"You ask yourself - why didn't he give us a call or let us know where he is? That makes it unbelievable," said one of Ferid Imam's relatives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We have no idea why he left. No one knows."
Reached at his home in Abu Dhabi, Mahmoud al-Farekh said: "Did he go because he wanted to spread Islam or because he wanted to fight? I don't know. I don't know if I will ever know."
Although such disappearances are not a pervasive or widespread trend in Islamic communities in the West, there are similar, isolated cases of young men vanishing in other North American cities, such as Minneapolis. Several Toronto Somali parents have faced questions from CSIS after their sons disappeared.
In Winnipeg, the fallout has not been confined to family members.
Six University of Manitoba students, complaining of stress, turned to a Muslim leader for counselling after they received repeated visits from CSIS agents. Shahina Siddiqui, the executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association, said she tried to calm them and inform them of their rights while also reminding them that the authorities need to investigate.
"I see both sides of it. I see the side of CSIS and the RCMP, and I see the side of the community," Ms. Siddiqui said.
Members of the Muslim community said the missing students have left everyone in a place that is equally frustrating for both questioner and respondent; friends and family must endure inquiries that they simply can't answer. One Muslim student who was questioned by CSIS said he and his friends were eager to help at first, but found the agency's inquiries to be unceasing. "That's the most we can give," he said with a sigh of exasperation.
One of Ferid's relatives said he's at a loss to explain how or why the young man changed. "You don't see radicalization in a person," he said. "Everything they do is in their head."