Monday, February 18, 2013

Siddiqui, a voice of temperate, tolerant civility in a sea of fear

What the Pope and others got all wrong post-9/11: Siddiqui
Pope Benedict never did recover from putting the Holy See’s imprimatur on some very unholy post-Sept. 11 Islamophobia.
By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, February 14, 2013
The Pope got into trouble with the Muslim world for his bigoted view of Islam. In his infamous 2006 statement about the Qur’an and Muhammad, he drew conclusions from a wrong set of theological and historical facts. In 2005, he lectured Muslim leaders in Cologne over the evil of terrorism, but there had been no such papal hectoring of Irish Catholic leaders for IRA terrorism. Earlier, he objected to Turkey joining the EU — “Turkey should seek its future among Islamic organizations, not in Christian-rooted Europe.”
These pronouncements were all the more shocking coming from an otherwise well-regarded religious scholar.
He later apologized and retracted much of that — either for reasons of politics or because he was genuinely sorry. But he never did recover from putting the Holy See’s imprimatur on some very unholy post-Sept. 11 Islamophobia, especially that Islam is more evil and irrational than other faiths, and that it spawned more violence (a demonstrably false thesis, given Christian European history).
From such suppositions flowed others: that all Muslims everywhere were one and the same; they were all potential terrorists; they were incapable of being integrated in the West (despite evidence to the contrary, especially in the U.S. and Canada); they had a secret plan to outbreed others, overwhelm Europe (“Eurabia”), indeed the entire West, and impose sharia; mosques and madrassahs, even in the West, hatched jihadists — proof being some nonsensical rhetoric by this or that idiotic imam, somewhere; and what the world needed were “moderate Muslims,” ideally “ex-Muslims,” who in return for confirming prevailing prejudices would be given favourable media coverage and other benefits.
The crude anti-Muslim narrative was to be later swathed in sophistry: what was being targeted was not Islam but “radical Islam,” “militant Islam,” “political Islam,” “extremist Islam,” “Islamism” or “Islamicism” (Stephen Harper’s phrase).
All these assumptions drove public policy for years, including the beefing up of borders and spying on law-abiding Muslims, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.
But a report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says we got it all wrong.
“A Study of Radicalization: The Making of Islamist Extremists in Canada Today” — obtained by the Globe and Mail’s Colin Freeze under the Freedom of Information Act — analyzes data on jihadists, a few dozen at best. A plurality were not immigrants or refugees but rather Canadian-born. Most were educated in our schools and universities. A majority were “highly integrated into Canadian society.” Their path to radicalization was “an idiosyncratic, individual process.”
This jibes with other studies, especially in Britain. While some homegrown terrorists did find religion and others used Islamic rhetoric, religion was not their main motivator. Indeed, the religiously observant were less likely to turn violent. Most radicals wanted revenge for western wars in Muslim nations.
Ray Boisvert, retired assistant director of intelligence at CSIS, says that the agency’s report helps “break down a lot of clichés and misconceptions” that took hold in an era of “fear and anxiety” after Sept. 11. The study should lead to more “informed decision-making,” he told me.
Mr. Siddiqui's observations of the Pope's positions, along with many others, regarding the significance of 9/11, and the ensuing "national security" obsession of so many public figures, makes this writer a little sheepish. While not having the public podium of either Siddiqui or the Pope, I certainly felt some angst about the rise of what has become known as radical Islam.
And, whether or not individual Canadians have become members of the terrorist organizations, the public frenzy has spread its negative ethos over many attittudes and political, not to mention military decisions, in this country and elsewhere.
Some european countries have become so radicalized that they have even considered deportation of Muslims, as part of their economic and security policy. Other countries have merely taken police actions against the incidence of terror, when such incidents arose.
Reading the reports from Africa, Europe, and Asia, about radical terrorist movements seeking political control, for the purpose of establishing Islamic law has been somewhat unsettling, given the 'west's' lack of preparedness for these killings, burnings, lootings, rapings and the like.
Non-state actors of violence, under the umbrella of an allegedly shared faith/ideology, have proven they can and do exact profound carnage with very few resources, and highly committed perpetrators.
Of course, the number of such incidents, their size, and their unpredictability, as well as their unbiquity have certainly not assuaged the fears, apprehensions and decisions of many public figures of all political persuasions.
Nevertheless, it is quite true that not all Muslims are terrorists, just as not all Christians are radical fundamentalists shooting doctors and nurses working in clinics that provide therapeutic abortions. And it is also true that people of all faith backgrounds, as well as those without a faith adherence, have to live in some degree of civility, under the law, and resolve their differences without resorting to violence, whether such violence comes in the form of bullets, missiles, or words.
With some contrition for expressing my own angst, an attitude that could easily have been read as painting all Muslims with the same brush, I thank Mr. Siddiqui for his temperate insights, his tolerant and civil tone and his courage in attemping to tame the rampant, and also destructive, fears of many, over the last decade plus.


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