Your letters on Mubin Shaikh, who helped a police investigation
On July 13, CBC News aired an interview with a paid police informant who said he infiltrated a group of men and youths arrested on June 2, 2006, in connection with an alleged plot to bomb targets in southern Ontario.
The informant, who spoke to Linden McIntyre of CBC's The Fifth Estate, is 29-year-old Mubin Shaikh, a prominent member of Toronto's Indo-Canadian Muslim community. He was born in Canada to immigrant parents.
Shaikh is expected to testify at the trials of the 12 men and five youths who have been charged in the case.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
Linden McIntyre: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Mubin Shaikh: I was born here, St. Michael's Hospital downtown. My father had come here in the early '70s. He studied in the U.K., got a job with Bell Canada, still working with Bell, close to retirement. But still had that Indian conservatism in him, and here I am, I'm growing up here, I'm going to public schools. I can remember in Grade 7 and 8, I'm attending Kane senior public school, I'm the guy reading the Lord's Prayer on the PA, you know, in the Christmas pageant, I'm one of the wise men, you know. I have my robes, so I fit the profile.
I'm one of the few Indian Muslims who can say that I lived a clich… high school life. Like we were just the coolest guys in school. The cheerleaders were our girlfriends, you know, and so the sportos, they hated us, the jocks, right, because we're the potheads out in the corner there, and just it was an easy life.
Linden McIntyre: What was wrong with that life?
Mubin Shaikh spoke exclusively to Linden McIntyre of CBC's The Fifth Estate. (CBC)
Mubin Shaikh: Well, I got burned out. That's what happened. I was living — the fast lane was too slow. I was living the passing lane. After 9/11 happened, I remember I was on my way to work and I told the story that "Oh, yeah, plane hit a building," and just right after that, somebody else came on and said, "A plane hit a building," and I was like, "I just said that," and he said, "No, another plane."
So I go upstairs and I'm working for a company that contracts for the federal government. And I'm hearing the Pentagon and this and that and everything else, and I'm like, what the hell is going on? I felt really bad because now I knew that every Muslim male or female who was identifiable was now on the defensive. Now you couldn't go to buy eggs without somebody saying, "Hey, why don't you go back to where you came from." Or "Hey, don't you know this is Canada, you don't have to wear that here."
And I remember specifically being at that stage where I was ready to go to Chechnya, I was ready to go to Afghanistan. I wanted to do some jihad-oriented thing, but I was lucky that I was exposed to people who, you know, who I could talk to, who could, you know, correct my understanding.
Linden McIntyre: I mean, the frightening thing for me is that this potential time bomb, martial arts, military training, a lot of brains, and motivation, had you got the wrong guru or the wrong imam or got some crackpot, God knows where you would be. You would be in Guantanamo Bay today maybe.
Mubin Shaikh: Yeah, if I would still be alive.
Linden McIntyre: If you were still alive.
Mubin Shaikh: Yeah.
Linden McIntyre: So is it that fragile? Is that all it takes is the wrong kind of influence at the wrong time in a young man's life?
Mubin Shaikh: I would have to say yes. That's what it comes down to.
Linden McIntyre: How did you get involved with the 17 young guys, most of whom or all of whom did not have those advantages? They were listening to the wrong people. They were leaning in the wrong direction.
Mubin Shaikh: Mm-hmm. You know, they were exposed to the right people.
Linden McIntyre: Oh, they were?
Mubin Shaikh: They were, but I could — you know, this is just as I was saying, because they were so engrained in this particular understanding, all they could do was acknowledge that, yes, that guy's a scholar, but he's not my kind of scholar. He's not the guy that I would take from. I wanted to help them as much as I could.
Linden McIntyre: So how did you first connect up with these guys?
Mubin Shaikh: So what happened was I go to Syria 2002 to 2004. I come back in March 2004, and I read in the paper Mohammad Momin Khawaja is arrested on terrorism charges. I know the family very well. We grew up together. His father taught us when we were younger. And so we have a good connection with the family.
So what happened was I contacted CSIS. I phoned them and I said, "Listen, I know the family, I know this guy, Momin, is there some way that I can help, you know, give some information in that, look, I've grown up with him, you know, I don't know him to be like this or his brother, definitely not his family, like his parents are not extremists."
