Windsor, Ontario, is best known for automobiles but the border city south of Detroit, Michigan, keeps popping up in connection with Islamic terrorism. Locals and national officials alike are now puzzled how promising Windsor student Tamim Chowdhury became a leading exporter of terrorism.
According to police in Bangladesh, Tamim Chowdhury masterminded a July 1 terrorist attack on a popular Dhaka restaurant that killed 24 people. Survivors told reporters the attackers took hostages, “separating out those who identified as Muslim from the rest and executing a number of patrons for being foreign non-Muslims.”
To identify who was Muslim, the attackers made hostages recite verses from the Koran and “those who could recite the Islamic holy book were spared while those unable to were killed, ” a CBC report said. The victims included seven Japanese, a U.S. citizen, and nine Italians, including Cristian Rossi, the father of three-year-old twins. In the attackers’ apartment, police found guns, ammunition and “meat cleavers.” According to police, Chowdhury also planned a July 7 attack on an Eid congregation that left four dead.
Years earlier in Windsor, the mastermind of these murders did not seem to fit the profile. At Forster Secondary School, Chowdhury ran track but finished last out of 45 runners in the 100-meter dash. In the classroom, teachers described him as a “real bright kid” who won academic scholarships to the University of Windsor. According to the Globe and Mail, Chowdhury took a two-week Islamic class taught by Imam Navaid Aziz, who said the student showed no signs of extremism. He graduated in 2011 with an honors degree in chemistry.
After graduation, Chowdhury travelled to Calgary, Alberta, where he took part in a study group that included Muslim convert Damian Clairmont, later killed overseas in a terrorist action. Another member, Salman Ashrafi, became a suicide bomber, killing 46 in Iraq. By some estimates, nearly 100 Canadians have gone abroad to join terrorist groups.
It remained unclear whether Chowdhury had been radicalized in Windsor or Calgary. But according Amarnath Amarasingam of the University of Waterloo, an expert on radicalization, “by 2012 he was fully into the jihadist narrative.” In Bangladesh, his native land, Chowdhury duly translated the narrative into action, murdering and butchering people for the crime of being foreign non-Muslims.
In the wake of this action, Canada’s Liberal government is touting a new office on deradicalization. Instead of law-and-order approaches, which officials say neglect the root cause of the problem, the government will hire a “community outreach and counter-radicalization coordinator.” In some cases the approach has been “peace bonds” but
Canada’s federal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale is on record that such bonds don’t work in all cases. A peace bond did not prevent Aaron Driver from targeting a shopping mall. In a law-and-order approach, on August 10 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shot Driver dead before he could detonate a powerful explosive.
In regard to ISIS, the Canadian government is taking a cue from the White House and U.S. State Department. “This group is neither Islamic nor a state,” Goodale wrote in a recent report, “and so will be referred to as Daesh (its Arabic acronym).” As it happens, the Islamic State touted the actions of University of Windsor grad Tamim Chowdhury and his fellow terrorists.
With his degree in chemistry, Tamim Chowdhury gained employment with an Alberta firm but did not opt to use that experience for positive purposes in his native land. Instead he became a net exporter of terrorism, killing and mutilating people for the crime of being foreign non-Muslims.
So far, Windsor itself has been spared such attacks. Home-grown terrorist Aaron Driver targeted a shopping mall in London, and Ottawa was the scene of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s murder of a Canadian forces reservist. On the other hand, Windsor has seen some troubling developments. For example, the Arabic newspaper Al Forqan has glamorized the murder of Jews in Israel as a sacred religious duty.
Back in 2009, meanwhile, Windsor police and the RCMP arrested Yassir Ali Khan and Mohammad Al-Sahli, also known as Mohammad Palestine, both wanted for conspiracy to commit federal crimes in the United States. Both were members of the Ummah, a Sunni Islamic group in Detroit advocating a separate Islamic state that would be controlled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, also known as H. Rap Brown.
In the course of the arrest, Windsor police patted down one of the suspect’s wives and that sparked complaints about police insensitivity. Gary Smith, then Windsor’s chief of police, promptly issued a public apology and called for more “cultural sensitivity training.”