[The Khadrs:] Canada's First Family of Terrorism
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
"We are an Al Qaeda family." So spoke one of the Khadrs, a Muslim Canadian household whose near single-minded devotion to Osama bin Laden contains important lessons for the West.
Their saga began in 1975, when Ahmad Said al-Khadr left his native Egypt for Canada and soon after married a local Palestinian woman. He studied computer engineering at the University of Ottawa and engaged in research for a major telecommunications firm. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Khadr went to work for Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based charity founded in 1980 with the purported aim to "alleviate human suffering," but with a record of promoting militant Islam.
In 1985, in the course of working in Afghanistan, Khadr met bin Laden and became his close associate. Sometimes Khadr was described as the highest ranking of Al Qaeda's 75 Canadian operatives.
The federal Canadian government, living up to its naïve reputation, contributed $325,000 in Canadian dollars to HCI. From 1988 to 1997 in particular, HCI was simultaneously receiving Canadian taxpayer funding and working with Al Qaeda.
The bureaucratic ingénues in Ottawa continued to find nothing wrong with Khadr even after his arrest by Pakistani authorities in 1995 for siphoning off HCI funds to pay for an Al Qaeda terrorist operation that year — an attack on the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan, which killed 18. Quite the contrary, Canada's prime minister, Jean Chrétien took advantage of a state visit to Pakistan to intercede with his Pakistani counterpart on Khadr's behalf.
This highly unusual step succeeded; Khadr was soon released, and returned to Canada. In 1996, he and his wife set up an Islamic charity they named "Health and Education Project International." When the Taliban took control in Afghanistan a few months later, the parents and their six children decamped there. As he worked closely with bin Laden, Khadr became known for his militant Islamic vitriol, leading one Frenchman in Afghanistan to observe about him," I never met such hostility, someone so against the West."
Like other Al Qaeda leaders, Khadr disappeared from view soon after 9/11. He spent two years on the lam, reappearing only in October 2003,when Pakistani forces unexpectedly found that the DNA of one unrecognizable corpse from a bloody shootout matched Khadr's.
The terrorism-related activities of other Khadr family members — wife, one of two daughters, three of four sons — complement their patriarch's record.
Fortunately, there is also one positive story:
While an unusual case, the Khadr family's horrifying history serves as a warning, pointing to the danger of Muslim parents in North America and Europe who stray so deeply into militant Islamic currents that, Palestinian-style, they seek to turn their children into militant Islamic weapons to be turned against their own countries.
This pattern is yet rare, but it might well become more widespread as the second generation of Islamist children in the West comes of age. The key in the Khadr case, as it will likely be for others, is isolation within a militant Islamic environment — schools, press, social life. Preventing such self-segregation must be an urgent policy goal throughout the West.
Apr. 9, 2004 update: For new information on the Khadr family as it breaks, see my weblog entry, "The Khadrs, Canada's First Family of Terrorism, in the News."
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