METRO VANCOUVER – Police had warned the B.C. Muslim Association to keep an eye on Hasib Yusufzai long before the Burnaby man was charged with leaving Canada to join a terrorist group in Syria.
“The authorities contacted us a long, long time ago about this individual, saying that they were concerned about him and just kind of warning us,” Aasim Rashid, a spokesman for the association, said in an interview Friday.
Yusufzai, 25, attended the Al-Salaam mosque in Burnaby before leaving Canada in January. RCMP allege he left to join an group of Islamist fighters and charged him on July 17 with acting “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group.”
Authorities had been concerned about Yusufzai for almost two years, and people at the mosque had been working with police before Yusufzai left the country, said Rashid.
“We had people there that were collaborating with them and just keeping an eye on things, making sure that he does not use our platform for anything,” he said.
Rashid said he never met Yusufzai and did not have any information about his life as a Muslim.
He said the association tries to monitor the messages being conveyed in its mosques and does not allow anyone to spread what he called “negative messages” – either things that clash with the teachings of mainstream Islam or things that contradict Canadian laws.
Rashid said in recent past there has been some troubling activity that the association has had to crack down on.
“We had some youngsters who were very enthusiastic after watching YouTube videos and clips and they were trying to rally (others) together, saying ‘hey, lets do something serious about it. Our parents aren’t going to let us do anything, Canadians aren’t doing anything, lets go do something serious about it,’ ” he said…