Canadian Civil Society II – Islamophobia and Empathy

by

Howard Adelman

This blog continues the discussion of the core values of the Canadian civil religion in contrast to the Trump-Stone ethos now governing the polis in the U.S.  In the previous blog, I dealt with the first four values, but I reprint the whole list as a reference.

Canada                                        U.S.A.

  1. Civility                               Incivility
  2. Compassion                      Passion
  3. Dignity                               Indignation
  4. Diversity                           Unity
  5. Empathy                           Insecurity
  6. Impartial                          Partisan
  7. Egalitarian                       Inegalitarian
  8. Fairness                            Ruthless & even Unfair
  9. Freedom as a Goal          Freedom as Given
  10. False-consciousness       Humans as Falsifiers

Why is empathy, the fifth value above, different from compassion? Compassion is a feeling for the suffering of others. Empathy is a cognitive exercise, getting inside the head of another to understand how and why the individual makes the decisions he or she does. Empathy operates by adopting the point of view of the other as one’s own in order to understand the other’s perspective. This vicarious experiencing of the thoughts, feelings and frame of reference of another was largely evident in the debate leading up to the Members of the House of Commons passing an “Islamophobia” Motion, M-103, by a vote of 201-91 two months ago on 23 March 2017.

Before I analyze the Canadian debate on Islamophobia as an example of empathy for the most part, I want to first explain what Islamophobia is and why I offered “insecurity” as the antonym to “empathy” by tracking Donald Trump’s position on Islam. I also want to do this as an exercise in empathy rather than righteous haranguing against Donald Trump’s self-evidently outrageous statements on Islam.

Donald Trump’s criticism of Islam began long before he launched his campaign to become president and long before he assumed the Office of President of the United States of America. Some statements made five years earlier may have adumbrated one plank of a presidential campaign that would include negative statements about Islam. When Donald Trump took leadership of the Birther Movement, the organized effort to convince Americans and the world that: a) Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.; and b) that Obama was secretly a Muslim, in an interview on 11 December 2011, Trump articulated his more general warnings about Islam and Muslims.

In November of 2015, he uttered the outright lie that, “thousands of people [Muslims] celebrated in Jersey City in N.J. on 11 September 2001.” Though some residents of Jersey City claimed that Trump’s assertion was true and that “we saw it,” no video or photo has ever appeared to verify the claim. According to Trump, “There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it [the destruction of the Twin Towers] a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. No good.” In December of 2015, Trump put out a policy statement in his race to win the Republican nomination that warned of the “extraordinary influx of hatred & danger coming into our country.”

This is what appeared then on his campaign website:

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing “25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and 51% of those polled, “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.” Shariah authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won’t convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women.

The citation of a notorious Islamophobe, Frank Gaffney and his organization, in itself fostered Islamophobia. Gaffney was even banned from attending the Conservative Political Action Conference when he levelled the same claim against the board members of being Muslim Brotherhood agents that he had accused Hillary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, of being. Thus, Trump’s call on the campaign trail to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., his assertion in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN that, “I think Islam hates us,” and that, “we can’t allow people coming into the country who have this hatred of the United States,” and his promise to absolutely implement a Muslim database, all offered evidence of his purported Islamophobia. The campaign climaxed in the two failed executive orders he issued when he became president to ban members of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

However, in Riyadh on Sunday as President of the U.S. appearing before an Arab summit of 50 leaders, he called his foreign policy, “principled realism,” though it is very difficult to discern any moral principles informing the doctrine. He asked for “partnerships” that would “advance security through stability, not through radical disruption.” In a slip of sloppy writing, he contrasted those prospective partners with perfection: “We must seek partners, not perfection.”  The ideal was self-reliance; the compromise was partnerships, partnerships even with predominantly Muslim countries.

Donald Trump made other mistakes in his overtures to these countries. He celebrated the pyramids and palaces of Giza and Luxor, the ruins of Petra in Jordan, all pre-Islam, but conspicuously not the grandeur in art and architecture, science and technology, thought and writing achieved at the pinnacle of Muslim civilization. However, he lauded Islam as “one of the world’s great faiths” and insisted that the war was against terror, against radical Islamicists; the majority of the victims were Muslims. He never used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” that he claimed Barack Obama had been too cowardly to employ. He continued: it was not a war between civilizations.

How can we reconcile these assertions as President with Donald Trump’s claims as a campaigner? Was Trump guilty of Islamophobia, but quickly abandoned the belief after he became president and made his first foreign trip abroad to Saudi Arabia? Let me try to understand the position, but only after reviewing the debate on Islamophobia in Canada.

On 26 October 2016, the Canadian Parliament gave unanimous consent to a motion by NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, condemning Islamophobia:

That the House join the 69,742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.

