Published: Thursday, September 07, 2006
Three months after the RCMP began arresting 18 suspects accused of plotting terror attacks in Canada, an investigation by the National Post has uncovered a web of links to Pakistan. Today, in the last of four parts, a Toronto terror suspect's ties to a hardline Pakistani Muslim group.
LAHORE, Pakistan - An elderly man with a snowy beard, a black Jinnah cap and a well-honed gift for oratory, Dr. Israr Ahmad is one of Pakistan's best-known Islamic revivalists.
With the help of a weekly television show, a Web site and a seminary in Lahore's Model Town neighbourhood, the 74-year-old exhorts Muslims to strive for the "global domination of Islam."
In his books and recorded lectures, sold online and at his small shop in Lahore, he spells out his views about "conspiring" Jews and the need to treat non-Muslims as second-class citizens.
"Under the existing state of affairs, which is both distressing and disheartening, we must keep reminding ourselves that the ascendancy of Islam over the entire globe is bound to come," he writes.
Dr. Ahmad does not advocate violence; his message is that change will only come once Muslims individually adhere to the principles of their faith. But one of his disciples may have gone too far.
Qayyum Abdul Jamal, the eldest of the 18 terror suspects arrested in the Toronto area this summer, was a student of Dr. Ahmad's and a member of the "revolutionary" organization he founded, Tanzeem-e-Islami.
In an indication of his reverence for Dr. Ahmad, days after he was arrested by the RCMP on June 2, Mr. Jamal sent a message to his wife, Cheryfa, asking her to get in contact with his "old mentor and teacher."
"All my husband had wanted from me was to get this simple message to his old friend: 'I need your [prayers],' " Mrs. Jamal says on her Internet blog, adding, "Dr. Ahmad asked me to fax my request as it was difficult for him to hear me on the phone."
According to Tanzeem officials, the mosque where Mr. Jamal preached, the Ar-Rahman Islamic Centre in Mississauga, Ont., was once affiliated with the Pakistan-based organization but was expelled three years ago.
In 2003, the Tanzeem-e-Islami branch in North America broke away from its parent organization in Pakistan, partly due to ideological differences with Dr. Ahmad. Mosques in Canada and the U.S. were required to pledge their loyalty to a new North American leader, rather than to Dr. Ahmad. The Ar-Rahman centre did not do so and its membership was therefore revoked.
"He is not considered a member and thus his membership is nullified and he is no longer a member of our organization," said Steve Elturk, president of the U.S. Tanzeem affiliate, now called the Islamic Organization of North America.
He added that Dr. Ahmad "never advocated terrorism, never advocated any violence, as a matter of fact his movement is a peaceful, non-violent movement."
The terrorist plot that Mr. Jamal stands accused helping foment in Ontario has been widely described as a "homegrown" Canadian conspiracy, but there are also a web of ties to Pakistan, and Mr. Jamal is among them.
Some of those associated with the Toronto cell allegedly traveled to Pakistan for terrorist training; some are accused of links to a Pakistani militant group called Lashkar-e-Tayyiba; and some are of Pakistani heritage.
Five years after 9/11, the suspected connections between Pakistan and what could have been Canada's worst act of domestic terror is seen by some as an indication that while terrorism has changed dramatically since 2001, Pakistan's role as a hub of global terror remains unresolved.
At the Society of the Servants of the Koran, Dr. Ahmad's seminary near Punjab University, a sticker on the window reads: "Destiny of Pakistan: Caliphate," the term for the Islamic nation imagined by some Muslims.
"Yes, I heard about him," one of Mr. Ahmad's friendly aides, Sardar Awan, said of Mr. Jamal in an interview with the National Post. "Our party is Tanzeem-e-Islami. He was in that," he said.
"Recently when he was arrested one of our previous members of Tanzeem-e-Islami informed us. And his wife ... she is alone there so we contacted the emir [the Tanzeem leader] in America to help."
Dr. Ahmad could be called Mr. Jamal's teacher "in the sense that Dr. Israr taught [the] Koran to people and gave [the] message of [the] Koran to [the] people of Pakistan, in the sense that he learned Islam and Koran from Dr. Israr," he said.
He said he read about the Toronto terror plot in the newspaper, but added he has his own views about who is and is not a terrorist. "As far as I understand, I don't think any organizations are terrorist organizations, are really terrorist, even in Afghanistan or in Iraq.
