TORONTO – Moonwalking, doing the robot dance and singing a deliberately woeful version of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” on TV’s “Canadian Idol.”
Is that part of the profile of an alleged homegrown terrorist?
Police won’t confirm it is, but that was the picture being presented to Canadians in reports on one of three men accused of plotting attacks in the nation’s capital.
The picture that emerged Thursday of Khurram Sayed Sher was one of stark contrasts.
The comic performance and an alleged terrorist.
“It’s sort of absurd. It is a little weird,” Jake Gold, a judge on “Idol” and music manager in Toronto, said of the allegations.
“He was a funny guy. At the same time, it’s not a laughing matter.”
Sher, the alleged terrorist, is a father of three, a doctor who graduated from one of Canada’s most prestigious medical schools, and an avid hockey player.
He is someone police said conspired with others in a Canadian bomb plot, but also a doctor who went to Pakistan to help after an earthquake.
Sher, 28, born and raised in Montreal, was arrested Thursday at the home he had just moved into in London, Ont., a few kilometres from the hospital where he had just started a new job.
RCMP Sgt. Marc Laporte confirmed the arrest “without incident” just before 8 a.m. in south-end London and said the suspect was being transferred to court in Ottawa where two others alleged to be part of the conspiracy appeared briefly.
Sher was named in court documents as part of a conspiracy in Ottawa to “knowingly facilitate terrorist activities” in Canada and abroad.
Police spent the day searching the home for evidence.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” said a neighbour about the police activity on the street.
The neighbour, who did not give her name, said the Sher family — husband, wife and kids — had moved in a few weeks ago.
A Khurram Sher was one of thousands of Canadians who auditioned for “Canadian Idol” two years ago, and made it onto television for his entertainment value, rather than his talent performing Lavigne’s “Complicated” to some amusing dance steps.
While the dancing performance gets the thumbs up from the judges the singing is panned by the panel.
Dressed in traditional Pakistani garb, Sher hams it up with boy band dance moves.
“Have you ever thought of being a comedian?” judge Sass Jordan asks.
“Not really, I like hockey, music, acting,” Sher replies.
Asked Thursday to make the link between the terrorism charges and the man peforming on “Idol,” police said they wouldn’t comment.
“The individual’s exact identity and correlation with what you’re referring to might be disclosed in the court proceedings, but at this time I’m not able to say whether it is or not,” said RCMP Chief Supt. Serge Therriault.
Gold said he didn’t initially recognize Sher’s name when he heard of the arrest, but remembered him “vividly” after reviewing the video footage.
He was “just one of those characters” who didn’t seem to be trying to impress the judges with his singing talent, Gold said.
“We felt that he was putting us on,” he said.
The would-be Idol did not advance.
One fan of his performance said in a posting she was glad at his attempt at showing Canadians that Muslims are “not all extremist.”
While the performance at the time drew rave reviews on YouTube and Facebook from fans and supporters, the tone was decidedly downbeat Thursday at the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, where Sher began a new job Aug. 3 in anatomical pathology.
“I’m really devastated,” Dr. Syed Wasty, the chief of pathology and Sher’s supervisor, said of the arrest.
“I cannot say any more.”
In 2007, Sher was one of a group of doctors who wrote the government to protest the situations of three Muslim men held under Canada’s national security certificate regime.
He spent time in Pakistan in 2006 as part of a relief effort after an earthquake.
Sher grew up in Brossard, Que., a suburb near Montreal, and was a hockey nut. He played sniper with the ball-hockey team, Montreal Islamique.
A former classmate who attended high school with Sher in a suburb south of Montreal said he was an intelligent teenager who had a bit of a goofball side to him.
On the web Thursday, people who knew him or were classmates with Sher at Centennial Regional High School were expressing their disbelief at his arrest.
Some described him as well-mannered and soft spoken, a student in the school’s talented-and-gifted program.
Paul Collins, the hospital CEO, said he not yet had a chance to meet Sher, but called the situation “very strange” for everyone at the hospital.
“You see these kinds of events as happening elsewhere, not at your own doorstep, so that is surprising.”
Sher did not show up for work Thursday as scheduled.