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July 28, 2012

Unholy alliances on Canada's far right: Tarek Fatah, Charles McVety and the JDL

Michael Laxer

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These are interesting days for Tarek Fatah.

Mr. Fatah, if you are unfamiliar with him, is the self-proclaimed Marxist who has, of late, waged a relentless "war" against "Islamofascism," a fight that he claims his former "fellow travelers" have all but abandoned. He began his chameleon like search for political and public success and attention as an Ontario New Democrat in the employ of both Bob Rae and Howard Hampton (during which time he ran for the NDP in 1995), then became a Liberal only to abandon the Liberal Party when his leadership candidate, again Bob Rae, lost.

Fatah was a founding member and early spokesperson for the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) under whose banner, as we shall see, he still appears at public events.

Fatah has made the fight against the alleged threat of "Islamofascism" his personal crusade, abhorring the supposed danger to Western freedoms and universal human rights that Islamic fundamentalism poses. He has put himself out as a staunch defender of women's rights, as pro-gay marriage (in fact, his stated reason for resigning from his formal positions in the MCC in 2006 was due to alleged death threats he and his family received as a result of this stance), and as a "far-left" secular activist whose positions have been betrayed by most of the rest of the left.

He seems to have fashioned himself as some kind of second rate Christopher Hitchens.

This narrative has brought him media attention from those on the right, and he has appeared on Glenn Beck's Fox News program, is a darling of the Sun News circuit, and has landed himself a couple of radio gigs on Toronto's right wing talk radio station CFRB 1010.

Regardless of what one makes of Fatah's overall claims about the imminent threat to Canada of "Islamofascism," for a self-proclaimed secularist, anti-fascist, pro-gay, pro-democracy and pro-woman advocate, Fatah keeps very curious company.

This past Wednesday, July 18, Fatah shared the stage at an event The Return of Omar Khadr: the Unholy Alliance of Islamism and the Left that was held at and under the auspices of the Canada Christian College and that featured, among others, Meir Weinstein, the Director of the Jewish Defense League - Canada as a keynote speaker. Fatah appeared on the bill as a spokesperson for the MCC.

This is a fascinating context for him, given his supposed beliefs, to appear in at all.

The Canada Christian College, an organization that claims to be a charity entirely devoted, according to its own tax returns, to "seminaries and other religious colleges," shares space with its President, Charles McVety's virulently homophobic, anti-feminist and anti-choice Institute for Canadian Values. In the past, I have raised questions about the institute (both in an article specifically about McVety and in one about right-wing "charities" in general, co-authored by Natalie Lochwin) and its apparent use of a variety of supposed charity names, none of which seem to exist in any Canada Revenue Agency records, other than the CRA record of the college itself, which is supposedly non-political and dedicated to bible study alone.

Fatah, the "gay friendly Muslim leader" as he was described by Xtra, a gay and lesbian newspaper, and who claimed, as we have noted, that he suffered death threats due to his apparent courage around the marriage equality issue, must have known that McVety is not only a tireless activist against gay marriage but is enough of a bigot that his reprehensible advertisements, one of which still appears on his "institute's" website, against teaching tolerance towards gays to school children forced the National Post to apologize for having abetted his intolerance. McVety has also spewed his hate towards gays in front of Ontario provincial parliamentary committees on the issue of gay-straight alliances in high-schools, essentially claiming they would force his teenage daughter to find out that anal sex exists among other supposed abominations.

Then there is Weinstein and the JDL. The original American wing of the JDL, of course, was seen by authorities in the United States as a terrorist organization for much of its existence. The Canadian wing of the JDL is notable for its blind dedication to promoting its own form of Jewish fascism, no matter who it need align itself with.

The JDL has worked hard to create alliances with a variety of European fascist and hard right parties. In just one example in 2011 the JDL organized a support rally for the overtly fascist English Defense League. The EDL, as one can see from its website, is not only a racist organization, it features pictures of flag waving skinheads, new takes in its symbolism on traditional fascist iconography, and claims that without its "courage" the people of England face "revolution, civil war or subjugation." And this is all on its website's front page!

This attempt by the JDL at an alliance with English fascists was forcefully condemned by the Canadian Jewish Congress and its head, Bernie Farber.

In addition, the JDL organized a reprehensible protest in conjunction with Hindu fascist Ron Banerjee and his Canadian Hindu Advocacy (whose sole advocacy for Hindus seems to consist of attacking Islamics) and the Christian Heritage Group, against a teen Muslim prayer group who, not funded in anyway by tax dollars, used an empty high school cafeteria for prayer. Sadly, this campaign was also supported by some misguided "leftist" secularists, until they caught whiff of the stench of the company they were keeping. Among his many outrageous and vile comments, Banerjee has said "In its entire history, Islam, the Islamic civilization has invented and contributed less to human advancement than a pack of donkeys.”

According to the JDL, Islam "never gives up what it conquers, be it religion, culture, language or life. Neither does it make apologies or any real effort at moral progress. It is the least open to dialogue and the most self-absorbed. It is convinced of its own perfection, yet brutally shuns self-examination and represses criticism."

They warn against the "liberal" political correctness that would "bring other religion down to the level of Islam merely to avoid the existential truth that this it is both different and dangerous."

There is, obviously, no nuance here and no attempt to note that, as with Judaism and Christianity, Islam has many different currents of thought. To share the stage with those who espouse these bigoted views rather openly is a statement in-and-of itself of political reaction against notions of tolerance, internationalism and secularism.

What is especially notable about this is that all of these groups, the Charles McVety colleges, institutes and "charities," the JDL and their allies on the far right are all as equally opposed to gay rights and equality, religious tolerance, women's rights and choice and non-racial and non-religious and secular ideas of democracy, internationalism and modernity as the "Islamofascists" that the secularist Fatah claims he is "fighting." And they are a far greater threat to these freedoms and ideas in the Canadian context, most significantly in the case of Evangelical Christians, many of whom are in government in the country right now. These include homophobes, creationists, anti-choice lunatics, and other religious zealots who populate the parliamentary benches of the governing party.

There is no alliance more "unholy" than that, Tarek.

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