Thursday, March 5, 2015

Are We Doing Something Wrong?

I was shocked to learn that about 200 young Canadians have run off to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (often called 'ISIS' or 'ISIL'), the radical terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.  It also bothered me that about the same number of young Americans ran off to join, even though the population of the United States is ten times that of Canada!  

Is Canada becoming a terrorist recruitment center?  If so, we're doing something wrong here.

Is it our "Cultural Mosaic" idea that is fostering this?   Canada prides itself on being a mosaic of cultures instead of the American "Melting Pot."  We encourage folks to enrich our Canadian culture with their own, brought from the four corners of the Earth.  We're also encouraging our native groups to resurrect and build back their cultures, so many of which have been almost lost.

I personally think this approach makes Canada stronger and more tolerant, in a world here practically everywhere and every culture is accessible in hours rather than months!

But we are, first and foremost, Canadians!  But do these young people heading over to Syria understand that?  Maybe they're heading over there looking for risk and adventure, much like the Canadians who ran off to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. 

I don't know.  But I do think we have to examine what we are doing (or not doing) that encourages these young people to join a terrorist group overseas.


  1. I think the comparison to the Canadians who left to fight in the Spanish Civil War isn't far off. The major difference, however, is age. The majority of Canadians who fought in the Spanish Civil War were over 30.

    Going to Spain to fight was explicitly illegal, but many went anyway... over 1500, by war's end. And while it's true that some went there for adventure, most went for ideology; adventurers were actively weeded out by Brigade organizers, and many of the Canadians who fought in the International Brigades were avowed communists and socialists.

    Many of those were radicals, too, which the Canadian government of the time was all-too-happy to be rid of.

    As for what's going wrong, that makes young people join IS? I don't know. Many of these young people have (apparently) been recruited in much the same way that young people fall into criminal street gangs; they're socially or culturally isolated, have poor support networks and broken families, don't feel accepted by mainstream Canadian society, or are frustrated by a lack of prospects for themselves.

    Intervention measures which have proven effective to reduce street gang membership may work well here, too - so long as there's the will and the funding to do it.

  2. Excellent points Rhys! What worries me is the fact that this time there's a religious connection to these young folks running off! We're not talking of just a political ideology, this time there's a religious ideology involved. I think that's a major difference between those joining I.S.I.S. or I.S.I.L. and those who ran off to the Spanish Civil War.
    And I think all of us Canadians would rather see these young men and women become a meaningful part of Canadian society than be a part of a terrorist group!

    1. I think the religious versus political ideology between the two examples is really a distinction without a difference. I don't think the avowed communists of the 1930s who went to fight in Spain were any less vehement in their beliefs than the religious extremists going to Iraq and Syria, now.

      I really think the intervention measured used with street gangs could work, here. Doing nothing about it certainly won't work.