Philosophers who were radicalized by the far-too liberal lifestyle of the Liberated West of the 1950s.

Yes, those Liberals; who support all forms of Non-Christian Theocracy.

Choice Quote: "Islamofascist apologists of MetaFilter"

Yeah; that's what Liberals want; Theocratic loonies with Guns as long as they aren't Christians.


You're so consumed with your own politics that you would actually ascribe a self-destructive notion to all policies not in line with your own narrow line of policies.

I imagine that during the 80s all pale-skinned red-heads should have been stopped and questioned in the UK, right?

All Catholics should have been put under surveillance (and maybe still should be as the IRA still runs around right?)

I'm actually all for profiling; you don't arrest Black Guys when the perp is described as a White Guy and you don't spend all your resources on random searches when you should spend the majority on those that fit your profile.

Just because profiling isn't a be all and end all solution; doesn't mean good police work avoids it to simply avoid the whiff of racism. While a 90-year old Norwegian granny COULD be carrying a bomb, the healthy 20-year old Skin-head behind her is more likely.

Just because you put the word Racial in front of it doesn't make Profiling Bad if it done by an intelligent person.

Now go find some.
posted by NiteMayr at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


It seems, however, that MetaFilter's liberal/progressive slant is such that the expression of any heterodox view is sufficient grounds to call someone a troll.

Dear Sir,

Your first comment in this thread was an immediate jump away from anything to do with the specific incident, the specific story, the specific links, etc to a heavily flame-baited point about the religious persuasion of terrorists in general. Regardless of your actual worth as a human, as an internet post, your comment was the definition of troll. As evidenced by the immediate bent of all subsequent conversation. To wit, note the number of comments responding to you and your comment as opposed to the actual story/links/post.

Thanks,
Anonymous Liberal/Progressive/Hipster/Other Insult Coward on the Internet
posted by spicynuts at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, yes, Muslim extremists are a proven threat to Canada and can and should be singled out for investigation.

You're totally right, Joe, but the key difference between what you just said and what resiny has been goobering on about is the word "extremists."

Extremists are a proven threat.

Nobody's claiming otherwise.

But they could be Muslim extremists, Quebec separatist extremists, white supremacy extremists, hell, even Turtle Jack's extremists out to blow up all the Tortoise Joe's outlets across the country.

In this case, CSIS was keeping an eye on extremist groups. When Canadian extremists started talking about blowing shit up, they said "hey, we'd better keep an eye on this." In this case, the extremists happened to be Muslims, but were they FLQ or Heritage Front or disgruntled fishermen, I'd hope that equal attention would be paid.

So yes: by all means, keep a watch out for extremists. Of all stripes.

What resiny was implying, in his very first comment above, is that we have to keep a watch out for Muslims.

There's a mile of road between "keep an eye on extremists" and "view all Muslims as potential terrorists," and I can't believe that you can't see the difference. Nobody here is arguing against the former, but I think most of us stand firmly against the latter.

Oh, and:

the moral relativists and Islamofascist apologists

I've read a lot of your comments on this site, and dropped by your blog from time to time, and you're better than this kind of bullshit.
posted by Shepherd at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have no desire to spend the rest of my morning taking shit from anonymous people on the internet who don't even have the courtesy to address me directly.

Dude, all my info is in my profile. Where's yours? Hm?

If anyone feels likewise feel free to MeFi Mail me.

Kind of awesome: I was just talking, about three comments up, about how easy it is for people with a poor grasp of reality to isolate themselves from sensible opinions on the Internet and flee into communities that reinforce and intensify their paranoia and rage.

30 seconds later, hey guess what happens.
posted by Shepherd at 9:29 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fantastic story-telling. The multimedia mix was really just perfect.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:31 AM on July 9, 2010


Hm. All males between the ages (at the time) of 19 and 30. All Muslim. Most (all?) from countries (or with close ethnic ties to countries) that are predominantly Muslim.

But we can't draw any conclusions or generalizations from this. Oh no, that would be bigoted.


Excepting the attacks on the WTC and a few other, all terrorist activity in America (OKC bombing, Church Bombings, etc.) have been commited by white dudes.

Angry white dudes.

