Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Jihadi Kept to Himself, Didn't Have Close Friends, Says Acquaintance

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Jihadi Kept to Himself, Didn't Have Close Friends, Says Acquaintance

Article excerpt

Ottawa jihadi seemed to have few friends

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OTTAWA - John Maguire, a former Ottawa man who appears in a new extremist recruiting video, seemed to lack close friends in Canada and kept his distance from others, says an acquaintance who used to pray with him.

"People had very superficial relationships with him," said Stephane Pressault, who met Maguire four years ago during Friday prayers at the University of Ottawa.

Pleasantries were exchanged, but no deep ideas were shared, said Pressault, the national co-ordinator with outreach group Project Communitas.

"When you can't have intimate conversations with someone ... this young man was really quite isolated, no one really knew what he was thinking," Pressault recalled.

"It's not that he was a loner. But he didn't share his opinions on things. And he didn't have ... a best friend, or a clique, or a group of people that he always turned to.

"In retrospect, that's alarming."

Project Communitas is grappling with the phenomenon of Islamic radicalization as part of its mission to foster citizenship, dialogue and youth leadership.

"I think the common sign is really social isolation," Pressault said.

"How can we engage these individuals who are isolated, who are not in the mainstream and following the majority of the Muslims in Canada?"

Maguire's polished propaganda video, released Sunday, urged Muslims to launch indiscriminate attacks against Canadians, similar to those carried out in October in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Maguire -- whose passport was apparently revoked after he left Canada -- likely became "fed up" with Canadian society at some point, said Jocelyn Belanger, a psychology professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal who has studied radicalization around the world.

Belanger surmises Maguire could have been spurred to join radical Islamic militants overseas because he didn't fit in at home and felt insignificant -- a typical motivation for extremists.

"The loss of significance deeply hurts," Belanger told the Senate committee on national security and defence. …

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