Canada needs to 'have eyes' on returned ISIS fighter, says de-radicalization expert

Mubin Shaikh, a de-radicalization expert who has counselled Abu Huzaifa, said he's conflicted over what to do about the returned ISIS fighter. Shaikh says Huzaifa is working towards rectifying his past but Shaikh doesn't like the idea of sending Huzaifa on his "merry way."

Mubin Shaikh said he has personally counselled Abu Huzaifa for a year and a half

Counterterrorism expert Mubin Shaikh says Canada needs to keep a close eye on returned former Canadian ISIS fighter Abu Huzaifa. (John Lancaster/CBC)

De-radicalization expert Mubin Shaikh said he's conflicted over what to do about returned former Canadian ISIS fighter Abu Huzaifa, a man he said he has personally counselled since he returned to Canada.

"He's going to school. He's working. He's trying to repair his life. He understands what he did was wrong, or even what he was involved in was wrong. And he is working toward rectifying that," Shaikh said in an interview with host Vassy Kapelos on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Thursday.

"What does that mean? That we can rehabilitate him and just send him on his merry way and everything is okay? I don't like that idea. I think we need to keep him in some kind of program or something where at least we have eyes on him."

Huzaifa returned to Canada in 2016, but a new New York Times podcast has drawn renewed attention to his story. The former ISIS member gave detailed accounts to NYT reporter Rukmini Callimachi of carrying out two execution-style killings while a member of ISIS in Syria.

Huzaifa has since told CBC News he didn't kill anyone.

"Look, he went when he was a young kid. I mean, 18 years old," said Shaikh, who worked as an undercover counter-terrorism operative with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP. "We know that human beings, our brains don't stop developing until they're 25. So, you can put him in that category of vulnerable, impulsive youth — impulsive decision-making.

"Now he's going through a new period of instability, right? Now all this is coming out. He feels guilty but at the same time he kind of feels good that he was able to go and get the experience that he did.

"It remains to be seen what kind of example will be made of him, if anything. But it just illustrates for us after all the conferences and research papers and, you know, panels — this is the real deal. This is where the rubber meets the cement."

Watch the full interview below.

'He's obviously being deceptive'

5 years ago
Duration 7:51
Mubin Shaikh, former undercover operative for RCMP and CSIS, discusses Canadian ISIS fighter Abu Huzaifa - a man he has personally counselled.