A University of Waterloo professor with a research focus on domestic radicalization tweeted that he was “speechless” when he learned Aaron Driver was killed while en route to launch a terror attack in a major city.
Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam had corresponded with Driver over recent years–even as recently as this spring–about the young man’s radical views.
Driver, 24, died during an altercation with police Wednesday afternoon outside his home in Strathroy, Ont. as he was entering a cab that was reportedly on its way to downtown London.
Amarasingam said that he last heard from Driver in April, when the failed terrorist gave a positive message about his state of mind.
“I’m doing very well Alhamdulillah (praise be to God),” he wrote to Amarasingam on Apr. 17. “Weather is beautiful, plenty of good friends, work is going great. I’m always busy, which is nice. I don’t like to sit around too much and waste time.”
Less than three weeks earlier, Driver had reached out to Amarasingam to talk about the arrest of Kevin Omar Mohamed of Waterloo, saying law enforcement is “increasingly terrified of Muslims and every arrest only contributes to the elimination of the grey zone, to the advantage of Dawlah Islamiyyah.”
Speaking about these exchanges Friday on the Andrew Lawton Show on AM980, Amarasingam said Driver was so immersed in his radical beliefs, that he wouldn’t accept challenges to them.
“He wasn’t really reading anything that would challenge his worldview in any real sense. So he wasn’t looking at content that was put out by the mainstream Muslim community, the kind of open letter to ISIS that was put out by religious leaders,” Amarasingam said. “He wasn’t listening to lectures by even conservative Muslims who have come out and denounced ISIS.”
The professor said that he would often try to pose challenging questions to Driver in their interactions–which included a formal interview requested by Driver’s lawyers during his prior legal troubles, which resulted in his release on a peace bond.
“He had kind of created a bubble around himself. He know that these kind of (critical) arguments existed but he didn’t really want to engage with them or let them kind of create a sense of dissonance in his mind, I guess, because he was so sure of what he believed in and so sure of the fact that this was an authentic caliphate that should be defended and allowed to remain and expand that he didn’t really open himself up to any kind of critique.”