In his speech, the Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP) said:

Mr. Speaker, hate crimes targeting Muslim Canadians have tragically become more frequent in recent years. Each time we hear of another, it weighs heavily on our hearts. We know that Canada is fundamentally a country of peace. Nous célébrons la diversité et les différences. Cela fait partie de qui nous sommes mais ces valeurs doivent être protégées. Les étincelles de haine doivent être condamnées. Nous ne pouvons pas rester sans rien faire. L’histoire nous l’a bien appris. Nous devons lutter contre la haine perpétrée à l’endroit de n’importe quel groupe de personnes en raison de leur religion, de leur ethnie, de leur langue ou de leur orientation sexuelle. We must actively fight hate perpetrated against the Muslim community and denounce, in this House, lslamophobia in all of its forms. Au nom de tous les néo-démocrates, je tiens à offrir mon appui à la communauté musulmane de Sept-Îles et à rappeler à toutes les communautés musulmanes du Canada que nous sommes avec elles.

What took place between the passage of this motion and three weeks earlier, on 6 October, when an almost identical motion was defeated by a handful of Conservatives members shouting, “Nay”?  Did Parliament deny the Canadian-Muslim community the recognition and empathy it deserved in the defeat of that motion? Was it subsequently moved by a petition with almost 70,000 signatures and/or the third attack on a newly-built Sept-Ȋles mosque that took place just four days before the motion passed? Was the defeat of the 6 October motion itself an act of Islamophobia that even went beyond the claim that it was an indication of a lack of empathy? Or was the vote of a handful of Conservative members of the House likely motivated simply by partisanship, as Mulcair claimed?

Ironically, the vandalism was probably not a hate crime. At the time of the unanimous passage of the motion, a man turned himself in to the police confessing responsibility for the crime. He said that he had become drunk that night in the bar next door to the cultural centre and did the damage, but he was too drunk to even know at the time that he had committed the crime. Nor, given the subsequent debate on a bill against Islamophobia, was the earlier dissent on the motion likely motivated by either partisanship or Islamophobia. It was more likely the Conservatives did not fully grasp the meaning and intent of the concept “Islamophobia’. They gave evidence that they had not been sufficiently empathetic to the position of the Muslims.

Why would they want to vote against a bill that condemned a form of hatred? One possibility is that they regarded Islamophobia as a term that did not mean “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” It was not anti-Muslim or anti-Islam at all. Islamophobia literally meant fear of Islam, Islam – phobia.  Fear is different than hatred. One can irrationally fear all Muslims even though very few are terrorists, but there is no necessary connection between fear of the other and hatred of the other.

However, the Ontario Human Rights commission offers a definition of Islamophobia as: “stereotypes, bias or acts of hostility towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general.” In the UK, the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia in its 1997 report, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, defined Islamophobia as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.” The concept is made up of the following eight recurring views of Islam as:

(1) a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change;

(2) separate and ‘other’ without ‘values in common with other cultures,’ being neither affected by them nor having any influence on them;

(3) ‘inferior to the West,’ ‘barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist;’

(4) violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations’;

(5) a political ideology used for political or military advantage;

(6) rejecting out of hand ‘criticisms made of the West by Islam’;

(7) hostility justifying ‘discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society’;

(8) seeing anti-Muslim hostility ‘as natural or normal’.

In contrast, antisemitism is defined as hatred aimed at Jews. Islamophobia has a wider range than hatred. There was a fear that the vagueness of the term and its broader cast would have the potential to stifle debate. Some even claimed that this was the only reason for introducing the bill, to stifle criticism of Islam even further. According to Dennis Prager, “The term “Islamophobia” has one purpose — to suppress any criticism, legitimate or not, of Islam.” Critics, specifically from the Jewish community, claimed that Motion M-103 put forth by Mississauga-Erin Mils MP, Iqra Khalid, would allow a person criticizing Islam to be subjected to criminal charges. A final reason offered was that, in contrast to B’nai Brith’s extensive collection of data and documentation of violence, harassment and vandalism against Jews, the equivalent documentation against Muslim and Islamic institutions was sparse.

Ironically, a Muslim academic, Ingrid Mattson, who holds the Inaugural Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron University College in London, Ontario, said that as much as hatred targets Muslims groups, there were many more antisemitic attacks in Canada. I was not able to ascertain whether Amira Elghawaby, the Communications Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), who was also at the conference, agreed or whether she would simply say she does not know because the Muslim community is not as adept at collecting data as the Jewish community.

First tabled on 5 December 2016, M-103 passed in March by a vote of 201-91 and was referred to committee for further review. Why had it been subject to so much acrimonious debate? Why did opponents view it a slippery slope to limiting freedom of speech or even introducing Sharia law into Canada when that law ran counter to Canadian values and laws? Why did almost the whole Conservative caucus, with the exception of Michael Chong and Bruce Stanton, oppose the bill? Why were not these opponents swayed by the 29 January mosque shooting in Quebec City where six Muslim worshippers were killed? And why, according to an Angus Reid poll conducted between 13 and 17 March 2017, did only 12% of Canadians support the bill? 31% saw M-103 as endangering free speech, another 31% viewed it as a motherhood motion without any effect, and 17% viewed the bill and the debate as a waste of time.

