OTTAWA — One of the identical twins charged with terrorism-related offences who RCMP say was on their radar for more than a year “drifted in and out” of an Ottawa mosque in recent years.
Abdulhakim Moalimishak, the president of the east-end Assalaam mosque, recalled that Ashton Larmond, 24, attended the mosque during Ramadan in 2013 but was not a member of the congregation.
“I saw him in the crowds. He didn’t come regularly. He drifted in and out,” Mr. Moalimishak said. He said Larmond attended alone and wasn’t with his twin who is co-accused in what police say is a conspiracy to participate in the activities of a terrorist group.
RCMP allege that between the end of August 2013 and up until his arrest on Friday, Ashton Larmond participated in the activity of a terrorist group. Police, however, remain tight-lipped on what exactly they believe Ashton and twin Carlos Larmond participated in and on behalf of which specific terrorist group. The charges relating to their alleged conspiracy to participate in the activity only date back to August, 2014.
News of their arrests Friday night ricocheted through Ottawa’s Muslim community over the weekend, with several of its leaders saying they didn’t know the 24-year-old brothers.
Mr. Moalimishak condemned what he called a disturbing pattern of young Muslim men going overseas to wage a campaign of killing based on a “warped” version of Islam.
The president acknowledged that radicalized Muslims are a pressing concern and will sometimes try to find legitimacy by attending mainstream mosques, and when that happens, he said, RCMP are called.
Police were called in October after Luqman Abdunnur, 39, allegedly tried to assault the imam as the spiritual leader denounced terrorism in his sermon. He said Mr. Abdunnur had to be restrained by members of the congregation as he ranted that terrorist groups were his heroes.
Mr. Abdunnur was arrested days later in an unrelated traffic stop, during which a shot was fired by Ontario Provincial Police, and has been charged with assaulting a police officer. He was under police surveillance as part of a national security investigation.
Mr. Moalimishak said Mr. Abdunnur was not a member of his Sunni congregation, but like Ashton Larmond he had attended the mosque a few times.
Mr. Abdunnur’s mother, Michelle Walrond, believes moderate Muslim voices are being drowned out in Canada and what’s making the most noise is a brand of religion that is dangerous.
“Muslims whose Islam is based on intellect and scholarship, we have no voice; we’re not identified as Muslim,” Ms. Walrond told the Citizen the day after the Larmonds were arrested.
She believes Wahhabism, an ultraconservative brand of Islam, has taken over the dialogue in many mosques through extensive Saudi Arabian funding.
Muslim leaders on the weekend reacted in fear that young people in Ottawa had fallen prey to Islamic extremists.
Neighbours and friends say the Larmond brothers are both recent converts to Islam. The alleged acts of those who are young and new to the faith are troubling mainstream leaders.
“That is a problem and we have to figure out how to address this,” Mr. Moalimishak said. “There are thousands of people who convert to Islam every year and they are perfectly knowledgeable, but there is now a growing subgroup amongst the converts. Not only are they not coming to our mosques for help … but they seem to be under the control of these groups of extreme, radical, self-segregating, almost cult-like groups who are just basically grabbing them, stacking them up, and before you know it, they’re gone.”
He said mosques need to offer young new Muslims support.
“We have to give them guidance. We have to tell them there are groups out there who will prey upon them and they are not the people they want to associate with.”
Imtiaz Ahmed, a local Ahmadiyya imam who helped launch the anti-radicalization speaking series Stop the CrISIS, said leaders “need to act fast and act jointly to stop so many Canadians getting radicalized.”