The McGill administration is currently investigating Haaris Khan, a McGill student who, using Twitter, threatened to shoot a roomful of other students last week at a campus film screening.
Khan made the threats at a screening of "Indoctrinate U," a documentary, on March 8 hosted by Conservative McGill and Libertarian McGill. "I want to shoot everyone in this room," he tweeted at one point during the film, adding, "I should have brought an M16."
None of the 20 or so students at the screening knew about the threats at the time, the event's organizers said. Khan sat in the back of the room and tweeted quietly using his BlackBerry.
The event's organizers found out about the tweets on Thursday, said Kevin Pidgeon, a Conservative McGill member who attended the event. A friend of Brendan Steven, another Conservative McGill member, contacted Steven about the posts, Pidgeon said. After reviewing them, Steven and the event's other organizers decided to call McGill Security.
Though Khan has since deactivated his Twitter account, Conservative McGill members, at the suggestion of the Montreal Police Department, took screenshots of his tweets for evidence. Over the span of about an hour and half, during the screening Khan
railed against Jews and Zionists in 10 separate tweets.
"I've infiltrated a Zionist meeting, "Khan wrote in his first tweet, at 6:04 p.m., shortly after the event began. "I feel like I'm at a Satanist ritual."
"Oh man, a Muslim girl just appeared, “he wrote in his next post. "I thought, like me, she's a freedom fighter. Unfortunately, she's a co-conspirator. Traitor."
About half an hour into the screening, Khan's tweets turned violent.
"My blood is boiling, "he wrote at 6:38 p.m. "I want to shoot everyone in this room. I'm frightened, alarmed, and downright pissed. Never been this
"This experience has hardened me into a soldier for freedom and truth," Khan wrote about an hour later. He posted his last tweet, about bringing an M16, minutes later.
Khan continued tweeting angrily for much of the next day, though not always about Zionism or Conservative McGill. (He called the Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chára a "giant penis" after Chára delivered a brutal hit to Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty that night.)
But at 1:14 p.m. the next day, Khan tweeted, "The jihad begins today."
McGill Security contacted the Montreal Police Department after Alexandre Meterissian, another Conservative McGill member, reported Khan's threats on Thursday. The police, Meterissian said, called him later that night and told him they were opening an investigation. Khan did not have any registered weapons, the police told him, and promised to call him if they made an arrest.
According to Khan, however, he has not been contacted by the police at all. He met with the McGill administration on Friday, he said, but refused to give any details about the meeting.
McGill's administration has not informed the student body about the threats and, citing the province's privacy legislation, has refused to provide much information to the students who reported Khan's tweets, either. Dean of Students Jane Everett met with Pidgeon and Meterissian on Monday, but Pidgeon described the meeting as "completely unhelpful."
The university, Meterissian added shortly before the meeting, was using privacy laws "to not tell us anything, at least not by email or phone."
In a brief written statement to the Tribune, Everett said the administration had investigated the matter and was taking appropriate disciplinary action.
"It was determined that there was no need to advise the community of the matter because there was no danger posed to the community," she said.
According to Pidgeon, Conservative McGill's leadership knew little about Khan before reading his tweets. Khan had published an op-ed piece attacking The Prince Arthur Herald—a student news website founded several months earlier by Steven and Pidgeon and staffed by a number of Conservative McGill members—in The McGill Daily in January, but none of them had paid it much mind.
After reading the tweets, Pidgeon said he had trouble understanding exactly what it was about the event that set Khan off. "Indoctrinate U," the documentary screened at the event, deals with a perceived liberal bias in American universities and does not touch on religion.
"It had nothing to do with Zionism or Israel or Judaism in general," Pidgeon said.
In an interview with the Tribune on Monday, Khan, a soft-spoken U2 international development studies and software engineering student from Laval, apologized and said that Conservative McGill's members had taken his tweets out of context. He uses Twitter, he said, simply to vent his emotions.
"Whatever comes into my mind, I say it on Twitter," he said. "It's kind of my outlet."
Khan doesn't own any weapons, he said, and doesn't know anyone who does. He has never fired a gun.
Despite his threats of jihad, Khan said he is not particularly religious and doesn't have much attachment to Islam. His sister-in-law is Jewish, he added, and he doesn't consider himself anti-Semitic. "I don't have a problem with Jews," he said.
Though Khan sent an email to Zach Paikin, a Prince Arthur Herald columnist who attended the screening, on Sunday night, Khan said he has not had any contact with Conservative McGill members. But he would like them to realize, he said, "that I'm not a demon."
Pidgeon and Meterissian, however, said they were concerned for their safety.
"I'm 100 per cent for free speech," Pidgeon said, "But when it encroaches on my and about 15 other people's right to life . . . I think right to life wins out over right to free speech."