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Canada's spin on "homegrown" extremism

Shareef Abdelhaleem, found guilty of plotting mass murder in Toronto, sought to profit financially from his terrorism.

In many ways, they mirrored the profile of European or American jihadists. Some were marginalized or naive suburban youths influenced by extremist websites and angered by Western wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the plight of Palestinians.

Khalid, now 23, was shaken by personal trauma. When he was 16, he returned home from school to find his depressive mother dead, submerged in the bathtub. He turned to Islam for comfort, eventually hanging out with youths who held extremist views.

Amara, a Canadian citizen, was the lost, troubled type. Born to a Cypriot mother and a Jordanian father, he was baptized a Christian but turned to a fundamentalist brand of Islam while living in the Toronto bedroom community of Mississauga.

He married when he was 18 and became a father a year later. He dropped out of university to support his family and got a job pumping gas. His defense lawyer said he turned to extremism to get over the divorce of his parents and escape the drudgery of his life.

After pleading guilty last week, Amara apologized and read an “open letter to Canadians” in court: “I deserve nothing less than your complete contempt.”

The twist in the homegrown profile comes from Abdelhaleem. At the time of his arrest, he was a computer engineer with a six-figure salary driving a BMW. That in itself isn’t unusual: Some extremists have come from affluent backgrounds.

Also typical was evidence that he wanted change through violence; namely, getting the Canadian government to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. What made him different is evidence that he wanted to profit financially from the bombings.

The police agent who befriended him testified that Abdelhaleem said he wanted to attack the Toronto Stock Exchange, cause markets to plunge and make money by selling stocks “short.”

This is the Wall Street alchemy where investors profit by betting that stock prices will decline.
Abdelhaleem, the agent testified, wanted to use the money to fund future terror attacks in New York and Chicago.

There were suspicions that “short-selling” occurred with airline stock prior to the 9/11 attacks. The Security Exchange Commission investigated but found no evidence.

Short-sellers on Wall Street were widely criticized for making a fortune by betting on the recent market collapse, helping to bring down Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers, and precipitating the latest recession.

Some might argue that when it comes to economic sabotage, Abdelhaleem learned from the real professionals. If so, he’s as homegrown as they come.