“Mubin Shaikh had the courage to go undercover risking his all, to prevent the first attack on Parliament, plotted in 2005, by the Toronto 18. In October of 2014, we’ve seen the second such attempt…this time sadly, actualized…”
Mubin Shaikh was born and raised in Toronto, Canada amidst twenty-first century, Western values. He attended public school. But at night,his parents insisted he also attend Islamic madrasa.
Mubin joined the Canadian Army Cadets, used drugs, had sex and partied just like the other kids. He fit right in—until he didn’t.
Going through an acute identity crisis at age nineteen, Mubin recommitted himself to Islam. But a chance encounter with the Taliban in Pakistan and then exposure to Canadian extremists took him down the militant jihadi path.
Mubin initially celebrated the 9-11 attacks, although he found the killing of innocent civilians in the name of Islam disturbing. 9-11prompted him to travel again, to Syria—to become involved in the “great jihad”—the Muslim version of the final apocalypse in “the land of Sham and the Two Rivers.” There he learned the truth of his religion and faced a fork in the road.
Mubin went back in—but this time working undercover with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Ultimately joining the “Toronto 18”, Mubin walked a tightrope between Western culture and Islamic jihad. Risking everything, he gathered inside information about the group’s plans for catastrophic terror attacks—to detonate truck bombs around the city of Toronto, behead the Prime Minister, and storm the Parliament Building in retaliation for Western intervention in Muslim lands. Their cadres included Americans who had similar ideas for Washington, D.C.
Mubin Shaikh is one of the very few people in the world to have actually been undercover in a homegrown terror cell. His is a story of growing up Muslim in an age where militant jihad is glorified, of being caught between two identities and finally emerging victorious.
Watch Mubin Shaikh
Praise for Undercover Jihadi
“Mubin Shaikh’s story reads like a thriller, with twists and turns at every step. But it’s a true story, and that’s what makes it so important. It gives compelling insights into the process through which young Western Muslims embrace extremism—a subject that, despite hundreds of reports and studies, we are still struggling to understand. It also shows, in fascinating detail, the workings of counter-terrorism agencies. All in all, this is a must read, a page-turner, and a great source of insight and lessons for students of terrorism and counter-terrorism.” —Professor Peter Neumann, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King’s College London
“Absolutely brilliant book, I know it’s a cliche but I simply could not put it down.” Kylie Bull, Managing Editor, Homeland Security Today
“Fascinating, frightening, enlightening … Anne Speckhard’s ability to dissect the human mind is only equal to her genius in understanding the human heart. Undercover Jihadi is a must-read.” —Halli Casser-Jayne, host of The Halli Casser-Jayne Show, Talk Radio for Fine Minds
“This is an amazing story of Mubin Shaikh who had the courage to work undercover to stop what could have become a series of disastrous bombings and assassination attempts both in Canada and in the United States. With her wealth of knowledge of the terrorist mindset, Anne Speckhard tells his story and that of the Toronto 18 masterfully and dramatically.”
—Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
“Anne Speckhard and Mubin Shaikh have teamed up to tell us one of the most riveting stories of the year. Undercover Jihadi shows how real kids—first and second-generation immigrants—living in a Western country, get on the deadly terrorist trajectory and what can be done to get them off of it. Mubin Shaikh is one of the few people in the world to have actually been undercover in a homegrown terrorist cell and Anne Speckhard tells his story flawlessly. A must read!” —Rita Cosby, Emmy-Winning TV/Radio Host and Best Selling Author of Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past
“This is a magnificent description of how terrorist activity attracted and then alienated a son of Muslim immigrants to Canada, Mubin Shaikh. Anne Speckhard, who wrote the biography is a psychologist who has produced some excellent terrorist studies and possesses a literary gift that makes this intriguing book almost impossible to put down. Among the many lessons to be learned is the importance of encouraging Muslims who truly understand Islam to explain to jihadists how they have been distorting the religion they believe they are fighting for. The book is a necessary text for all university courses on terrorism. Students will never stop thinking and talking about it.” —David C. Rapoport, Professor Emeritus, UCLA, Founder and Editor Terrorism and Political Violence, Author of Four Waves of Terrorism: An Essay in Generations
“Finally a book that opens a window into the minds of terrorists. A must read for anyone who tries to understand them!” —Marc Sageman, author of Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad
“A fascinating window into the mind and soul of a young Muslim caught in the cross fires of conflicting values and engaged in a desperate struggle to do the right thing. A must read for anyone interested in how extremism could happen in the seemingly least likely circumstances…” —Arie W. Kruglanski, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
“This is the story of how a courageously honest Canadian man found himself attracted to the lure of militant Salafi-jihadism, and how he came to work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) rather than a terrorist group in Syria. Now that the trials of the “Toronto 18” are over, Mubin Shaikh is able to tell the details of his undercover work. This is a riveting tale, in large part because of the way it is told. It is a gripping read, bracingly honest, and terribly important.” —Jessica Stern, Lecturer at Harvard University and author of Terror in the Name of God and Denial: A Memoir of Terror
“Undercover Jihadi provides a unique and very personal account of an individual who was radicalized into the mindset of a terrorist and who ultimately helped to prevent major terrorist acts in Canada. Mubin Shaikh and Anne Speckhard’s very readable book will be of interest to the academic specialist and those in the public who wish to understand the human dimensions of terrorist motivation, organization and strategy. In addition the book should be assigned reading for any terrorism course.” —Stephen Sloan, Professor Emeritus, University of Oklahoma
“This is a must read book for counter-terrorism policy makers and practitioners who rarely get the opportunity read such an insightful insider account as this. With her usual skill, Speckhard helps us to learn important lessons from Mubin’s remarkable experience.” —Robert Lambert, Ph.D., Lecturer, Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews, UK
“A compelling story with an inside view of terrorism.” —Farhana Qazi, Foreign Policy Analyst & Public Speaker, 21st Century Leader Award, National Committee on American Foreign Policy, NY Humanitarian Award, Southwestern University, Texas
“Anne Speckhard’s biography of Mubin Shaikh is a remarkable story of a North American counter-terrorism operative on a dangerous mission! Having worked with Speckhard in Baghdad at the height of violence in Iraq, I can attest to her determination to investigate and write on topics that can help us to better understand ideologically driven violence.”