You were saying about jumping to conclusions, Mr. Terrorist ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:40 AM on July 9, 2010


So, of course, were Sikh extremists, from whom you’d think we’d have learned a lesson, and maybe we finally have. Fortunately, the moral relativists and Islamofascist apologists of MetaFilter aren’t running CSIS and the RCMP, or we never would have arrested these men and, through due process of law, found so many of them guilty.

Naw, CSIS and the RCMP are just run by incompetent assholes. Much better than imaginary moral relativists and Islamofascist apologists, if only because they have the edge of actually existing.

Because that would just have been profiling, a far worse sin that storming Parliament and beheading the prime minister.

Easy to say when - I'm going to assume your handle isn't short for Joemar Al-Clark - it's not your rights and liberties at risk. And really, that would depend on the Prime Minister. Would anyone really care about Bowell? I mean, even his name is off-putting.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:54 AM on July 9, 2010


a far worse sin that storming Parliament and beheading the prime minister.

Behead Stephen Harper?

Just watch me.
posted by GuyZero at 9:59 AM on July 9, 2010


You'll have quite a hard time with that GuyZero since its stuck so far up his ass.
posted by Sargas at 10:39 AM on July 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


If there is a pattern to be found in the motives of these men, the article offers the following as the evidence. Here are the men described as having a motive for the act for which they were arrested and a quote about that motive from the original article.

Saad Khalid: "A former University of Toronto business management student, Khalid told a psychiatrist his actions were motivated by a religious obligation to change Western policies he felt were hurting Muslims."

Saad Gaya: "The McMaster University science student told a judge he was not driven by a 'dark ideology of hatred, nihilism and destruction,' but by the suffering of Muslims worldwide."

Qayyum Abdul Jamal: "Jamal, who worked as a school bus driver, was originally portrayed as the group’s firebrand ringleader because of his age and conservative views."

Yasin Abdi Mohamed: "He claimed he had purchased the gun for protection in his sideline business of selling U.S.-purchased designer clothes on the streets of Toronto."

Zakaria Amara: "Although the university dropout’s once lofty ambitions of studying abroad and becoming a great Islamic scholar were distant memories, he still clung to a desire to do something great for Allah. Consumed by the suffering of Muslims worldwide and inspired by al-Qaeda, he plotted to settle that score." [...] "'I used to think that I needed to support Muslims in every act they take.'" [...] "The topic of jihad surfaced, with Amara asking if [infiltrator] Shaikh was a cheerleader from the sidelines or in the game: 'Is jihad an individual or communal obligation?'" [...] "Amara reached into his bag and handed Shaikh conservative Wahabbist literature texts." [...] "Amara was also determined to capture their exploits on camera, which Ahmad wanted to send overseas to impress jihadi leaders." [...] "'We’re not officially Al Qaeda but share their principles and methods,' Ahmad declared at the camp. He also delivered a fiery campfire speech that was videotaped, in which he urges attendees to wage war on the West. 'If we don’t (get) a victory, God willing, our kids will get it,' says Ahmad, who can be seen in the dark and grainy video hunched under a tarp shielding himself from freezing rain. 'This has to get done, Rome has to be defeated.'" [...] "'I know what I’m doing,' shot back Amara, saying in war one needs to follow the teachings and decisions of shaikhs such as Osama bin Laden." [...] "The trio attended Friday prayers, with Abdelhaleem advising Elsohemy to read a lot of the Quran so 'God will make it easy.'"

Fahim Ahmad: "He believed the West was at war with Islam - he called it a 'global fight' - and identified Canada, with its military presence in Afghanistan, as part of the problem. That’s why, reasoned Ahmad, it was justifiable to strike at the government and Canadian troops here, before soldiers even arrived in Afghanistan."

Jahmaal James: "I can train, fight and get shahada."

Shareef Abdelhaleem: "I have been also toying with the idea of going to the ultimate duty for our Lord back home." [...] "Abdelhaleem, who was the middleman, told Elsohemy of how the 'Battle of Toronto,' would 'screw Stephen Harper, the government and the military.' Canada would remove troops from Afghanistan, said Abdelhaleem, 'because they’re not tough like the British and the Americans. . . . Canada will be shut down.' When speaking of Amara’s plot, Abdelhaleem described 'blood, glass and debris' for several blocks and predicted the explosion at Toronto’s CSIS offices would bring down half the building. 'The explosion itself will have a secondary explosion from the cars around it. Flames would stretch like from here to the end of Mandarin . . . all the parked cars will burn.'

