Winnipeg mosques more vigilant amid terror arrests
Mosques in Winnipeg are on heightened alert this week, in light of arrests related to an alleged Canadian terror plot targeting a Via passenger train.
Members of the city's Muslim community have been alarmed by the arrests this week of two men accused of conspiring to carry out an "al-Qaeda supported" attack on a Via passenger train.
The arrests and the recent Boston Marathon bombings both have Idris Knapp of Central Mosque on Ellice Avenue feeling a sense of dread.
"Being from the Muslim community, you always think … 'Oh, I just hope that this isn't some misguided person who's doing this in the name of faith,'" he said.
Knapp said he's not worried about any potential backlash from the public, but members of the community are being more vigilant against extremism.
"Basically we're just more cautious. And at the same time, we're always more open to people," he said.
Recruitment happening online
Shahina Siddiqui of the Islamic Social Services Association says extremists are not being recruited in mosques in the city, but young people are being recruited online, and that's where anti-terrorism efforts should be focused.
"The security of Canada is our security, and none of the parents want to lose their young people to either gangs or to radical violent organizations," she said.
The association is planning to hold a town hall with RCMP in June to educate Muslims in Winnipeg about the dangers of online recruiting.
Siddiqui said education for parents is the best response in this type of situation.
"Just as we tell them how to look for signs of gang recruitment, we have information that can help parents find out if their kids are getting radicalized in the negative sense, in the violent sense," she said.
Police allege that Ferid Ahmed Imam and Maiwand Yar were part of a conspiracy to participate in the activities of a terrorist group. The two remain at large.
Shortly after the charges were laid, the RCMP started reaching out to the Muslim community in an effort to build trust and break down barriers.
"It goes both ways. We educate them; we tell them what we do," said Cpl. Dave Ogungbemi, an outreach officer in Manitoba.
"We have a job to do. They understand what we do so that they know that hey, we aren't just out there to get them."