So they're like, "Oh, Momin Khawaja, first terrorism case, sure, we'll talk to you." The guy comes down, he was head of the unit supposedly. We met at Timmy's, and, you know, I'm wearing my pin, the Canadian flag and the Metro police pin, because I was also doing I guess you can call it ethno-cultural religious awareness with the Toronto police, and just to let them know, you know, different things that could be of use to them, and so I met with the CSIS guys, and they were very interested in me now. So basically, you know, they put to me the prospect of working with them, giving information on people, certain groups, getting to leaders of certain groups, talking to them, seeing what kind of views they had and reporting on those views because I am convinced that I'm the best guy for them to have to comment on the different groups, because I have a solid foundation in Islam, you know, I'm born and raised here.
I mean, Toronto's home. So I understand what concerns they have, but at the same time as a Muslim, I understand what concerns Muslims have. So I felt that I could be a link between the two sides.
Linden McIntyre: Did the bad words "spy," you know…
Mubin Shaikh: Informer, informant.
Linden McIntyre: Fink, you know, provocateur, did these things come into your head?
Mubin Shaikh: Well, the thing was is that I had to be sure for myself, and I know that there's a perception in the community and in society in general that when you're doing stuff like that that it's kind of dirty, but that's just not my personality. I don't do that. So I knew that that would just not creep in to me. Like to do it because — I would have to be malicious. I would have to like try to set somebody up, and what would motivate me to do that? So I know that that was — it was there in my head. Like I could — I remember going through all these things, but I knew that, you know what, I would be so sincere and I knew that, you know what, I would — that just couldn't happen. I was now to infiltrate this group, and they were trying for the longest time and they wanted — they really needed somebody inside, and so I was made to make myself available.
Linden McIntyre: How do you do that without making yourself a little bit too conspicuous?
Mubin Shaikh: It's hard to say. There is a part of me that is like that. You know, right, like I have that in me so that they can see. It's very easy for me to do it. I don't really need to act. It's just the way that I am. You know, I like — I'm sociable, I like talking to people, I'm extroverted, you know, so with these guys, what happened was, I'm telling you, the divine hand is behind all of this. I go to this — there was a program that was going on, and I go to the banquet hall and I'm sitting at the table. There was nobody there, and a guy comes across, and of all the tables to sit next to, he sits next to me. So he asks me a question, is jihad... [speaking foreign language] What he's asking me is, is jihad a communal obligation or an individual obligation? If I say it's a communal obligation, I'm implicitly saying I don't need to be a jihadi. But if I say it's an individual obligation, then I'm saying I can be a jihadi.
Linden McIntyre: You should be a jihadi.
Mubin Shaikh: Yes, right, because otherwise you're not anything proper, really. So I told him exactly what he wanted to hear. I said, no, it's... [speaking foreign language] and that did it. I got pulled over to the side. They gave me the lines, what's happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, they're raping our women, killing our children, and that's the thing, the emotional thing they use. So you feel angry, you want to do something about it. Your mind is clouded. Now, you're young, physically, you're fit. You can physically do something. You need somebody to push you, to motivate you. You got that anger, the emotion, the desire to protect the honour of women, right. And the way this guy was talking, I had really my comment to my CSIS handler at that time afterwards was, "This guy is an effing time bomb waiting to go off."
Linden McIntyre: When did you know that this fertilizer or the ammonium nitrate was in the equation?
Mubin Shaikh: Just before it was made public.
Linden McIntyre: Oh, so you didn't really …
Mubin Shaikh: No, I didn't know about it. I didn't know what these guys were up to, nothing of the sort. I knew that they could put a bomb together, and if they had a bomb, I wouldn't be surprised. But it just shocked me. Blew me away, pardon the pun, that three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, I mean, it was fake stuff that they had, but still, they were trying to procure that kind of stuff, you know. That's just, I mean, that's mind-boggling, man. The kind of damage that could have done down here? Can't imagine that kind of damage. You can't.
Linden McIntyre: At that point, if you had any guilty feelings about being a fink …
Mubin Shaikh: Yeah, they were gone. They were gone like that. People are doing this in the name of Islam, and it's hurting me more than anybody else. It's hurting the Muslim more than anybody else. I mean, you know, apart from those who actually lose their life, it's people like us who suffer more than anybody else, and that's what people have to understand, because now a guy like me who's an agent of the state, responsible for bringing these guys down, I'm still called a terrorist in the street.