The MSA is a Muslim Brotherhood organization, identified as such in the largest terrorist funding trial in our nation’s history, The Holy Land Foundation trial. It should not be operating on the Algonquin College campus, or any other campus.
The trial of alleged terrorist recruiter Awso Peshdary promises to turn a spotlight on the Algonquin College Muslim Students Association.
Two of the three people charged this week with terrorism-related offences by the RCMP — Peshdary, 25, and Khader Khalib, 23 — are both former members of the association and took part in its events.
Khalib was charged in absentia because it’s believed the former Algonquin business student is now fighting on behalf of the Islamic state in Syria.
After Peshdary was arrested Tuesday by the RCMP, the Crown sought and received a non-communication order from an Ottawa justice of the peace. Such orders are normally used to prevent an accused person from communicating with victims and witnesses.
The order prohibits Peshdary from communicating with a list of 14 people.
The list includes the names of five other people — Khalib, John Maguire, Ashton Larmond, Carlos Larmond and Suliman Mohamed — whom the RCMP have identified as members of the alleged conspiracy to aid a terrorist group.
The non-contact list issued by the court also includes the names of three executives from Algonquin’s Muslim Students Association, and at least one other former MSA member.
One member of the association, who spoke the Citizen on the condition that his identify remain protected, said he was aware that several of the association’s members were on a Canadian Security Intelligence Service “watch list” last year.
He did not know the identity of those of interest to the authorities, he said, only that there were concerns expressed after a March 2014 event known as Islamic Awareness Week.
“I was informed after that there were several people who were heavily involved in that event that were on the watch by CSIS,” he said.
The former MSA member said he was never approached by anyone about supporting the Islamic state or travelling to Syria.
“I was always clear about my views, and he (Peshdary) always agreed with me: that it’s not legitimate to kill innocent people,” he said.
Samr Farhat was also listed in the non-communication order. In 2010, Farhat collected money to help pay for Pedshary’s legal fees after he was arrested in Project Samossa.
When reached by the Citizen, Farhat said he had no comment but did offer that the RCMP never approached him before the non-communication order was put in place.
Jack Doyle, the general manager of the Algonquin College Students’ Association, said his organization provides funding to the student groups on campus.
Doyle said the MSA received just over $1,000 for the 2013-2014 school year for events such as Islam Awareness Week. So far in 2014-2015 the MSA has received around $500.
The MSA doesn’t receive funding from the college administration.
The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (MSA National) was launched in January 1963 to support international students studying in North America. The association’s first Canadian chapter opened 50 years ago at the University of Toronto.
In the U.S., the student associations came under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of 9/11 as potential sources of radicalization.
The New York Police Department regularly monitored MSA websites and placed undercover officers at student association events for more than a decade after the terror attacks. In 2012, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne defended the approach by noting that 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the U.S. had once been members of Muslim student associations.
—Courtesy of Pamela Gellar