In the past year, over 100 Americans have gone to join the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups in the region, indicating that homegrown violent extremism is on the rise. What does it mean for us here in Montgomery County?
On October 8, 2014, the Montgomery County Faith Community Working Group (FCWG) and WORDE co-hosted “Understanding the ISIS Threat to The Homeland.” Over 110 people, including representatives from local, state and the federal government, came together to hear an international expert panel discuss the recruiting tactics of ISIS and other terrorist groups and explore innovative strategies for empowering the community to intervene.
The distinguished panel of speakers included Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, WORDE President Dr. Hedieh Mirahmadi, WORDE Senior Fellow Mehreen Farooq, and Founder and President of the Safe Nation Collaborative, Rabia Chaudry, along with Angus Smith Senior Special Advisor in the National Security Policy Directorate Canada, Nathalie Filion Manager of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security at the Department of Public Safety Canada, Charlene Larose Director of Citizen Engagement at the Department of Public Safety Canada, and Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer and appointee to Canada’s Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security.
Speakers discussed the history and ideology of ISIS, the online presence of the group (especially in social media), and explored ways the community can intervene in order to prevent youth from joining terrorist organizations such as ISIS. The highlight of the event came from Hussein Hamdani, who delivered a powerful story which outlined the “turning points” in the life of a youth who became radicalized. This was followed by a thoughtful question and answer session with the audience.
In addition to parents and community members, the audience included Montgomery County Council Vice President George Leventhal, Bruce Adams and Reverend Kasey Kaseman from the Montgomery County Executive’s Office of Community Partnerships, and Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Darryl McSwain and MCPD Officer Luther Reynolds.
About the Panelists:
Angus Smith has been an intelligence analyst with the RCMP for 25 years. Mr. Smith worked on a number of files, including drugs, organized crime and anti-corruption, before taking up national security-related duties after 9/11. Mr. Smith has also worked in Eastern Europe and Latin America and often lectures on intelligence and NS-related matters. He has particular interests in the Middle East, radicalization to violence and countering violent extremism. Mr. Smith is currently seconded to Public Safety Canada, where he serves as a Senior Special Advisor in the National Security Policy Directorate.
Nathalie Filion is currently the Manager of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS) at the Department of Public Safety Canada. The CCRS is an advisory body of Canadian citizens to the Ministers of Public Safety and of Justice on national security issues. She has extensive experience with social programs within and across Federal government departments. Ms. Filion joined the public service in 1998 as a policy analyst for the Department of Canadian Heritage, where she worked in the film, music and cultural investments divisions. She also served as manager for outreach and bilateral relations, before joining the Department of Public Safety Canada in 2008, in her current functions.
After a brief period as an analyst with the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York, Ms. Larose started her career with Canada’s Public Service when she joined the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1999. First as a program officer and analyst with the Cultural Affairs Sector, she later joined the International Affairs Directorate as the Manager of Global Affairs, and later, Manager of the Africa-Europe-Middle East Division.
In July 2007, Ms. Larose took on the role of Director of Citizen Engagement at the Department of Public Safety, including responsibility for the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security (CCRS). Her work within the area of citizen engagement includes outreach to diverse communities across the country.
Mr. Hussein Hamdani is currently a Barrister and Solicitor with Simpson Wiggle LLP and a law instructor at Niagara College. He serves as a Public Relations Officer with the Halton Islamic Association and a Senior Advisor to the Muslim Youth of North America Organization, and is a Director on the Board of the Hamdani Foundation of St. Catharines and the Settlement and Integration Services Organization of Hamilton. Hamdani was appointed to Canada’s Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security by the country’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in 2005.
Rabia Chaudry is a civically engaged legal practitioner with significant experience in immigration law, national security, civil liberties, interfaith relations, nonprofit and program management, and grassroots advocacy. Rabia is the President and Founder of the Safe Nation Collaborative, a training program for law enforcement and American Muslim communities that aims to foster cooperative relationships in order to combat violent extremism. She is also a Fellow in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project, a Fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, a member of the National Counter Terror Center’s CVE Leadership Forum, and a participant in the Muslim Leadership Initiative at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel. She has provided cultural competency training on Islam and Muslims to dozens of audiences, including to Federal, state, and local law enforcement and works towards greater engagement, mutual respect, and cooperation between American Muslims and law enforcement to further the security of the United States.
Mehreen Farooq is a Senior Fellow with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education (WORDE). At WORDE, Farooq joins a team of specialists who work with Muslims throughout the world to build community resilience against violent extremism. Farooq’s current projects include researching the capacity of civil society in Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote peace. Since 2011, she has traveled to approximately 75 cities and villages in the region to interview hundreds of youth activists, religious scholars, and tribal elders to explore their peacebuilding initiatives. Recently, Farooq began research with an evaluations assessment team to examine the efficacy of US Government -funded CVE programs.