From Postmedia and the Ottawa Citizen, Friday january 17, 2014, P.#A3:
The grandfather of a Calgary man who was “indoctrinated” by Muslim extremists before being killed in Syria says he wishes he could have persuaded him to come home.
“The only approach I could have taken is how much he was hurting his family,” said Gerry Boudreau, the maternal grandfather of Damian Clairmont, who is believed to have left Calgary in 2012 to join Syrian rebels in their fight against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Reports indicate that Clairmont, a 22-year-old who liked ice skating as a child, was killed during rebel infighting this week.
Boudreau told the Herald he tried phoning Clairmont several times, but the young fighter’s group frequently changed cell numbers, and they never connected. But the granddad said he didn’t believe his pleas to have Clairmont recognize the heartbreak he caused his mother, and the questions his absence raised for his two younger siblings, would have had much effect.
“I think he was totally indoctrinated into going over there to do what he had been told was the right thing to do for people who were beset by a horrible government, and he was on the side of God,” Boudreau said in a telephone interview from southwestern France.
Boudreau said his grandson should not have been allowed to leave Canada, given that officials with the national spy agency told Clairmont’s mother they had been tracking his movements during an investigation into a suspected extremist group in Calgary. He wondered why the Canadian government didn’t withhold his grandson’s passport or used other means to make it more difficult for him to leave the country.
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada has been tight-lipped about the case, telling reporters this week that it was aware of reports that Canadians had been killed in Syria, and that the government has advised against travel to Syria “due to the deteriorating security situation.”
Based on his own sources, Boudreau said he believes Clairmont, who also went by Mustafa Al-Gharib, was not alone when he left Calgary to join Syrian rebels and that each of the travellers had a cover story. Clairmont’s was that he was heading to Egypt to study. He later told his family this was a lie and that he was in Syria.
Boudreau said he believes his grandson was recruited by extremists in Calgary after he converted to Islam. Clairmont, a troubled teenager who dropped out of high school and attempted to kill himself, may have been introduced to the faith after meeting Muslims playing basketball, the granddad believes.
“At first with the conversion, it seemed to be creating some peace in his mind,” Boudreau said. “And we said, ‘If that works for him, so much the better.’ ”
Later, the young man would become more and more upset about certain behaviours and habits that he said were not part of the Muslim faith, such as when others drank alcohol or ate pork, the granddad recalled.
Souheil Merhi, chairman of the Muslim Council of Calgary, remembered Clairmont as a teenager coming to pray at the Islamic Centre of Calgary mosque on 14th Avenue S.W.
“At that time he was very shy,” Merhi said. “He was not a regular. (He came) once a month or so.”
Clairmont kept to himself when he did attend, Merhi said, not taking part in any of the youth programs offered at the Islamic centre.
Merhi had not seen Clairmont at the mosque for several years.
RCMP and CSIS investigators had visited the mosque asking questions about young male Muslims connected with extremist groups, Merhi said.
“They approached us because they had concerns about some people. They would not reveal who but maybe he was one of them. Obviously they knew about (them).
“Unfortunately they couldn’t do much (for Clairmont), if they knew before he left.”
Merhi feared Clairmont may have been influenced by Daish — a Syrian and Iraqi arm of al-Qaida — and joined the group in Syria by travelling through Turkey.
“I hope he didn’t join them because they are the extremists,” he said. “I imagine someone that age, that naive, it could be very confusing for him. It’s such a waste.”
THE PRINT ARTICLE ENDED HERE.
Boudreau said he believes Clairmont was likely looked upon as a susceptible young man, given that he was “searching for something to get his life together,” and might have been an easy target for extremist ideology.
Muhammad Robert Heft, a Muslim counsellor who spoke with Clairmont’s mother while her son was in Syria, said the young man may have believed after converting to Islam that he no longer had to deal with the underlying problems that led to his suicide attempts and his apparent inability to cope at school.
“What typically happens is they don’t see a future and because they are already suicidal, now that they become Muslim they understand that suicide is forbidden, so they find an easier way out,” said Heft.
SINCE WHEN, LIAR?
“They say, ‘I can pick up a gun and I can go shoot people. The worst thing that’s going to happen is I get killed and if I don’t get killed, in some cases, I think it’s generally a good cause so I’m going to go help those people.’”
WHAT ABOUT THE “DYING WHILE TRYING TO KILL OTHERS IS THE ONLY SURE TICKET INTO ALLAH’S HEAVEN!”?
Based in Toronto, Heft counsels newly practising Muslims who have extreme views and are sympathetic to violence, as well as those who are on the “fringe” and hold radical views but are non-violent.
He said the Internet can be a catalyst that prompts young Muslims to become angry and militant.
THAT DARNED INTERNET AGAIN! WITHOUT IT, THERE WOULD ONLY BE THE PEACEFUL QURAN TO BLAME!
Boudreau said Clairmont’s mother is handling the loss of her son “remarkably well,” staying strong for her two other children. For his part, he feels frustrated with the federal government while he mourns a young man who died too young.
ISLAM IS THE HARPER GOVERNMENT’S FAULT, NOT THE FAMILIES WHO ALLOW THEIR KIDS TO JOIN THE DEATH-CULT!
“You expect that your children and your grandchildren are going to outlive you; you don’t expect they would go before you,” he said. “Considering what was happening in Syria and the fighting that was going on, on a regular basis, in the back of your mind you know that there is the possibility that this sort of thing is going to happen.
“So it doesn’t come as a huge shock when it happens, but it comes as a shock that you’ve lost your grandchild.”
With files from Michael Wright
Andre Poulin from Timmins, Ont., died in an attack on a Syrian government-controlled airport last August, according to a CBC News report.
Poulin, who had converted to Islam and was known as Abu Muslim by the time of his death, arrived in Syria in late 2012 to join a unit of foreign fighters, the CBC reported, leaving behind a wife and child in Syria.
The man was beginning to subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam in 2008 and 2009 in Timmins, when he was 20 years old. He developed a separate identity, calling himself Uncle Umar, and became concerned about his dress and others’ behaviour, according to the CBC.
He also reportedly had a criminal record for uttering death threats, harassment, and carrying a weapon.
WHAT!? HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE IN CANADA, WHAT WITH IT BEING HIS PROTECTED RELIGIOUS RIGHT TO UTTER HIS HOLY DEATH-THREATS AND HARRASS THE UNBELEIVERS FOR ALLAH?!
It’s the second such report this week. On Wednesday it was reported that Mustafa al-Gharib, a 22-year-old Canadian-born Muslim who left Calgary for Syria in November 2012, was killed by Free Syrian Army forces during rebel infighting.
Al-Gharib was born in Nova Scotia as Damian Clairmont.
Speaking in Washington Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said his officials were aware of the reports of al-Gharib’s death, but suggested he may be just one among many Canadians fighting overseas.
“I haven’t got specific facts, (but) it won’t come as a surprise to us that there is probably more than one Canadian that is fighting with the opposition,” Baird said.
With files from The Canadian Press