*** Looks like they gave up using violence - a feature that is quite common with many of these type of groups. I know Mr. Ford personally and he has since become a Sufi Muslim - in fact, I had baklava with him a few weeks ago at the Jerrahi Cultural Centre - a well-known peaceful and mystical centre. I can personally state that the leader of Hasanville will sit with CSIS at any time - provided I am present. MS ***
Almost everybody has forgotten the first homegrown Islamic terrorist plot on Toronto.
In 1991, five black Muslim followers of the Pakistani movement Jamaat Al Fuqra stood accused of conspiring to simultaneously blow up two Toronto buildings in an attempt to kill 4,500 people.
At the time, the case appeared isolated. Only now can it be seen as part of a series of alleged and proven cases of homegrown Islamic terror in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.
Two years before the first World Trade Center bombing and a decade before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Toronto was to become the original ground zero of Islamic terrorism in North America.
The plot was to simultaneously blow up the India Centre cinema (capacity 500) on Gerrard St. E., and the Vishnu Hindu temple (capacity 4,000) in Richmond Hill during the Hindu Festival of Lights when the buildings were expected to be full.
“A cold-blooded conspiracy,” the trial judge called the attempt. “Your actions are despicable and represent a challenge to the very fabric of our society.”
The story begins with Glenn Neville Ford, a Trinidadian native and Muslim convert.
In the mid-1970s he immigrated to Toronto and by 1982 had founded a branch of the Jamaat Al Fuqra sect, led by Pakistani cleric Sheik Mubarik Ali Gilani.
Gilani was the man Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was to meet when he was kidnapped and killed in 2002. Pearl was trying to confirm an alleged connection between Al Fuqra and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.
“The mission of this Jamaat al-Fuqra (Army of the Poor) is to lead Muslims to their final victory over Communists, Zionists, Hindus (and) deviators,” Gilani wrote in a book seized by Toronto police, Mohammedan Revelations.
Ford twice travelled to Lahore, Pakistan, to study at Gilani’s International Quranic Open University, described by the FBI as a terror front. In 1991, Ford also followed Gilani’s call to establish a rural collective to insulate followers from Western culture.
With another Trinidad-born Torontonian, Max Lon Fongenie, Ford bought land near Algonquin Park at Combermere to start a settlement called Hasanville. Three dozen such compounds exist in North America.
Regular Hasanville visitors that summer included Tyrone Cole, Robert Wesley and Caba Jose Harris, all converts to Islam and all from Texas. There, police alleged, they hatched a plan.
On Oct. 3, 1991, in two cars, Ford and the Texans attempted to enter the United States at Niagara Falls.
U.S. border guards spotted a letter with the phrase “dying as a soldier of Allah.” They found floor plans of the cinema and temple.
They also found aerial photos, videotaped interiors, entry plans, bomb-making instructions and diagrams showing how to wrap explosives around natural gas lines to inflict maximum human carnage.
One document led police to a Brooklyn address and a cache of two rifles, seven handguns and 2,000 rounds of ammunition. The four travellers, police said, were heading to Brooklyn to pick up the weapons.
Eight men were accused. One was quickly dismissed. Fongenie escaped to Pakistan. A Brooklyn man pleaded guilty to weapons offences. Ford, the three Texans and another Toronto man, Khidr Ali, were sent to trial.
That trial was set to begin in April 1993, then postponed.
Barely a month had passed since the first World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured 1,042. An Al Fuqra connection to the New York attack was suspected — and later confirmed — leading to fears that the University Ave. courthouse might also be bombed.
Since 1982, Al Fuqra had been found responsible for 17 other criminal acts in the United States, including murders and fire bombings, an FBI agent would later testify.
The trial was switched to St. Catharines. Rooftop snipers, police barricades, metal detectors and search dogs secured the area. The five accused rode to court chained together at wrist and ankle in a seven-car police convoy.
“This is a very serious case,” said Toronto police Det. David Malcolm.
But the outcome proved anti-climactic. All five beat the main charge of conspiring to commit murder.
The three Texans — “members of a terrorist movement,” the judge called them — were convicted of conspiring to commit mischief endangering life. Each was sentenced to 12 years. In April 2006 they were freed and deported.
Both Torontonians were acquitted. Ford and Ali left to live in Hasanville and the entire episode slipped from public consciousness.
A 2006 report from Ottawa’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre deemed Al Fuqra not to be a terrorist threat in Canada. The U.S. government listed Al Fuqra as a terrorist organization in 1995 and delisted it in 2000 for lack of activity.