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Hateful Chatter Behind the Veil By: Omar El Akkad and Greg McArthur
Globe and Mail | Friday, June 30, 2006


MISSISSAUGA — When it came time to write up the premarital agreement between Zakaria Amara and Nada Farooq, Ms. Farooq briefly considered adding a clause that would allow her to ask for a divorce.

She said that Mr. Amara (now accused of being a leader of the alleged terror plot that led to the arrests of 17 Muslim men early this month) had to aspire to take part in jihad.

"[And] if he ever refuses a clear opportunity to leave for jihad, then i want the choice of divorce," she wrote in one of more than 6,000 Internet postings uncovered by The Globe and Mail.

Wives of four of the central figures arrested last month were among the most active on the website, sharing, among other things, their passion for holy war, disgust at virtually every aspect of non-Muslim society and a hatred of Canada. The posts were made on personal blogs belonging to both Mr. Amara and Ms. Farooq, as well as a semi-private forum founded by Ms. Farooq where dozens of teens in the Meadowvale Secondary School area chatted. The vast majority of the posts were made over a period of about 20 months, mostly in 2004, and the majority of those were made by the group's female members.

The tightly knit group of women who chatted with each other includes Mariya (the wife of alleged leader Fahim Ahmad), Nada (the wife of Mr. Amara, the alleged right-hand man) Nada's sister Rana (wife of suspect Ahmad Ghany), as well as Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal (the Muslim convert from Cape Breton, N.S. who married the oldest suspect, 43-year-old Qayyum Abdul Jamal). The women's husbands are part of a core group of seven charged with the most severe crimes -- plotting to detonate truck bombs against the Toronto Stock Exchange, a Canadian Forces target, and the Toronto offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

The women were bound by the same social, political and ideological aims. They organized "sisters-only" swimming days and held fundraisers for the notorious al-Qaeda-linked Khadr family. With the exception of the occasional Urdu or Arabic word or phrase, their posts are exclusively in English.

After their husbands were arrested, most of the women refused to tell their stories to the media; reached at her home in Mississauga, Ms. Farooq would not comment on her posts.

But in the years leading up to the arrests, they shared their stories with one another.

She knows it freaks her husband out just thinking about it, but 18-year-old Nada Farooq doesn't care: She wants a baby. It is mid-April, 2004, and the two have been married for less than a year. In the end, the jihad clause was not included in a prenuptial agreement.

Like many students at Meadowvale Secondary School, Zakaria Amara is busy worrying about final exams and what, if any, university to go to. But Ms. Farooq -- the Karachi-born daughter of a pharmacist who now hands out prescription medicine to soldiers at the Canadian Forces Base in Wainwright, Alta. -- has already done a fair bit of daydreaming about what it would be like to have a child. She even has a name picked. If she has a boy, she wants to name him Khattab, after the commander of the mujahedeen in Chechnya who battled Moscow until he was assassinated in 2002.

"And i pray to Allah my sons follow his footsteps Ameeen [Amen]," she writes at the on-line forum she founded for Muslim teens in Mississauga's Meadowvale area. Her avatar -- an on-line symbol used to indicate personality -- is a picture of the Koran and a rifle.

(All postings in this story have been rendered as they appeared on-line.)

There is nothing casual about Ms. Farooq's interpretation of Islam. She reiterates the belief that jihad is the "sixth pillar" of the religion, and her on-line postings are decidedly interested in the violent kind. In the forum titled "Terrorism and killing civilians," she writes a detailed point-by-point explanation of why the Taliban is destined to emerge victorious in Afghanistan.

Virtually every other government on the planet, however, she only has disdain for.

"All muslim politicians are corrupt," she writes. "There's no one out there willing to rule the country by the laws of Allah, rather they fight to rule the country by the laws of democracy." She criticizes Muslims in places such as Dubai for spending money on elaborate buildings while Iraqis are being killed.

Ms. Farooq's criticism is often directed first at other Muslims. When another poster writes about how he finds homosexuality disgusting, Nada replies by pointing out that there are even gay Muslims. She then posts a photo of a rally held by Al-Fatiha, a Canadian support group for gay Muslims. "Look at these pathetic people," she writes. "They should all be sent to Saudi, where these sickos are executed or crushed by a wall, in public."

The majority of Muslims Ms. Farooq does admire are ones currently at war, and she reserves her most vitriolic comments for the people they are at war with.

In a thread started by Mr. Fahim's wife, Mariya, marking the death of Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi after an Israeli missile strike, Ms. Farooq unleashes her fury: "May Allah crush these jews, bring them down to their kneees, humuliate them. Ya Allah make their women widows and their children orphans." The statement is so jarring that another poster complains it's not right for Muslims to wish such things on other people. Ms. Farooq's sister Rana is also in favour of violent resistance, posting often graphic photos of female militants and suicide bombers.

But while her heart may be in the battlefields and holy cities, Nada Farooq finds herself physically in Canada, a country the Karachi-born teen moved to after spending her childhood in Saudi Arabia. Her name is properly pronounced "Needa," and when she came to Canada as a child, some of the kids at her school teased her by calling her "Needa Shower." She'd often come home in tears.

The Farooqs, a Pakistani family, came to Canada in 1997 because they didn't like the idea of raising their children in the conservative society of Saudi Arabia, where foreign-born children don't have access to the same education as nationals, said Nada's father, Mohammad Umer Farooq.

When a Globe reporter contacted Nada's father at his home in Wainwright, and described some of his daughter's Internet postings, Mr. Farooq said he was "curious" and "concerned."

His daughter never expressed such opinions to him, he said, though he noted that he's worked in Alberta for the past five years and only makes it home to Mississauga a few weeks every year. He headed west because the pharmacist training hours required in Alberta were much lower.

