I was in France on vacation in July 2016 when a terrorist attack in Nice killed 80 people. The most interesting response from people on the ground wasn’t so much what they said but what they didn’t say.
Everyone seemed to shrug it off. Sure, there was sadness and anger and outrage. But there wasn’t the sort of shock that comes from something totally unexpected. Because of course, it wasn’t totally unexpected. It had become the new normal.
While the death toll that day was a high one, the previous year the French had witnessed the attacks at both the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan stadium. And those were just the ones with the high body counts. The Nice attack was actually the 11th one of note since the war on ISIS began in late 2014.
(And there have been 13 more since the Nice attack.)
No wonder news of an attack isn’t that much of a big deal in France anymore. How sad.
There’s something similar happening to the Canadian psyche right now. Not when it comes to outright terror attacks, thankfully. But it’s still something that still falls under the extremist file, something that could, in turn, lead to future attacks in our country.
On Friday a Canadian confessed in court to going abroad to fight for ISIS.
“A Toronto man has admitted he left Canada to participate in ISIS terrorist activity on the same day Parliament Hill was attacked by a gunman who murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo,” explained The Toronto Sun.
“Pamir Hakimzadeh, now 29, flew from Toronto to Amsterdam on Oct. 22, 2014, and then traveled to Istanbul, Turkey the next day, Crown attorney Chris Walsh told Justice John McMahon Friday.
“Before his departure, Hakimzadeh had ‘exhibited increasingly radical Islamic beliefs, speaking in favour of or in defence of ISIS … and had viewed a website providing instructions on how to get into Syria,’ Walsh said.”
Troubling stuff. Although I’m guessing not every Canadian knows about this. Not because it wasn’t reported by the mainstream media, because most outlets did cover it. But because it wasn’t amplified widely, it didn’t generate widespread shock because – here’s the problem – it wasn’t the first such case in recent weeks.
The very same week, Rehab Dughmosh – the ISIS follower who conducted a minor attack in a Canadian Tire – was before the courts as the Crown presented their arguments for sentencing.
That wasn’t it though. Earlier in January, we learned about two other cases of Canadian extremism. There was Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, who was detained by Syrian forces and is reportedly a commander of an ISIS unit. Then there’s Guleid Abdihakim, a Canadian who appeared in court in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi as someone suspected of aiding al-Shabab gunmen in a deadly hotel attack.
That’s a lot of Canadian extremists getting their names in the news in such a short period of time. No wonder Hakimzadeh’s story didn’t cause a stir.
There were so many such stories floating around that it was hard to keep track of them all. A sort of news fatigue around these cases is probably settling in among reporters, editors and the general public.
Like in France, formerly rare extremism is now becoming a new normal.