Khalid’s motion required the government to undertake three initiatives:

  • Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination;
  • Quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear;
  • Develop a government-wide approach for reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.

The latter would require the heritage committee to create and maintain a data base on hate crime, much as B’nai Brith does for the Jewish community with respect to antisemitism in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Data collection on Islamophobia, in contrast, is sparse.

However, an effort to collect such data, however valuable, might also cause one to pause, especially if the data is to be assembled by government. For, in the age of digital communications, incidents of antisemitic remarks have expanded exponentially, suggesting a rising tide of antisemitism based only on the number of incidents recorded. As B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn opined, the comment section of any news media includes a plethora of comments condemning Zionist plots and Jews for murdering children. In addition to genuine acts of antisemitism – spray painting swastikas on gravestone, vandalizing synagogues and Jewish community centres – there are a plethora of crackpots now publishing antisemitic symbols and spreading hate.

The same can be said of hatred aimed at Muslims. Haroon Siddiqui gave a speech at the Aga Khan Museum that blamed the media, in particular, the National Post and the Postmedia newspaper group, for contributing to Islamophobia by looking for terrorists under every minaret and writing up every Muslim who makes an outrageous statement suggesting militancy or malevolence. On the other hand, given the incident yesterday evening in Manchester, one should not be surprised at the fear that a Muslim could be a terrorist. Should Harvey Levine, the Quebec Director of B’nai Brith, be condemned when he asked Montreal police to investigate two incidents of Muslim imams allegedly calling for the killing of Jews?  It should be no surprise that Levine had concerns about M-103.

Cannot the same be said about motions condemning antisemitism – that they go overboard and sweep up genuine criticisms in their compass? What is the difference between some strong criticisms of Israel and the xenophobia allegedly evident in statements and articles critical of wearing the niqab and the fearmongering that accompanied it. A motion was passed unanimously by the House of Commons, the Irwin Cotler motion, that noted “an alarming increase in anti-Semitism worldwide,” incidents that included a singular and virtually exclusive preoccupation with the alleged misdeeds of the Israeli government and even the denial of the right of self-determination for the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist.  When does legitimate criticism of Israel become antisemitic?

There is one notable difference between the antisemitism and Islamophobia. The latter starts with fear and expands towards hatred. The former starts with hatred that fosters fear. But there are far more commonalities. And, in the final analysis, whatever the fears of creeping infringements on freedom of speech in both cases, whatever the ambiguities, whatever the comparative quantitative and qualitative analysis of victimhood, whatever the contradictions when some Muslim groups seem to be main purveyors of antisemitism and some Jewish organizations are major critics of the open-ended nature of the focus on Islamophobia, if one empathetically enters into the mindset of the pains and fears of members of either group, whatever the qualms, support for motions condemning both antisemitism and Islamophobia usually follow. Even when it does not, one must appreciate the relative civility in which the debate was conducted and honestly get inside the mindset of the person in opposition.

Which brings us back to Trump. I do not think he hates Muslims. I do think he used hatred and fear as means to advance his own political agenda. He should be condemned for manipulating people based on their irrational fears and hatreds rooted in their insecurities and, thereby, contributing significantly to a rising tide of Islamophobia.

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. and International Background to Islamophobia in Canada

U.S. and International Background to Islamophobia in Canada

by

Howard Adelman

Three weeks ago, on 6 February 2017, Donald Trump issued a list of 78 terror attacks that had allegedly been under or not reported by the media. He left off that list numerous and almost daily terrorist attacks against Muslim targets. Not one terrorist attack in Israel was included. The attack against a mosque in a Quebec City suburb on 29 January 2017 by an Islamophobe was omitted. Most on the list – the Paris Bataclan attack, the Nice truck killings, the Pulse nightclub slaughter in Orlando, Florida, the mass shooting in San Bernardino, received massive worldwide coverage. When Sean Spicer was specifically asked for names of attacks that were not reported by “the very, very dishonest press,” he promised to provide a list later, insisting there were “several instances,” “a lot of instances,” but no list was ever produced.

Two weeks ago, on 16 February 2017, two particularly heinous and destructive terrorist attacks took place. In Baghdad, at a very popular used automobile market in the southwest corner of the city, a car packed with explosives blew up killing at least 45 and wounding hundreds of others. In Pakistan, in a relatively small city in Sindh Province, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the very famous Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and killed at least 88, including many women and children, and wounded many more. The victims were virtually all Muslims. The perpetrator in both cases was the Islamic State.

On that same day of these two attacks, Trump held his first sole, and spontaneous, one hour plus bizarre press conference as president. Rant is probably a more accurate description of what took place. Sometimes Islamophobia is best revealed by silences and omissions rather than overt hate speech. While Trump once again berated the “dishonest press,” in a discussion of terrorism, Trump failed to mention either the Iraq or the Pakistan attack. He offered no condolences to the victims’ families or the nations in which these large number of victims died at the hands of terrorists. Nor did he tweet about it later. For, in his view of terrorism, Islamicist terrorists only target Western – i.e. non-Islamic Judeo-Christian civilization – when, in fact, the vast majority of targets of these terrorist extremists are themselves followers of Islam.