"They are poor people. I don't think they are terrorists."
But he said his organization would not condone bombings in Canada. "We don't encourage that. We try to make our country according to the system of Islam."
Asked if he was concerned that one of the Tanzeem's followers might have taken things too far, he said: "Yes, we will try to clarify our position more frequently and we will tell people that this is not what we are aiming [for].
"This is not at all our mission, our struggle."
The "message of [the] Koran and Sunna and our organization is not that complicated. Maybe he misapplied that message or he could not judge that this message is not applicable to where he is staying."
In an e-mail sent to the Post, Dr. Ahmad said he was out of touch with the Tanzeem, having relinquished his leadership of the party in 2002 due to health problems.
"Since I am not in touch with the Tanzeem members for last many years, it would be difficult for me to offer any thoughtful comment about the arrest of a former Tanzeem member, Qayyum Jamal, in Canada whom I do not remember at the moment," he said.
"We do believe in a struggle as a Tanzeem for the establishment of a system of social justice of Islam in a country of our origin, rather than in a host country and that too collectively under the leadership of Tanzeem in an organized manner.
"If the man has indeed engaged in the terrorist activities in Canada as the police have alleged, there must be some misunderstanding."
How Mr. Jamal came to embrace what Canadian authorities have described as the ideology of al-Qaeda is an open question that may not be answered even at his trial. But his involvement in Tanzeem-e-Islami and study of Dr. Ahmad's teachings may provide a glimpse of his worldview.
In Pakistan, Dr. Ahmad's conservative brand of religion and his opinions about Jews and the West are everyday fare. But his ideas would likely be troubling to many Canadians.
He writes that it is the duty of all Muslims to strive for "the ascendancy of Islam over all other systems of life," and that the dominance of Islam will come in three stages: passive resistance, active resistance and armed conflict.
Islam's renaissance will begin in Pakistan, he writes, because the Arab world is living under subjugation. Only the Pakistan region "has the potential for standing up against the nefarious designs of the global power-brokers and to resist the rising tides of the Jewish/Zionist hegemony," he writes.
The Tanzeem-e-Islami, which he formed in 1975, is an "Islamic revolutionary party whose goal is to establish the system of social justice of the Caliphate [Islamic state] firstly in Pakistan and then in the whole world."
In his booklet Khalifah in Pakistan: What, Why and How?, he outlined the three principles of his ideal state: "(1) Sovereignty belongs to Almighty Allah alone; (2) No legislation can be done at any level that is totally or partially repugnant to Koran and Sunnah, and; (3) Full citizenship of the state is for the Muslims only."
Another of his books repeats the Jewish conspiracy theories popular among neo-Nazis, claiming that Jews have "a deeply ingrained tendency to conspire and to maneuver things surreptitiously for their own gain."
The Jews exert a "wicked web of control and exploitation" through their ownership of banks, insurance companies and stock exchanges, he claims.
He compares Jews to parasites, calls the Holocaust "Divine punishment" and foresees the "total extermination" of Jews at the hands of Muslims.
"Let us say some young, impressionable extremists in Canada were to read that," said Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress and a court-recognized expert on hate literature.
"Who am I or you to say that they're not going to take the actions suggested in these writings? It's pernicious and it's potentially very dangerous."
Read passages of Dr. Ahmad's writings, Mr. Farber called it "anti-Semitic garbage" that he said "adds to the concerns that we've been expressing for years, that anti-Semitism that is injected into the minds of young people here in Canada can potentially have very dangerous effects."
A 43-year-old school bus driver known for his fiery sermons, Mr. Jamal had been under scrutiny by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for the past two years, his wife said in a posting on her blog.
"We knew they were asking our friends and their parents about us, even telling them that Abdul Qayyum was recruiting teens for jihad, but everyone knew this was untrue," she said.
"We knew they were tapping our phones and watching our every move."
Liberal MP Wajid Khan has said he once heard Mr. Jamal claim that Canadian troops were only in Afghanistan "to rape Muslim women."
Mr. Jamal's exact role in the group accused of plotting to detonate truck bombs in downtown Toronto and behead hostages on Parliament Hill until Canada withdrew from Afghanistan and released Muslim prisoners has not yet been disclosed.
But he has been charged with three counts under the Anti-terrorism Act: participating in a terrorist group, training for terrorism and intent to cause an explosion.
His bail hearing is scheduled to resume this month.