"I watched hockey. I went to the cottage in the summertime. I liked to fish," says the bearded man in fatigues in the video, a rifle propped up on his shoulder. "I was like your everyday regular Canadian before Islam," he concludes.
Andre Poulin, a Canadian convert to Islam from the town of Timmons, Ontario, journeyed to Syria in 2012 to join the extremist militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. He is believed to have died in battle in the summer of 2013. But a new video released by a Web site affiliated with the Islamic State appears to be using his story to spread the word of jihad to other foreigners in the English-speaking world. (The above video is an edit of the full 11-minute version, which can be watched here.)
It's unclear when the video was filmed. But in it, Poulin, who went by the name Abu Muslim al Canadi and was believed to be 24 when he died, describes himself as a "regular person" who had a salary and a normal life in the West. And, he insists, "mujahideen are regular people, too." He calls on his "brothers" in the West to reject paying taxes to regimes that wage war in Muslim lands and to lend all their professional skills -- even as as doctors or engineers -- to the cause of the Islamic State.
The video, which is slickly produced, intersperses his testimony with stock footage of North American cityscapes, Canadians playing hockey, and mounds of snow by gas stations. It also incorporates the narration of another unnamed figure, who, in an American accent, describes the moment Poulin met his end on a field in Syria. We see a grisly image of Poulin's body slumped in a trench.
Foreign fighters in the ranks of the Islamic State may number in the thousands. They include both converts to Islam like Poulin as well as many Muslim youth, disenchanted and radicalized while living in the diaspora. Their countries of origin range from Canada to Australia and many places in between. Contrary to Poulin's testimony in the video, he led a troubled life in Canada and had a criminal record, reports the CBC.
The Islamic State's sophisticated social media operation and use of Internet chatrooms has helped set up a virtual "pipeline" of radicals eager to join the front, made all the more captivating by the organization's recent dramatic victories in Iraq. The Islamic State has de facto control of a whole swathe of territory stretching from eastern Syria to the environs of Baghdad and last month declared a caliphate, headed by its shadowy leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. One wonders how many other potential recruits like Poulin now seek to serve under his banner.