Donald Trump had cited the Center for Security Policy to justify his migration ban in his 27 January Executive Order, the same centre that honoured Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), as a “defender of the home front.” Jasser is a doctor of internal medicine and nuclear cardiology in Phoenix, Arizona and a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. navy. He served two years (2012 and 2013) on the Congressional U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a strong advocate for the separation of mosque and state and opponent of both political and radical Islam. His focus has been radicalization in the Islamic community in America. He narrated a notorious PBS film Islam v Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center, which PBS banned from the air following pressure from Muslim organizations which widely interpreted the film as anti-Islamic, even though its focus is radicalization. Jasser is a poster boy for Trump’s contention that he is not anti-Islam.

Within the U.S., attacks from the far right far outnumber any Islamicist terrorism. One example occurred just two weeks ago. Adan Purinton, in the Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, after calling for the men he assaulted to return to their home country, shot and killed an Indian man, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and seriously wounded an American bystander, Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene. Alok Madasani, who also had been attacked, survived his wounds as well. The attack took place just prior to the sentencing of two Kansas men for an attack on three Somalis.

Nonie (originally Nahid) Darwish, an Egyptian-American human rights advocate, a former Muslim and convert to Christianity, founder of Arabs for Israel even though her father as an Egyptian military officer was a victim of a targeted killing by allegedly Israeli agents, has been another leading voice. She is president of AIFD, wrote several books:  Now They Call Me Infidel; Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror and Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law. She has led the effort to broaden what has been dubbed the U.S. Islamophobia network and called for the defeat and annihilation of Islam. Mosques, she declared, are the sources for initiating the war against America. In such cases, how do you separate the right to free speech and the right to be critical of Islam from Islamophobia?

This trope of Islam and not just Islamism as a clear and present danger is complemented by a depiction of Islamic countries and Muslims as hypocrites. Muslims, critics contend, argue for freedom when they are a minority but repress the freedom to practice Christianity when Muslims are the majority. Muslim countries love and admire non-Muslims who champion freedom for Muslims in non-Muslim countries, but either actively or by turning a blind eye discriminate against non-Muslims in their own countries. Muslim countries condemn discrimination against Muslims while they perpetuate not just discrimination but oppression of minorities.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Numan Kurtulmuș, insisted that, “rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings” lay behind Trump’s travel ban against seven countries. Yasin Aktay, the chair of Turkey’s ruling party called the ban “racist” and a violation of human rights. Both ignored the rising tide of persecution of individual Christians and Christian institutions, particularly Protestant ones within Turkey. (See the report of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey which documents the increasing persecution of Christians in 2015 in its Human Rights Violations Report.) Over 100 Evangelical Christian pastors have been expelled from Turkey.

Christians have been cleansed in huge numbers from the Middle East where those communities have existed for two thousand years. Saudi Arabia has a travel ban limiting where non-Muslims can travel in the country. The public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.

Islamophobia is not simply the disagreement with or dislike of Islam as a religion, though that is specified in the dictionary, but prejudice against that religion and its adherents that is expressed in the public arena in a myriad of negative ways. It includes an irrational fear of Islam. Donald Trump does not explicitly and unequivocally express his Islamophobia in this way, but in his actions and his policies, he certainly acts as the “new sheriff in town” with the objective of cleaning up the hombres that has been interpreted as signalling to Muslims that they are unwelcome. Trump associates with groups who would not only ban hijab-wearing women from working in any government position, but would insist that all Muslim government employees sign a loyalty document that they reject Sharia law. For them, Sharia is not a set of legal texts and religious practices subject to interpretation, but the foundational code for converting America to the Muslim faith.

Stephen K. Bannon, perhaps his closest political adviser and the former executive chairman of Breitbart, described Muslim American groups as “cultural jihadists.” He contended that their intention is to destroy American society from within. He wrote a documentary film script ten years ago with this theme; it was called Destroying the Great Satan.

This depiction of Islam as an insidious agency assaulting the American way of life is a sentiment echoed by organizations such as ACT for America which argues that the “jihadists wearing suits” are more insidious and dangerous than radical Islamicists. The organization, with 17 full time staff and a half million members, depicts Islam has having a mission of Islamicizing America. ACT claims that the Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIA) is “working to infiltrate the U.S. government and destroy American society from within,” a domestic extension of a very active and determined international conspiracy. (See Trevor Loudon’s documentary, Enemies Within.) ACT volunteers train local communities on how to object to mosques being built in their neighbourhoods and to push for banning existing ones unless they denounce Sharia.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired after only a few weeks as Donald Trump’s security adviser, sits on ACT’s board of directors. When he was fired, ACT dubbed it the work of “rogue weasels” and “shadow warriors” within the depths of the government. ACT vigorously campaigned to defend Trump’s executive order banning entry to individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. One cannot hear Donald Trump’s slogan, “America First” but recall, if you have ever looked at it, ACTs website that claims, “we are the greatest nation on earth” and “if you are an American you must be an American first.” ACT, of course, ardently supported Trump’s ban against travelers from seven Muslim majority countries, but also opposed the resettlement of any Muslim refugees in the U.S.