—Rohan Gunaratna, Professor Security Studies, Head, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore. Author of Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, Columbia University Press
“Mubin Shaikh’s story will have you riveted. Reading Undercover Jihadi is better than watching an episode of Sleeper Cell.” —Mia Bloom, Ph.D. author of Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terrorism and Bombshell: The Many Faces of Women Terrorists
“Undercover Jihadi is surprisingly gripping for a biography and very well written. The Toronto 18 plot is an important chapter in the history of Canadian terrorism. It brought the threat of terrorism into the consciousness of the average Canadian who may have previously thought that it could not happen in Canada. This was the first plot to illustrate Canada’s vulnerability to group terrorism and underscore for the public, that Canada is not immune to this threat. The information in this book is well presented and provides new insights—credible and not readily known information about this important period and event. New details both about the Toronto 18, as well as Mubin Shaikh, who infiltrated the group, are revealed. These details will grab your attention and make the book difficult to put down. I highly recommend Undercover Jihadi.” —D. Elaine Pressman, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, NPSIA, Carleton University, Ottawa
“This is a compelling account of a courageous man’s effort to help Canadian authorities prevent what could have been a truly horrible terrorist attack. It often reads like a fast-paced spy thriller but also offers unique insights into the modern security challenge of homegrown jihadist terrorism.”
—Professor James Forest, Director of Security Studies, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
“A truly unique and compelling story about how conflicts of religious and social identity can make the appeal of jihadism – which offers clarity, prestige, and importance – almost irresistible. Rather than participate in violence however, Mubin Shaikh sought a deeper understanding of the religious context that was being manipulated to justify and obligate his participation in terrorism. Through a rather unprecedented level of access and candid detail we learn first-hand how Mubin ultimately ended up working directly with the Canadian government to counter the terrorist threat as others in his inner circles continued on the path toward violence. Anne Speckhard and Mubin Shaikh have created a must-read.”—Anthony F. Lemieux, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication, Transcultural Conflict & Violence Program (2CI), Georgia State University
“Anne Speckhard has once again provided a clarity of thought made possible through earned experience and contributed significantly to the body of knowledge. She is a true pracademic—a practitioner with academic credentials and credibility. Convincing a target or adversary that you are someone you are not is both an art and a skill, uncommon to most. Mubin Shaikh demonstrated he has mastered both at considerable personal risk.” —Dr. Kathleen Kiernan, Naval PostGraduate School, Adjunct Professor
“Dr. Anne Speckhard has written another policy relevant work about terrorism. In this biography of Mubin Shaikh, she elucidates his journey from extremist militant views after studying Islam in Syria to becoming a counterterrorism operative. This book is essential reading for counterterrorism officials interested in learning first-hand about deradicalization.” —Max Abrahms, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Northeastern University and member of the Council on Foreign Relations
“If anyone understands the mind of terrorists and is qualified to write on this subject, it is definitely Anne Speckhard. As the author of an earlier publication, Talking to Terrorists, she has the knack of getting right into the subject matter immediately in minute detail without losing the reader’s interest. The book reads like a gripping novel, while maintaining focus on the main topic. Her style is interesting without being flowery and it is clear that she has done her research thoroughly. The book is a must for both professionals and laymen.” —Joe Charlaff, Israeli freelance journalist, writing about homeland security and counter terrorism for American and British journals
“This is the remarkable story of a young Canadian, born of Indian Muslim parents, who evolves from his role as obedient son to that of aspiring violent extremist and then, as a reformed jihadi, successfully infiltrates an extremist plot as a government agent. Those of us interested in understanding the roots of radical Islam and the trajectory of so-called “homegrown terrorists”, are fortunate to have such a down-to-earth and highly readable personal account from just such a person, Mubin Shaikh. Why do native-born Canadians or Americans, who have their whole lives ahead of them in such rich lands of opportunity, become alienated and radicalize? Mubin’s story gives us rich insights into this very complex and important question. It peels away some of the mystery.”—Ambassador John Negroponte, Yale University, Lecturer and Research Fellow; former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; former and the first, U.S. Director of National Intelligence; former Ambassador to the United Nations and to Iraq
“Anne Speckhard’s latest foray into the world of counterterrorism provides unique insights into an often criticized, yet highly effective investigative tool, which has proven essential over time. Chronicling effective use of the undercover technique, Dr. Speckhard outlines valuable lessons to be learned for both law enforcement, and the for the community whom they are sworn ‘to protect and to serve.’”—Michael E. Rolince, FBI Special Agent in Charge (Ret.) Counterterrorism Division, Washington D.C. Field Office