His daughter has always been more religious than he and his wife, he said, and it was a faith that she developed in Canada, not Saudi Arabia. He described himself as 30 per cent religious and his daughter as 100 per cent.

"Occasionally. I pray. She prays five times."

While his daughter has used her Internet forum to lament the end of the Taliban, Mr. Farooq is a firm supporter of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Many of the soldiers he serves at CFB Wainwright will eventually be joining the mission.

"They are there for the betterment of the people. They are there for the development of Afghanistan."

While she forms a close circle of Muslim friends, Ms. Farooq is never comfortable with life in Canada. She posts that her mother is often lonely because her father spends large portions of his time at work. She talks about going to the University of Toronto in Mississauga as fulfilling her parents' dreams rather than her own.

Ms. Farooq's hatred for the country is palpable. She hardly ever calls Canada by its name, rather repeatedly referring to it as "this filthy country." It's a sentiment shared by many of her friends, one of whom states that the laws of the country are irrelevant because they are not the laws of God.

In late April of 2004, a poster asks the forum members to share their impressions of what makes Canada unique. Nada's answer is straightforward.

"Who cares? We hate Canada."

In Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal's mind, every Muslim is another potential victim.

As a 44-year-old member of an on-line forum inhabited almost exclusively by teenagers, Ms. Jamal fits snugly into the role of maternal figure, and the advice she dispenses reflects her firm belief that the forces of evil are out to get every member of her adopted religion. She encourages Muslim youths to learn about herbal medicine and first aid lest they ever find themselves in a Muslim country under embargo, unable to receive proper medicine. Even in Canada, she says, one can never become complacent.

"You don't know that the Muslims in Canada will never be rounded up and put into internment camps like the Japanese were in WWII!" she writes in one 2004 post. This is a time when Muslims "are being systematically cleansed from the earth," she adds.

If she's looking for an example of such oppression, Ms. Jamal finds it in the Khadrs, the Canadian family whose patriarch, Ahmed Said Khadr, was killed by Pakistani forces and declared a martyr by al-Qaeda. In June, 2004, Ms. Jamal spearheaded a committee to help Mr. Khadr's widow, Maha. In Ms. Jamal's view, Maha Khadr and her family have committed no crime, only stated their opinion, and it is the duty of the entire Muslim nation to ensure the family's well-being.

Ms. Jamal's zealousness for homegrown Muslim causes is matched only by her rejection of just about everything Canadian. As the June, 2004 federal election draws near, she repeatedly advises Muslim youth to completely avoid the process. Voting, she tells them, inherently violates the sovereignty of God, making it the most egregious sin against Islam.

"Are you accepting a system that separates religion and state?" she asks. "Are you gonna give your pledge of allegiance to a party that puts secular laws above the laws of Allah? Are you gonna worship that which they worship? Are you going to throw away the most important thing that makes you a muslim?"

Ms. Jamal's list of forbidden institutions goes beyond politics. Banking, membership in the United Nations, women's rights and secular law are all aspects of Canadian society she finds unacceptable.

But her deepest outrage, like that of so many Muslims, is time and again sparked by the treatment of her brothers and sisters around the world. In a May, 2004 post titled "Behold Your Enemy!" she posts multiple articles describing the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers.

"Know what you will face one day," she warns fellow forum members. "Let them call you a terrorist, let them make you look like a savage, but know that THIS is the filth of the earth, the uncivilised destroyer of humanity.

"Know from this day that this is not an Iraqi problem, it is not an Afghani problem, it is not a Palestinian problem, it is not a Somali problem. IT IS YOUR PROBLEM!!!"

Often, the conversation was quite tame. The women post advice on make-up, organizing sisters-only events and finding restaurants that offer truly halal Chinese food. Fahim Ahmad's wife, Mariya, posts a warning to other women not to go watch the brothers play soccer, because it makes them uncomfortable."Yea, and besides, their OUR husbands!" Ms. Jamal concurs. "Go get your own to stare at!"

But inevitably, it would come back to Islam, the very purpose for which Ms. Farooq created the forum in the first place. When it comes to religion, the wives of Mr. Amara, Mr. Jamal, Mr. Ghany and Mr. Ahmad exhibit a commitment to hard-line fundamentalism that rivals and often exceeds that of their husbands.

In May, 2004, the Meadowvale students come across an extremely graphic video showing the beheading of a U.S. hostage in Iraq. Mr. Fahim, posting under the name "Soldier of ALLAH," praises the killers as mujahedeen who will be rewarded in the afterlife. Another poster maintains the beheading was actually carried out by U.S. forces as a ploy to direct anger at the Muslim community. It's this post that inspires Nada to prohibit any further discussion of similar conspiracy theories.

Three posts later, her husband reprints an article claiming the Americans were responsible for the beheading.

But such occasional bickering between newlyweds does not stop Ms. Jamal from seeing the bigger picture. In her 40s, she is more than twice as old as most of the other Muslims on the forum. But like her husband, she believes young Muslims are the only ones capable of standing up against non-Muslim oppression.

For the most part, the wives of the other suspects do not let her down. This is especially true of Ms. Farooq, who deeply believes that education, financial success and other such goals are relatively frivolous because they only help Muslims during their time on Earth, and not in the afterlife. When another forum member disagrees with her view, she describes him as being "too much in this dunya [world]," and not sufficiently concerned with what comes after.

"Those who are sincere in pleasing Allah will go to whatever length to help the true believers," Ms. Farooq writes. "Those who fear Allah more than they fear the CSIS. Those are the ones who will succeed in the hereafter."

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