In an interview with the National Post, Chiheb Esseghaier did not directly admit he had conspired to derail a Toronto-bound Amtrak train but neither did he deny it, and he said Canada had started a “fire” by sending troops to Afghanistan.
|Chiheb Esseghaier - doctoral student, terrorist|
Colonization of Afghanistan
Calling himself a “victim of NATO colonization of Afghanistan,” the 30-year-old doctoral student depicted terrorism as the consequence of Canada’s attempt to — in his view —bring secularism to Afghanistan through military force.
His comments this week from the Metro West Detention Centre, where he is being held on terrorism charges, were the most expansive explanation he has given to date of his political and religious views and suggested a preoccupation with Afghanistan.
He raised the country repeatedly, referring to Afghans as “my brother and my sister” and condemning Canada for its role in the NATO mission to secure the nation from the Taliban and its Islamist extremist allies.
“You go to a land which is far away from you … You go with your army and you kill people and you took their land. And after that you cry out ‘terrorism, terrorism,’” Mr. Esseghaier said.
“You made the fire and after that you cry out ‘smoke, smoke.’ You, you made the fire. So then what is the solution? The solution is very simple: To stop the fire. Do you understand me? Hopefully you get my answer to your question.” Not so much!
Shown a transcript of the interview, two academic experts on extremism said Mr. Esseghaier’s comments were consistent with the mindset of a fundamentalist who seemed to put himself above the law.
Comparison to Christian anti-abortion activists
“From my perspective, the views expressed … are very typical of the worldview of religious fundamentalists and very comparable to what one might hear from a strident anti-abortion activist coming from a Christian perspective,” said Prof. Lorne Dawson, co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.
“We have the literalist reading of scripture and emphasis on the absolute dominion of God’s word, as revealed, over all things human in origin. There is little or no consideration given to the other gifts of thought and freedom of will also granted by God to humankind,” the University of Waterloo sociologist said.
Following an undercover RCMP national security investigation called Project Smooth, Mr. Esseghaier was arrested last April along with Raed Jaser, 35, a Toronto school van driver. They face terrorism and murder conspiracy charges. Mr. Jaser’s lawyer has denied the allegations.
Radicalized in Canada
Mr. Esseghaier allegedly became extremely devout after arriving in Canada as a student in 2008. He later traveled twice to an eastern Iranian city, Zahedan, known as a gateway for extremists heading to Afghanistan. He allegedly received training and the RCMP says he was acting under the direction of Al-Qaeda “elements” in Iran.
Esseghaier may have been heavily influenced by controversial Islamist Hamza Chaoui.
Chaoui has connections to radical Islamists.
He has preached at the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu mosque (southeast of Montreal, Quebec) attended by Martin Couture-Rouleau, the Muslim convert who killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in October.
Chaoui was also the leader of a Muslim association at Laval University (Montreal). One of that association's members, Chiheb Esseghaier, is about to be tried on charges related to a plot to derail a Via Rail train travelling between Toronto and New York two years ago.
Islamic Law Above Canadian Law
While it is rare for someone awaiting trial to speak so candidly, Mr. Esseghaier is not represented by a lawyer and has been outspoken during his court appearances, often complaining about Canada’s “imperfect” system of “man-made” laws.
During the interview, he elaborated on his objections to being tried under the Criminal Code, saying he did not want to be judged by the same legal regime that allowed banks to charge interest and same sex couples to marry.
|A train crosses a bridge near Jordan Station, Ont. Chiheb Esseghaier and|
Raed Jaser are accused of plotting an attack on the New York-Toronto route
Muhammad a fraud
There is a problem all right. Muhammad's revelations were not from God - they contravene and contradict most of the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God sent His Son 2000 years ago to bring an end to the dispensation of Law and begin the dispensation of Grace; why would He send a minor player 600 years later to cause the earth to revert back to the Law? He didn't! The idea is absurd!
He accused Canada of “killing people in Afghanistan, Muslim people, and everybody knows that the people of Afghanistan, they didn’t harm Canada in the whole history,” he said, without mentioning Afghanistan’s role as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks.
“But Canada go and hurt Muslims in Afghanistan and they took their land and they kill them, and supporting Americans who kill women and babies,” he said. “And after that, what do they do, Canada? The Canadian government they start to cry out ‘terrorism, terrorism.’ Like someone, who make fire and after that he say ‘smoke, smoke.’”
Prof. Christian Leuprecht, a terrorism expert at Queen’s University and Royal Military College, was struck by Mr. Esseghaier’s sense of victimization, moral superiority and his black-and-white outlook. “That’s why they can be fed a radical discourse and end up moving to action, while most people don’t.”
Q: Anything else you wanted to say?
A: I am victim of NATO colonization in Afghanistan, and now the colonizer want to judge his victim.
Q: But you’re not from Afghanistan, you’re Tunisian.
A: I am Muslim. They are my brother and my sister. We pray at the same time, we pray five times and we fast at the same time.
Q: So because you were resisting the ‘NATO colonization of Afghanistan,’ now they’re targeting you?
A: Me, they target everyone who is against their plan. So their plan is to colonize Afghanistan and me, when I was against them, so they put me in the jail.
Q: But aren’t you also in jail because you were planning attacks on train tracks and poisonings?
A: Look, the police they always, what they do is try always to make them victim and to make the other the ones who is doing the attack. They always do that. Me, as I said to you before, if you compare the army of thousands of soldiers and tanks, they are doing the colonization of Afghanistan, and you compare my case, which is just one person, so here it’s like you compare the earth with the seventh heaven.
• This is a partial transcript, edited for length.