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October 4, 2011

Harper on "Islamicism"

Reuel S. Amdur

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Stephen Harper told CBC's Peter Mansbridge that "Islamicism" poses the most important terrorist threat to Canada. But Islamophobia is an ongoing problem in the contemporary world, so it behooves a prime minister to choose his words carefully. Would he, if talking about Jewish settler violence, casually throw in a term like "Judeacism"?

Then there is the question of what is to be done about the perceived threat.

In the first place, we need to ask why anyone would want to do Canada harm.  The answer is fairly obvious.  Canada is in Afghanistan.  With Liberal support, Harper has extended Canadian participation in that country for another four years. In an underhanded way Canada is also in Iraq. 

The Harper government is an uncritical supporter of Israel in its dealings with the Palestinians. 

The issues that are irritants for the Muslim community in Canada generally are also issues that would drive extremists.  Are the positions Canada has taken on the international scene valid rationally?  Are they just?  If they are not, then there is no reason to continue them, no reason to incite the hotheads. 

Afghanistan is a country mired in ongoing violence among a variety of forces–warlords, Taliban, and NATO.  Government corruption is rife.  The local police and military coerce the populace.  We now have renewed reports about torture in Afghan jails.  It is highly likely that when Canadian and NATO forces eventually pull out, the country will revert to disintegration into warlord fiefdoms and Taliban bands engaging in ongoing internecine civil war. With limited prospect for creation of a stable, corruption-free government with popular support in Afghanistan, why are we there?  Our unpublicized presence in Iraq is to please the United States, but the outcome there is hardly what either Canada or the US wants.  In any case, the invasion of the country by the “coalition of the willing” was a violation of international law, as Kofi Annan noted.

These military actions are not justified in their own terms.  The fact that they excite a small bunch of hotheads that could do us harm is just an additional reason not to continue the folly.  More broadly, Canada identifies itself with the United States in American military adventures, and the United States is logically the main target for Islamist terrorism.

Then we come to the Israel-Palestine situation. 

Israel is a major military force, while the Palestinians are weak.  Yet its long-term ability to run roughshod over the Palestinians is questionable.  It faces growing international isolation as it combines a plea for peace talks and an ongoing illegal expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that any negotiations must end with creation of a Bantustan: a disarmed Palestine, continuation of the settlements, Jerusalem solely under Israeli control, and no Palestinian control over their own borders. 

The Tory government openly proclaims its full support for Israel.  What does justice demand?  And what does the Canadian position say to Muslims in Canada? One answer to the terrorist threat is to stop doing stupid things in the Muslim world overseas, stop going along with the United States, and stop allying ourselves with injustice in the Holy Land. 

There are domestic actions that the Harper government is taking.  David Pugliese, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, quotes economist David MacDonald about preventive measures since 9/11: “Security and Public Safety Programs have nearly tripled, from $3 billion to almost $9 billion annually.”  Are we any the safer as a result?  Stephen Harper now plans to reintroduce some anti-terrorist measures that have expired.  One would give police the power to arrest people without a warrant and hold them for 72 hours without charge if a terrorist act is suspected.  Another would give judges the power to force testimony from witnesses in closed court about associations and about things planned to happen.  During the time that these measures were in place, they were never used. 

Yet Harper told the CBC that the “measures are necessary. We think they’ve been useful.”  Useful but never used?  Well, giving us all internal passports and locking us all up at night might also increase security.

One is reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s observation: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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