ACT labels supporters of the resettlement of Syrian refugees into the U.S. as fanatics. The concept of “Islamophobia” is “fake news” and part of the international conspiracy’s propaganda campaign that uses liberals as fronts. The push for combating Islamophobia by these apologists for Islam is but a front for the perpetrators of evil against which good Christians in the name of the good must fight back.

In Europe, political parties have built their central base in the fight against Muslims. On 15 March, there will be parliamentary elections in The Netherlands. In Holland, 6% of the population is Muslim – mainly Turks and Moroccans. Geert Wilders’s populist Freedom Party (PVV) has made migration and Islamisation the core of his campaign. The PVV is expected to increase its number of seats from 10% to at least 20% and is currently the frontrunner among the many competing Dutch political parties, though it will not likely be included in any coalition. Wilders denounced the number of Moroccans in the country, whom he has referred to as “scum,” and has been convicted by Dutch courts of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans. Wilders vowed to appeal and denounced the court’s decision as suppressing free speech. Wilders has stated that Islam is potentially more dangerous than Nazism, especially since the Koran includes more anti-Semitic hatred than Mein Kampf.  Wilders supports closing all mosques and Islamic schools and banning the sale of the Koran (Qur’an).  Recall that two far right Dutch activists have been assassinated in recent years – Pim Fortuyn and then filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical, Mohammed Bouyeri.

In recent local elections in Germany, the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), captured almost 14% of the vote in recent local elections. Stories of a mob of Arab men rampaging through the streets of Frankfurt and assaulting women were widely reported worldwide, but the stories turned out to be “fake news.” Local police subsequently determined that the stories were “baseless.” But the story spread like wildfire because an old refrain of the “foreign sexual offender” is a deep part of German as well as Dutch culture.

“False news” is pervasive in Europe, some originating in the U.S. Breitbart news reported that a mob of 1,000 chanting “Allahu Akhbar,” this past New Year’s Eve, had attacked police in Dortmund and set fire to what Breitbart reported was the oldest church. It never happened. Further, St. Reinold is not Europe’s oldest church; the Cathedral of Trier is and this was where fireworks from a celebrating crowd accidentally set off a small roof fire. Racism is once again on the rise in Germany with a multitude of assaults by neo-Nazis against foreigners who looked Arabic – a passenger getting out of a taxi and an attack against a biracial boy in the safe Berlin suburb of Prenzlauer Berg by four neo-Nazis. These take place in spite of strong laws and vigorous enforcement by the German state against neo-Nazis and the racism they espouse. That racism runs contrary to the born-again sense of tolerance now pervasive among Germans which allowed Angela Merkel to admit over a million Middle East refugees into Germany.

Marine Le Pen in France is a strong competitor to Wilders’s Islamophobic messages. For Le Pen, France must choose between being French and continuing its self-destructive trip as a multiculturalist country. Since the infamous Paris and Nice radical jihadist attacks, the fear of Islam and migrants as central mainstays of her National Front party have become more mainstream. Like Trump’s supporters, like Wilders, Le Pen insists that France is threatened both from within and from without by Islam and not just radical Islam. Trump’s ban barring migrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries was applauded, but did not go far enough since the ban was only temporary for only six Muslim countries; the ban should have been applied much wider.

Islamicism is bred among Muslim immigrants as well as brought to France from the outside. And its source is Islam itself, though Le Pen, like Trump, initially adopted a far more limited focus on “foreigners who preach hatred” and advocated stripping Islamicists, not Muslims, of their citizenship.

Canada has established itself as an exception to a more general tide of rising Islamophobia, but is not immune from the virus.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Corporeality II Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)

Corporeality II Daesh (ISIS or ISIL)

by

Howard Adelman

In my blog on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, I mentioned, but only mentioned, that Obama had cited that fighting Daesh (which he referred to as ISIL) and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration. “Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.” Since Daesh was and is not an existential threat to the American people, referring to the fight against Daesh as WWIII was a gross “over-the-top” exaggeration that inflated the threat of ISIS enormously. Nevertheless, “Both Al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.”

Further, he refused to conflate Daesh with Islam. “We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are  —  killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.” What strategy was he following to accomplish that goal? “For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.” Once again he repeated his plea to Congress to authorize the use of military force against ISIS.

