The idea that Mohamed Hersi suffered discrimination in Canada because he is a Muslim is risible — especially in light of the fact that in virtually all of the Muslim countries that he could have moved to, he would have had fewer rights than he had in Canada. But the idea that he wanted to move to Somalia to escape “Islamophobia” is particularly ridiculous — or even to Egypt, his stated destination. Both are war zones. He thought it would be preferable to be in a hot war zone than to suffer from “Islamophobia” in Canada? Pull my other leg.
“Mohamed Hersi wanted to move to Muslim country to escape Canada’s ‘Islamophobia,’ terror trial hears,” by Stewart Bell, National Post, April 28, 2014 (thanks to Alex):
A Toronto security guard on trial for allegedly attempting to join the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab testified Monday he wanted to move to a Muslim country because of the discrimination he suffered in Canada, but insisted he did not support terrorism.
“I felt that throughout my time in Canada I felt a lot of discrimination, whether because I’m black or I’m Muslim,” Mohamed Hassan Hersi said. “I felt that if I lived in a Muslim country, I probably would not experience Islamophobia.”
Mr. Hersi, 28, told jurors as he began his defence that his entire clan was “hostile” to the group and its “extreme methods.”
“They do tyrannical things like cut off peoples’ hands,” said Mr. Hersi. “I don’t really like Al-Shabab.”
He insisted he was opposed to terrorism, which he called immoral and anti-Islamic. Terrorists who cited Islam to justify violence were taking the Koran out of its historical context, he added.
As the defence began presenting its case, Mr. Hersi took to the witness stand to counter the prosecution’s portrayal of him as a would-be jihadist immersed in online Al Qaeda propaganda.
In contrast, he depicted himself as an avid television viewer and sports fan, and said the talks he had about Somalia were mostly initiated by an undercover police officer who befriended him.
Mr. Hersi was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson airport on March 29, 2011, as he was boarding a flight. His destination was Cairo but the undercover police officer said Mr. Hersi had confided he would be traveling to Somalia to join Al-Shabab.
In the weeks before his arrest, Mr. Hersi’s laptop was used to search the Internet for terms such as “Somalia AK-47 cost.” He had also downloaded an edition of the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire, an RCMP officer testified.
But his lawyer Paul Slansky said Mr. Hersi had never intended to join Al-Shabab, nor had he encouraged the undercover officer to do so.
The officer was playing the role of a Somali who wanted to join Al-Shabab. One of the charges alleges Mr. Hersi gave the officer advice on how to do so, but Mr. Slansky said Mr. Hersi had an “anti-Al Shabab mindset.”
“Sometimes he just talked nonsense,” Mr. Slansky said of his client, “just a tendency to jabber, but Mr. Hersi will make clear that he never intended to join Al-Shabab.” The lawyer claimed the case was based on police lies.
In his testimony, Mr. Hersi said he was born in Mogadishu and, during a visit to the United States, he came to Canada with his mother to claim refugee status. His father, who worked at the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia, died before he could join the family in Toronto.
While growing up at a Toronto Community Housing Corp. apartment building, he said he was regularly discriminated against, and described seeing police harassing blacks and Muslims. “I have sort of a love hate relationship with the police,” he said. “I love to hate them, they love to hate me.”
After studying at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, he wanted to become fluent in Arabic, he said. He planned to spend six to 12 months in Cairo, return to Canada for graduate studies and then move to a Muslim country such as Egypt or Turkey.
But he said he had never had any contact with Al-Shabab. He acknowledged accepting a friend request on Facebook from Abdurahman Guled, an alleged Al-Shabab member. But he said they had been friends in high school and he was not sure Mr. Guled was in Al-Shabab. “I thought he was, but I really don’t know.”
The case is the first attempt to prosecute a Canadian for allegedly attempting to travel abroad to join a terrorist group. The National Post revealed this week the RCMP has set up a program to track and disrupt “high risk travelers” preparing to leave the country.
Al-Shabab was behind last year’s massacre at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that left two Canadians dead, including a Canada Border Services Agency officer. The Al-Qaeda aligned group is fighting to impose its militant version of Islamic law on Somalis.