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January 20, 2012

The fine line of a double standard

The Canadian Charger

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After informing the viewing audience, in a September 8 CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge, that Canada faces "a number of threats on different levels," Prime Minister Harper singled out Islamic terrorism as the major threat facing Canadians. The interview was part of The National's series of stories marking the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“If you look at, if we're talking about terrorism, I mean, the major threat is still Islamicism. There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats.”

Later in the interview, Mr. Harper explained that in his view 9/11 had nothing to do with wealth versus poverty - as former Prime Minister Jean Chretien said a year after the attacks - but rather it had to do with “a particular hateful ideology that has attacked people, wealthy and poor, around the world, not just in affluent societies like ours, but some pretty poor places.” 

In response to Abubakar Kasim's letter criticizing what Mr. Kasim referred to as the Prime Minister's “blatant anti-Muslim remarks,” and Mr. Mansbridge's failure to challenge them, Esther Enkin, Executive Editor of CBC News defended Mr. Harper's remarks, in a letter.

“It is clear from his comments and their context that he is not speaking of Islam or Muslims, generally. He very specifically referred to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to the threat posed by “Islamism” - not Islam,” Ms. Enkin said.

While this may or may not be true, one wonders why Mr. Harper insists on giving terrorist acts a religious, or more specifically an Islamic connotation at all.

Although Mr. Harper added that “as we've seen in Norway, terrorist threats can come out of the blue,” and “there are other groups and individuals that if given the chance would engage in terrorism,” he continued to insist that Islamicism “is probably still the major one.”

It's telling that when a terrorist claiming to be Christian, such as Anders Behring Breivik, kills innocent people to protest against immigrants – particularly Muslims – Mr. Harper doesn't associate the terrorism as having any religious affiliation. Instead he characterizes such murderous actions as, “out of the blue.”

Moreover because an Islamic connotation is being used repeatedly, it's a fine line, which makes it often indistinguishable in people's minds, to say “Islamism” or “Islamicism” is the root cause of terrorism, but this has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims.

In fact, Ms. Enkin acknowledges this in her letter.

“Of course, the common implication is that an Islamist is a Muslim radical or extremist, who not only believes Western values are eroding Islam, but who is prepared to use violence to create Islamic states that promote fundamental doctrines and enforce strict Shariah law,” Ms. Enkin said.

The problem is that Ms. Enkin doesn't see a problem with this type of drive-by smear, and thus offers no solution to the problem, let alone acknowledges the implications the Prime Minister's remarks have on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, living in Canada, who happen to be Canadian citizens, and thus look to the Prime Minister for leadership.

In his letter, Mr. Kasim also said he found it offensive that during the October 6th edition of the Lang & O'Leary Exchange, CBC program commentator Kevin O'Leary referred to author and journalist Chris Hedges as a “nutbar.” After putting Mr. O'Leary's remark in the context of a discussion about the Wall Street protests then taking place in New York and Washington, Ms. Enkin said Mr. O'Leary responded to an answer by Mr. Hedges by saying “With all due respect, you sound like a left-wing nutbar.”

She agreed that Mr. O'Leary's remark was inappropriate and informed Mr. Kasim that after the program the producer telephoned Mr. Hedges to apologize. She added that Mr. O'Leary later offered a public apology for his remark, on the program, and CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe subsequently reviewed the matter; and his review was posted on the CBC website.

While this appears to be a reasonable response to the matter, it's – similar to letting Prime Minister Harper's anti-Muslim comments go unchallenged - indicative of a myopic vision of the issues CBC reports on, on behalf of Canadians, which often illustrates a lack of respect for people who don't adhere to the commonly held perspective at the CBC, on any given issue. 

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