A girl and three young women left Canada to join ISIS in Syria after studying at the Al-Huda Islamic Institute in Mississauga, Ont. — a school whose sister institution in Pakistan is now connected to the mass shooting in California.
It’s unclear exactly when the Canadian students travelled overseas, but sources have confirmed they all left in the last two years after attending the school founded by controversial female Islamic scholar Farhat Hashmi.
Hashmi’s ultra-conservative teachings in lectures and online have faced criticism for promoting an extreme wifely subservience to a husband.
The school’s founder, however, is not a Canadian resident, despite several media reports to the contrary, sources told CBC News. Hashmi has not been in Canada for three years, those sources said.
School accredited by Ontario
Al-Huda’s Mississauga campus opened in 2004. It’s accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a private school, where roughly 160 students in kindergarten to Grade 6 attend classes every day.
But in the evenings and on weekends, teenagers and adults can take seminars there. It’s those classes the four Canadians, who ranged in age from 16 to early 20s, took in recent years before leaving for Syria.
The oldest attended for three months in 2012.
She’s been living in Syria since the summer of 2014, her sister told CBC News. The woman and her family are not identified in this story, because of concerns about their security.
“It’s really scary and it’s really dangerous — and if she gets caught she will get killed,” the sister said.
Security officials intercepted the other three Canadians in Turkey after they disappeared in July 2014, according to RCMP.
The teens were taken into custody and brought back to Canada.
It’s still unclear how those teens and the other Canadian woman became connected to ISIS and radicalized.
Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters, attended classes six days a week for more than a year at Al-Huda’s Pakistan campus, a school spokeswoman told The Associated Press. But it is not known how, where or by whom she was radicalized.
It’s also unclear how much contact, if any, the teens or women would have had with Hashmi.