There are a number of puzzles about the war on Daesh as the top foreign policy agenda item for the U.S. First, why was it his top priority? Why not John Kerry’s since the strategy involved creating a broad coalition? Why not the Secretary of Defence since this was also a military mission? Because, in the U.S. system of government, the U.S. President is also Commander-in-Chief. In the Torah, Aaron the High Priest was not only foreign minister but commander-in-chief of the Israelites’ defense forces, not Moses. In virtually all Western democracies, the Prime Minister is NOT the head of the armed forces.

But before I offer an account trying to explain that anomaly, let me clarify why, since Paris and San Bernardino, Daesh has become the outstanding military enemy of the U.S. I want to help understand the body politic of these jihadist terrorists. The answer in one sense is simple. Obama gave it himself in a speech this past December. The Daesh attacks “shook Americans’ confidence in the government’s ability to protect them from terror groups.” The Assad regime was demoted. So even though normally the enemy of my enemy is my friend, in this case, this is not true. For yesterday, when ISIS led three coordinated attacks using a car bomb aimed at a bus and two suicide bombers aimed at the rescue teams in the suburb of Sayeda Zeinab Southern Damascus (the site of Shi’ites’ holiest shrine) killing 35, mostly Hezbollah fighters in the bus that was transporting them (at a cost to Daesh of 25 of their own), the U.S. and her allies did not cheer.

Further, in Iraq, there is a huge dam located in territory captured back from Daesh and once again controlled by the Iraqi military only 18 km. from Mosul. The dam is fundamentally weak. Given the fighting, the weakness of the dam and the difficulty in repairing it under such circumstances, its bursting would send a wall of water down on Mosul, a Daesh stronghold, Iraqi’s with the help of Americans, however, are evaluating the weakness of the dam and helping to take restorative measures to ensure it does not collapse. America’s war is not with Muslims, not with ordinary Iraqi civilians, nor even with Hezbollah Shi’ite fighters allied with Assad when they are targets of Daesh terrorism. America’s war is with Daesh and its terrorist look-alikes.

Why is Daesh so formidable even though its bases and leaders have been attacked with over 10,000 air strikes, even though it is under retreat in Iraq because of America and its allies reinforcing the Iraqi and Kurdish armies, and even though it is in retreat in Syria because of Russian and Hezbollah reinforcing the Assad regime? After all, there is little evidence that Daesh is a cohesive terrorist network. In that sense, it is even weaker than al Qaeda was. The sensationalism and repetition of its terrorist attacks have been invaluable in recruiting. However,   Daesh does not follow the examples of African warlord rebel groups who recruit mainly through terror rather than ideology and indoctrination. Daesh does, however, retain its adherents through precisely the same system of terror when the recruits discover how totally disappointing, ruthless and un-Islamic Daesh really is. So it is not surprising that 15-year-old Younes Abaaoud, the partner of his much older brother Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian jihadist and mastermind of the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, though he vowed revenge for his brother’s death, also became the target of a Daesh hit squad when he admitted to colleagues that he thought the attacks had gone “too far.” Daesh is not powerful structurally, strategically or even ideologically, but it is vicious in its terrorist practices.

Daesh is powerful as the best advertising agent for Islamicist terror, but wants to keep its reliance on terror to keep its recruits in line secret. Daesh is also powerful because it plays on specific weaknesses of America’s allies, weaknesses which a leading Republican candidate for the presidency wants to replicate in the U.S. States like France attack the wearing of the hijab by girls in schools in defense of their secular religion of laicité for absolutely no valid political reason and, at the same time, populates its suburbs of Paris, the infamous banlieues like Saint Denis, with 25% unemployment among the Muslim youth, with its deteriorating school system and medical services, with foreigners. France is just terrible in its multicultural policies of integration. Britain is almost as bad as MI-5 tracks an estimated 3,000 homegrown jihadists, but the U.K.’s weakness are somewhat different.

The scholarly evidence overwhelmingly shows that states that provide religious security for all their citizens and that have healthy multicultural programs that offer minority youth the same educational and employment opportunities as the native born, do not provide anywhere near the ripe recruiting grounds as states that fail in their multicultural policies. As Patrick Aeberhard, the Parisian-born cardiologist and co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières, has said with respect to France, “We didn’t know how to integrate the Magréhbins, who were mostly northern Algerians, who were French, who should have blended right in.” The surprise is that, in spite of some of the virulent anti-Islam rhetoric, only 250 American Muslims have joined the Islamic State, according to a report by the House Homeland Security Committee; 68 of them have been indicted on charges of supporting Daesh according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.

For the evidence on the proposition that healthy multiculturalism is a formidable deterrent to jihadi terrorism, read the academic publications of the Terrorism Research Initiative under the direction of Alex Schmid or the special issue of Politics dealing with terrorism published by the School of Politics, Philosophy & International Studies at the University of Hull under the direction of Raphael Cohen-Almagor. The more Islamophobia in a country, the more fertile the ground is for the growth of Islamicist terror groups. Daesh feeds on Islamic alienation. In the U.S. since 9/11, right-wing extremists have murdered 48 people. Islamicist extremists in 26 deadly attacks have killed 31, including the 14 at San Bernardino. On 15 April 2013, the two bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston marathon wounded 250 people but only killed three.

