Thursday, September 25, 2008

How A Hindu Teen Turned Into a Terrorist - A Lesson For Parents

This is a lesson for parents on being communicative with your children and to be proactive in addressing their spiritual needs and questions they have as they struggle to make sense of the world. Letting other people stand in for you and take over your responsibility to guide your child on spiritual matters is a recipe for disaster as the Hindu family in this article found out too late.

In Canada, there are many resources such as Sikh youth camps, retreats, seminars, and Gurdwara sponsored activities that you can introduce your child to, so that they might be inculcated with the spirit of Sikhi and come to recognize the beauty in treading on the path of the Sikh Panth.

How a devout Hindu teen became a stranger to his parents on trial in an alleged terror plot


From Friday's Globe and Mail

August 8, 2008 at 4:40 AM EDT

TORONTO — A father's curiosity trumped all else on the day he
decided to ransack his 15-year-old son's room. He swept through the
young man's desk, shelf and closet in the family's Scarborough
apartment, silently praying his suspicions wouldn't be confirmed.

The smoking gun he found that day wasn't a girlie magazine or
sandwich bag filled with marijuana, but a copy of the Koran on a CD-ROM.

At the time, the devout Hindu thought he'd been struck with the
worst kind of parental disappointment. But five years later, after
spending $30 a day driving to and from a courthouse in Brampton to
watch his son go through Canada's first terrorism trial, he has endured
a worse fate - the experience of losing his son.

Although he has sat just 10 or so metres away in court from the young man, now 20, a religious gulf separates them.

Related Articles

In recent interviews with Muslim mentors, including an imam the
young man clandestinely visited, and with his father, who believes his
son was brainwashed, there emerges a picture of a muddled young man
caught in an intense tug of war.

On one side, he seeks to please his strict, sometimes harshly
disciplinarian father and on the other, to follow his own flawed
interpretation of Islam.

His religious guides - at least the ones who aren't his co-accused
in the so-called Toronto 18 - agreed he was ignorant of Islam.

"He's a kid who doesn't know very much, if at all, about the
religion," said Muhammad Robert Heft, who was approached by the young
man at Paradise For Ever, a non-profit centre he runs in Toronto for
recent Muslim converts.

Mr. Heft was even more dismissive of the suggestion that the young
man could be a terrorist. "I think if you ask the real terrorists in
the world, they'd feel insulted, that he was nothing more than a Mickey
Mouse kid who was venting some of his frustrations and talking," he

At an alleged terrorist training camp in December, 2005, the young
man peppered RCMP mole Mubin Shaikh with questions about Islam, but Mr.
Shaikh testified later that they "never ... indicated to me any
reflective thought."

Raised in the Hindu faith in Scarborough, where ethnic grocery
stores stack bags of cassava chips alongside brass statues of Hindu
deity Lord Ganesha, the teenager made a transition to Islam that was
unexpected and tumultuous.

After emigrating from war-torn Sri Lanka in 1994, the family of
deeply devoted Hindus made weekly trips to local Hindu temples, said
the young man's father. The first sign his son was drifting away from
the faith was when the school principal called, telling him his son had
been asking to use the Muslim prayer room in the school.

The father was baffled: Each week his son followed the family to
temple, a place teeming with people kneeling before the statues of
deities and spreading holy ash across their foreheads. The school
principal was surely mistaken, he thought. But then he searched his
son's room. When he found a CD-ROM version of the Koran, he warned the
then-15-year-old to stay away from his Muslim classmates.

"By force they were taking him," the father said in a mix of Tamil
and English, a translator at his side. "At that time itself I would've
alerted police and he would've been saved."

But the young man's younger sister - the only family member the
father said his son acknowledges in court - sympathizes with him.

"I think he was searching for God. He was confused, I guess," she
said. "My parents don't understand. It's his decision ... I just wanted
him to be careful."

The young man's father persuaded the principal to seal off the
prayer room, thinking that once the meeting place disappeared, so would
the conversion process. But that only made his son seek out a new
hangout: the Salaheddin Islamic Centre. It was here that an imam at the
mosque, Aly Hindy, said the young man got to know many of his
co-accused in the Toronto 18, including the alleged ringleader.

Mr. Heft of Paradise For Ever said the young man seemed more
attracted to a group he could vent about his father to, rather than one
that would train him in the religion. "He was surrounding himself with
people who had never read the Koran cover to cover, who don't know
Arabic, who don't know very basic minimal things about Islam."

The father's patience was drained after he found Islamic literature
stored among textbooks in his son's school locker and watched his
religious observance manifest itself in a long, coarse beard.

The quiet young man wandered into Paradise For Ever at 15, seeking
refuge at the organization's emergency shelter and claiming he was
abused at home, Mr. Heft said.

