British Columbia

How ISIS recruited Collin Gordon, former Thompson Rivers University student

Staff and faculty at a B.C. university hosted a public conference last night after learning a former student has joined an extremist group in Syria.

B.C. university hosts forum on radicalization and shocking revelation about Collin Gordon

In a Facebook posting a year ago, Collin Gordon is seen wearing army fatigues and a scarf wrapped around his head. In the comments, he responded to a relative who referred to al-Qaeda, saying 'Al-Qaeda are Muslims and I stand by them in this life and the next as I do with any and every Muslim,' while also denying he was affiliated with the militant group. (Facebook)

Staff and faculty at a small university in the B.C. Interior are asking themselves how a former student ended up joining an extremist group in Syria, and how they can prevent young men from following in his path.

Collin Gordon, of Calgary, Alta., was an athletic and highly social student at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, B.C., who joined the school's volleyball team in 2008.

CBC News learned last week that he and his brother Gregory, who are recent converts to Islam, were recruited out of the Muslim community in Calgary to join the ranks of foreign fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

TRU Political Science professor Derek Cook hosted a forum Friday night to try and address how Gordon and other young men like him end up joining the extremists.

Collin Gordon, left, and Greg Gordon, right, converted to Islam and became known to members of Calgary's Muslim community as Abdul Malik and Khalid. (Facebook)

"How could that be, that young people are being seduced to join a group of mass murderers that have an ersatz view of Islam, and really, are pretending to advocate religious ideology when they are advocating a political ideology?" he asked.

"It's a con game. It's phony. They're fooling people into joining them," he answered.

"This group needs to be confronted and identified for what it is: a variation on political neo-fascism, not a religious movement," he said

Because ISIS has been able to weave a compelling narrative around it, it has been successful in drawing in and said young people in the West who see injustice and want to act to combat it.

"ISIS is extremely effective in propaganda and in using social media," Cook said.

Cook said many people on campus are shocked by the revelation about Gordon, and those who knew him and still care about him are understandably worried.

Thompson Rivers University political science professor Derek Cook says it is unlikely the Gordon brothers would be allowed to leave ISIS should they choose to. (CBC)

But, he said, the former volleyball player's old acquaintances should be wary of trying to contact him.

"It's impossible to know whether you can communicate with him because the cadre of ISIS elite control the media. Even if you think you may be engaged with him on Facebook you don't know that for sure," Cook said. "If we tried to persuade him to come back, what would happen? He'd be killed."

"Unfortunately, he's lost," Cook said.

The goal now is to ensure others don't follow the Gordon brothers' path, he said.

With files from the CBC's Richard Zussman