I want to now go back to the theoretical discussions of French multiculturalism because they reveal a vision of the body politic in which the nation and state are one. Citizens must be assimilated, not just integrated. Since French political theory is so important in the principles underlying the American body politic, it is helpful to explore various aspects of that theory to understand not only Obama’s problem in dealing with terrorism and the French problem, but the body politic of contemporary jihadist terrorism.

Many French philosophers agree that the new immigrants have failed to assimilate into French culture, but instead of blaming French policies of assimilation (versus integration), blame the immigrants for both refusing to assimilate and selling a doctrine of multiculturalism intended to undermine the French state rather than enrich it. Well before the current Syrian refugee crisis, Pascal Bruckner, one of the new French philosophers, joined the right and argued that Western sentimentalism has permitted a mass invasion from Africa and the Middle East that threatened to destroy the foundations of French and Western civilization. (La Tyrannie de la pénitence (2006) The Tyranny of Guilt). He claimed that multiculturalism is a fraud and defended the unifying principles of reason and the Enlightenment and has been one of the rationalizers of the laws against public displays of religious symbols in France rather than the historical development of tolerance and pluralism.

Alan Finkielkraut is another of the new French philosophers. Though Jewish and a child of Holocaust survivors, he has attacked multiculturalism arguing that France has always been assimilationist and has never been multicultural (L’identité malhereuse (2013) The Unhappy Identity). Multiculturalism, he argued, was an Islamic plot deliberately promoted by Islam to subvert French ideas and culture. He argued that France was headed for a Franco-Creole-Mahghrebin civilization under the aegis of Islam. “France is voluptuously sinking in the undifferentiated.”

Other French philosophers such as Michel Onfray, take the same path through from a complementary perspective. Following the 13 November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, he withdrew his book, Penser l’Islam because he did not think his attack on Islam to show it celebrated violence and terrorism could have a rational discussion. Nevertheless, from the previews of the book and his other writings, it is clear that he did not assign any responsibility to France, except to its soft sentimental underside, but instead envisioned the deep roots of terrorism to reside in Islam itself.

In contrast, André Glucksmann, the French philosopher of my age who died just three days before the Daesh terror attacks on Paris on 13 November 2015 and who practiced a similar form of philosophical analysis as I do using a detailed analysis of current events to extrapolate and illustrate philosophic principles, wrote: the war of Islamicist terror is not a war of East against West for the prime and overwhelming number of deaths are those who belong to the Islamic faith. It is not that we agreed on most things – he supported the intervention led by George W. Bush. But he was often brilliantly insightful and besides, had a sense of wit I lack. It was André who wrote the terrific 2004 book, The Discourse of Hate and said that, “Maybe violent wickedness can be decapitated, but stupidity has too many heads.”

That is the problem with Daesh. It is not just violently wicked. It is also stupid so it is hard to discern any grand rational strategy in much of its terrorism other than its brilliance in using terror and the internet as recruiting tools and targeting oil production areas for initial conquest to ensure an inflow of money. Daesh is built on a politics of money and blood, spilling the blood of others indiscriminately and forging bonds of blood between and among its adherents and blood flowing in the streets from innocents everywhere. For Daesh, warfare has been reduced to its basest and core foundation stones.

There are two common themes in understanding the body politic of Daesh. First is the use of terror to forge men into blood brothers. It is no surprise that many of the jihadists were, in fact, blood brothers:

  • 19-year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev who perpetrated the terrorist attack at the Boston marathon by setting off bombs near the finish line
  • Abdelhamid Abaaoud and his younger 15-year-old brother Younes who organized the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris against the Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon cafés, the Stade de France during a German-French football match, and especially the Bataclan concert venue where 130 were killed
  • Chérif Kouachi and Said Kouachi who, on my 77th birthday, 7 January 2015, with assault rifles perpetrated the massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine killing 11 and wounding 11 others, and subsequently killed a French National Police Officer and five Jews in a Parisian kosher supermarket, but then, in the name of al Qaeda rather than Daesh, and the ostensible objective of defending Mohammed from blasphemy using gheerah or protective jealousy.