Elsohemy: "If all had gone according to plan, Elsohemy would say: 'Praise God.'"

Various: "They pretended to be the Mujahideen in Chechnya, and their games were about killing the kuffar (non-believer)."

I read the article carefully but I have mistakenly not included a motive. I have quoted the article without comment, and I have done my best to quote the article in context. I offer my thanks in advance to anyone who can identify and correct errors that I have made.
posted by eccnineten at 10:49 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I read the article carefully but I have mistakenly not included a motive" should read "I read the article carefully but I may have mistakenly not included a motive."
posted by eccnineten at 11:54 AM on July 9, 2010


joeclark: " Fortunately, the moral relativists and Islamofascist apologists of MetaFilter aren’t running CSIS and the RCMP, or we never would have arrested these men and, through due process of law, found so many of them guilty. Because that would just have been profiling, a far worse sin that storming Parliament and beheading the prime minister."

Never mind that no one stormed Parliament and beheaded Stephen Harper, but profiling happens every day.
posted by QIbHom at 11:55 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I unreservedly reiterate my comment.
posted by joeclark at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2010


It's worth pointing out that the extremist would-be ringleaders were first reported to the CSIS by other Muslims. Call me crazy (or a liberal Islamo-fascist sympathizer), but it seems to me that improving such relationships between law enforcement and the larger Muslim community would be a better strategy than immediately tarring all Muslims with the "terrorist" brush. There are far more non-terrorist Muslisms than Muslim terrorists, in Canada and everwhere else, and the less the former sympathize with the latter, the better it will be everybody.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:51 PM on July 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I unreservedly reiterate infinitywaltz's comment.
posted by Shepherd at 1:53 PM on July 9, 2010


Muslim extremists are a proven threat to Canada and can and should be singled out for investigation. So, of course, were Sikh extremists, from whom you’d think we’d have learned a lesson, and maybe we finally have. Fortunately, the moral relativists and Islamofascist apologists of MetaFilter aren’t running CSIS and the RCMP, or we never would have arrested these men and, through due process of law, found so many of them guilty.

Also, kind of a strawman argument, since I don't think anyone's arguing against arresting Muslim extremists. All people are saying is that no, not all Muslims are terrorists, and they shouldn't be treated as such. Again, it was other Muslims that first brought the "Toronto 18" to the attention of authorities in the first place.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:54 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Extremists come in all shapes and flavours.
posted by joelf at 3:35 PM on July 9, 2010


Joe Clark: This argument about warranted or unwarranted generalizations began with Resiny's comment about Muslim males aged 19-30.

Then several following commenters correctly pointed out that yes, in fact, genralizing about Muslim males aged 19-30 would be bigoted. Because terrorist plots are attempted and/or carried about by extremists period.

You're right that the CSIS and RCMP are not afraid to actively seek out and investigate Muslim extremists, just like I'm sure they watch for Christian extremists, anarchy extremists or knitting extremists if the day ever comes.

It doesn't take the Quran to make someone a terrorist, it takes bad judgement, logic, and perhaps a feeling of helplessness, anger and justice.

They're not Islamofascist apologists, they just don't think beard + robes + 19-30 = terrorist. Come on.
posted by breakfast! at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


This shit doesn't help the credibility of counter-terrorism ops either. I know it's the FBI vs CSIS, but if all the big arrests in the media turn out to be fabricated at least in part, then no matter where you are it makes you question the credibility of the authorities.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:18 PM on July 9, 2010


Yes, InfinityWaltz. We are in violent agreement. In fact, without the risky intelligence work of self-professed Islamic fundamentalist, Canadian patriot, and epitome of coolness Mubin Shaikh, these arrests wouldn’t have happened. (He was always ready with a juicy quip, too, describing the conspirators as “a few fries short of a Happy Meal.”)

Canadians who stand up for a free society unthreatened by religious extremists and terrorists owe Shaikh a debt of gratitude. And we apologize for nothing.
posted by joeclark at 10:22 AM on July 10, 2010


So... you agree that your whole little rant about Muslim extremists was a strawman argument?
posted by Shepherd at 2:12 PM on July 13, 2010


[comments removed - folks, comment trawling at other people's blogs is against the rules. go to metatalk.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:49 PM on July 17, 2010


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