"He was complaining that his parents were beating him up because he
was a Muslim ... that he had to pray in the bathroom." Mr. Heft could
not allow him entrance, since visitors must be at least 16 to stay at
the shelter.

The young man also visited Mr. Hindy at Salaheddin.

Kneading his forehead in his hands, the young man's father admitted
in an interview that he had beat his son, explaining that he believed
it was the only form of discipline left.

At 17, the young man dropped out of school and left his parents'
apartment for three to four weeks without a word, the father said.
Although old enough to stay under Paradise For Ever's roof and take
daily lessons on Islam, he instead fled to a Toronto mosque, where his
family found him. His father pleaded with him to return home, but he

It was that December that he attended an alleged terrorist training
camp near Washago, Ont. During target practice at the camp, the young
man unflinchingly fired at pictures of Hindu deities, a bold move to
prove to the others he was committed to Islam, Mr. Shaikh, the RCMP
informant, said in court. "[What] I told him was, 'Go home. Go to your
parents,' " he said.

In January, 2006, the family finally coaxed the young man to return
home. In a last-ditch effort to draw his son away from what he saw as a
dangerous brand of spirituality, the father brought Hindu priests,
Christian pastors and other religious leaders to the apartment to
counsel his son. The young man dismissed them all: "Everything you're
saying is a lie."

The turning point came later that year, in early June.

Two weeks after attending another alleged terrorist training camp,
the young man was arrested in the spectacular finale to a long RCMP and
CSIS investigation that rounded up 17 other suspects, 11 of whom still
face charges.

The young man spent months in custody, and his religious conviction
appeared to wane - or so his father thought. After he bailed him out of
jail, it seemed as if a fruitful new father-son relationship was being
born, the father said.

While shopping around for a house a short while after the young man
had returned home, the family stumbled upon one in Markham that seemed
worthy of a serious offer. But after noting that it was right beside a
mosque, the young man vetoed it.

"He ran back to the car and said, 'I don't want to live there any more,' " the father said.

But according to Mr. Hindy, the young man had only hidden his faith.
He secretly visited the Salaheddin mosque every week, peppering the
imam with questions. "Sometimes he'd run away fast because he said, 'I
don't want my father to find out I went to Friday prayer,' " Mr. Hindy

The seeming grace period at home unravelled as the months passed and this summer's trial date neared.

By April of this year, it seemed as if a stranger had moved in. The
young man appeared to be stitching together his own rules for living
from literal translations of the Koran. After reading about how the
Prophet Abraham circumcised himself at the age of eight, the young man
wanted to emulate him.

"He said he wanted to circumcise himself. I said, 'Are you crazy?' "
Mr. Hindy said. "If I open a book in medicine, I can't do surgery."

He told the young man to consult a doctor about the procedure, which
the young man's father said his son was serious about. Eventually, any
form of communication with his son became an ordeal.

"He was almost mad-like. ... He would go into the closet and sit
down like this," he said, closing his eyes, a blank expression setting
in over his face. "I'd say, 'Put on the TV,' and he'd say, 'No,
everything's corrupt on TV.' "

His parents had spent $3,000 on brand-name clothing to win their
son's favour after his release from custody. One day they came home to
find a mountain of shredded fabric and their son beside it, tearing
through shirts and pants with a pair of scissors.

After several months at home, the young man was reduced to a gaunt
version of his former self, declaring that most of the food was not
halal. He even turned away water, his father said.

In that last 1½months in his parents' custody, life was bleak. "He
said, 'I want to kill myself, I want to kill myself,' " his father said.

At his son's preliminary hearing on May 6, the young man tried to
walk out on his own trial. "I want myself out of this," he said.
"...This is not sharia court, that's the problem." He was rearrested
and taken to Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton where he has
since remained.

Disturbed by news reports of what happened that day, Mr. Hindy spent
45 minutes with the young man in jail, urging him to return to court,
explaining that Canadian law and Islamic law were not contradictory.
While the young man has remained in custody for three months, he has
been co-operative in court, acknowledging the judge, but ignoring his

His father said that, during clipped phone conversations every two
or three weeks, the young man tells his family that he doesn't call
more often because he doesn't want to burden them with collect-call

Mr. Hindy said he has become a stand-in parental figure and
religious tutor for the young man, guiding him on the phone every two
or three days. If the young man is acquitted, he plans to move into an
apartment with his sisters, Mr. Hindy said.

Although the young man's father said he understands that his home
may not be the right place for his son, he won't give up on him. His
plan is to send his son, if acquitted, to England to live with his

"He's an innocent kid," the father said. "He was cheated, he was forced."

No comments: