An Ottawa boy’s slide to jihad
Ian MacLeod, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, October 30, 2008
Momin Khawaja remained silent throughout his 41/2-year court case, but dozens of e-mails he wrote before his arrest reveal how and why this quiet Canadian, with a nice family from an Ottawa suburb, dedicated his life to terrorism and destroying the West. Using Khawaja’s own words and thoughts, Canwest News Service chronicles Khawaja’s descent into jihad.
Momin Khawaja waves to his mother Azra from his glass cage in courtroom No. 37. Seeing her always makes him happy.
The destruction of America and its Israeli masters would also make him very happy. He’d taken precautions when he declared holy war on the West, yet the police and security services caught him within months.
He looks out at the courtroom’s gallery. The young woman from the Canadian Intelligence Security Service takes notes. Reporters scribble away.
Closer to the back, his father Mahboob and mother present a stoic facade, revealing none of their suffering and feelings of injustice.
The few others are mostly retirees, students and courthouse staff. Once in a while, anonymous men take seats in the courtroom’s shadowy recesses.
Everyone seems to stare at him with each accusation as they persecute him for following what he believes is the righteous path of Islam.
These kuffar, these unbelievers, are so blind to the godless world they inhabit, where women bare their flesh in public, men are openly wanton, everyone is materialistic and children suckle on the filth of TV.
Worse, they mock and ignore Allah and the Prophet and plunder the wealth of the Muslim nation, the Ummah.
He was once ashamed knowing that somewhere some brother or sister was being slaughtered for proclaiming, La ilaha ilAllah, there is no god but Allah. Then he realized Islam’s only deliverance is jihad, action.
The 19 brothers of 9/11 shared this belief. He feels bad so many innocents died that day but there was absolutely no other way of achieving the same objective with the same effect.
Born in Ottawa and raised there and in Toronto, Libya and Pakistan, he played basketball, swam, biked and did all the naughty little things kids do.
He dreamed of being a soldier some day, inspired by the story of Ali Radi Allah Anhu, the great Muslim soldier who cleaved the Jewish commander Marhab in half with a single blow from his sword during the Arabian Battle of Khayber.
During the mid-1980s, his family moved to Saudi Arabia where his dad, an academic, helped launch a business and technology college. He and some of his three brothers and a sister attended an American school for foreigners.
After six years, they returned to Ottawa, on the way visiting Kashmir, where his mom and dad are from. As a second-generation Pakistani-Canadian, he liked his dual cultural identity.
In high school, he started reading the Koran regularly, though he wasn’t into high Deen, living in total submission to God. If anything, he was into math, especially calculus. He thought he might major in math at university.
As a teen, he partied some with his many friends. Nothing crazy, but he’d occasionally skip school to shoot pool, chill at the mall or go clubbing.
At 21, as the dot-com boom made other 20-somethings rich, he was in computer science at Algonquin College in Ottawa getting ready to cash in. He chose the field for the money, but loved it right away.
After college he figured he would start his a computer firm, get married, settle down.
Then the intefadeh of 2000 erupted. He compared his suburban existence against the hardships faced by Muslims in such places as the West Bank, Gaza, Bosnia and Chechnya.
Something was terribly wrong and if things were ever to change, people like him needed to sacrifice and devote themselves to helping the Ummah, perhaps working for a humanitarian group.
He wasn’t yet attracted to the ideology of jihadi-Salafi Islam, but looking back, it was the launch of his trajectory to violent jihad.
The press likes to note how his father has written critically on Western involvement in the Middle East. But his dad is no extremist and his parents raised him to be respectful and law-abiding.
After Algonquin, he opened a small software development company which led to a job with Spectra FX, doing contract work for the department of foreign affairs. That earned him a briefcase and a desk at the department’s downtown Ottawa office. At lunch, he’d walk to the nearby Islamic Information and Education Centre.
He spent lots of time at the gym. He watched current affairs and read some of the classics on war, strategy and history.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001 and, right after graduating from Algonquin, he headed to Afghanistan.
The U.S. invasion proved to be the crucial turning point, the psychological trigger that inflamed him and gave him a direction: Full devotion to Deen and the Ummah.
His new direction in life, a personal cause of the highest order, would be to actively defend Islam and work to improve the health, education and greater good of the Ummah. He would do anything to support Islam’s oppressed brothers and sisters and deter those who wish to destroy the Muslim world.
In January 2002, he left for Pakistan, intending never to return. He vowed to become the West’s mortal enemy and planned to join al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
But his timing was wrong. U.S. air strikes and U.S.-backed Afghans had sent al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden into hiding in Pakistan a few weeks earlier.
Dejected, he returned to Ottawa.
He again turned to the Internet, where he met a British brother known as Ausman, who introduced him online to a group of young second-generation British-Pakistanis southeast of London. Cyberspace became an incubator where they pounded their chests and bonded under the radical Salafi/Wahhabi interpretations of Islam.
Ausman, whose real name was Omar Khyam, led a secular life until he flirted with the now-banned British extremist group Al Majaroun in 1999. He and the handful of other British “bros” lived comfortable, middle-class existences, shunned traditional Islamic dress for Nike sneakers and spoke in hip-hop slang.
Khyam and two of the brothers had travelled to Pakistan and made contacts with al-Qaida while funnelling supplies and helping disaffected British Muslims join jihadists fighting in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
When the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq in March 2003, Khyam decided America and Britain must be punished. The ultimate objective was to re-establish an Islamic Caliphate and institute Islamic sharia law.
Brother Waheed Mahmood suggested attacking popular civilian spots such as London’s biggest nightclub and England’s largest shopping centre. Khyam had the idea of detonating a massive amount of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in a series of simultaneous attacks.
Christmas 2003 would be the ideal time, with the clubs and stores packed.
By the summer of 2003 they were part of a movement. Momin Khawaja grew a long beard and would have dressed in olive drab-ish camouflage pattern cargo pants with a black and white checkered scarf were he not concerned about sticking out like some Hollywood terrorist.
He created an e-mail account, firstname.lastname@example.org, after the Arab plural word for the AK-47 assault rife.
That July, he flew to Pakistan, where he, Khyam and two others from the British group attended a remote training camp for a few days. It was the most amazing experience of his life. He fired a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, light machinegun and AK-47 and he and the other brothers solidified.
He also met white beards and turbans and beautiful little Muslim children living in poverty, yet happy. He began to get in touch with a reality lost in the West, that his Muslim brothers and sisters needed him now more than ever.
His dream was to join the mujahedeen on the front lines.
Back in Ottawa, as he walked from work to midday prayers one day, he felt a sense of shame. What on earth was he doing here?
He decided to leave the West and migrate to a land where it would be possible to preserve his faith and build the Deen.
First, he must build a device for the bros that could help kill the new Crusaders, his hi-fi digimonster that would transmit signals to detonators packed inside hidden high explosives.
A young bro wearing an explosive vest walks into a busy Israeli nightclub and in midst of all the partying, he pushes a button and detonates, killing himself and dozen around him.
However, Islam forbids suicide as a heinous crime. So how on Earth can such a huge sin be considered a noble act?
There is absolutely no other way of fighting them except this. If that is the only way to kill them, then you must do it.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008