The contrast between the last two attacks is revealing. The Islam, and Kosher supermarket attackers were professionals who used military gestures, infantry tactics and fired and aimed execution-style single shots to the head. They also had a very specific motive – revenge against Jews and Charlie Hebdo for its controversial satiric pictures of Mohammed. In contrast, the November Paris attacks targeted ordinary Parisians carrying out typical and ordinary leisure activities. The shootings and killings were random with no specific targets at all. And that is where Daesh trumps al Qaeda as a terrorist “organization” – the objective is simply to sew fear whether in the battlefield or in the home turf of the allies against whom it is fighting And look at the response. Two million French citizens and foreigners marched in unison to uphold France’s principles of liberty, equality and fraternity after the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket attack. After the most violent terrorist attack since WWII this past November, Parisians cowered at home, with the encouragement of the government lest masses of French and foreigners become a new target. Prudence trumped public displays of patriotism.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, another French philosopher, has argued that this new wave of terrorism is built on Xerox copycat principles so that even the so-called third intifada of the knives and car rammings in Israel are not so much expressions of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation – though the resentment and frustrations are there – so much as just another expression of a worldwide jihad hysteria. (The Algemeiner, 21 October 2015) Palestinian leaders, particularly Hamas leaders, have encouraged and incited ordinary Palestinians to attack Jews, any Jews, Israeli or non-Israeli, civilian or military, young or old. Take to the streets and maim as many Jews as you can with as much pain as possible and spilling as much blood as possible. Then to hear Mahmoud Abbas call these acts “heroic” simply turns more and more Israelis and Jews off any peace process with the Palestinians. In fact, the resort to the knife in contrast to a Kalashnikov rifle can be seen as a throwback to classic Arab terrorism. Muhanad Alukabi, who stabbed and killed a victim in Beersheba (wounding 11 others) professed his allegiance to ISIS.

Daesh does not need to operate with a head. Certainly all its actions, its prideful displays and its heartlessness attest to that. For Daesh is a cult of blood, knitting its adherents together to constitute them as blood brothers, and aiming at the spilling of as much blood of the enemies as possible. If that is the real enemy, is an Islamic plot to foist multiculturalism on the French polity or the inadequate and incompetent application of multiculturalism to blame, an application which celebrates pluralism and integration rather than assimilation?

Emmanuel Levinas, France’s foremost post WWII thinker and a Jewish theologian as well, has also stood against the French intellectual tide denouncing multiculturalism in Philosophical Perspectives on the ‘War on Terrorism.’ For Levinas, ethics, the norms that govern conduct in society, are rooted in the experience of having to deal with the Other, with the Other’s alterity, whether Moses dealing with the Egyptians versus the Midianites, or Jethro dealing with the Egyptians and the Israelites. Ethics arise out of a face-to-face encounter with the Other as Other, and a demand to respect the opacity of that Otherness. This does not always mean extending hospitality to the Other and welcoming the stranger. For when the Other defines you as wholly Other, as an inferior Other, as a threatening Other, and, therefore as an Other that must be exterminated, then the Other that does so is an enemy. The Other is then not a stranger whom one does not know, but an Other who is all-too-familiar. The Other is not someone with whom one can dialogue and whom one should respect while acknowledging differences. There can be no dialogue with such an enemy. That enemy is owed no respect, only disdain, disgust and a militant defence.

So the problem is fourfold:

Daesh as a terrorist cult dedicated to randomly spilling blood.

Daesh as a terrorist organization that breeds loyalty, not by ideology, but by sharing blood so its warriors become blood brothers.

France is a state with a fundamental ideology that disdains multiculturalism.

France is a state that has misapplied the practices of multiculturalism.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Tomorrow: Terrorism and the Application of Multiculturalism in Canada

Following: Obama: Caught between the Body Politic of France and Canada

Justin Trudeau and Omar Alghabra

Justin Trudeau and Omar Alghabra

by

Howard Adelman

One of the other pieces of correspondence I received last week when I took a week off from my blog when I was travelling in the West was a reference to a recent article by Ezra Levant and published in The Sun entitled, “Bad advice: Think Justin Trudeau’s instincts are scary? Take a look at what two of his advisers have to say,”

http://www.torontosun.com/2013/04/26/bad-advice-think-justin-trudeaus-instincts-are-scary-take-a-look-at-what-two-of-his-advisers-have-to-say?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=recommend-button&utm_campaign=Bad+advice%3A+Think+Justin+Trudeau%E2%80%99s+instincts+are+scary%3F+Take+a+look+at+what+two+of+his+advisers+have+to+say

I received a third piece from two other readers as follows:

TRUDEAU APPOINTS ISLAMIST AND ISRAEL HATER TO BE HIS PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS*

We knew it was coming.

So who is Omar Alghabra?

  1. Alghabra is the Saudi-born former president of the Canadian Arab Federation
  2. Alghabra holds extremist views. When he was president of the Arab Federation in 2004, he denounced Canada’s largest newspaper chain for using the term “terrorist” to describe Muslim terrorist groups like the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. He said that was a mere opinion, not a fact.
  3. In 2005, Alghabra wrote a letter to Toronto’s police chief condemning the chief for participating in a charity walk for Israel, saying Israel was “conducting a brutal and the longest contemporary military occupation in the world.”
  4. In a letter to a journalist, he wrote the chief’s visit to Israel was comparable to visiting Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
  5. When arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat died, Alghabra put out a press release announcing he was mourning for him.
  6. When Canada was setting up a no-fly list for passengers considered security threats, Alghabra opposed it.
  7. When Ontario narrowly rejected adopting shariah law for Muslim divorces, Alghabra was disappointed, calling it ‘unfortunate’.”

http://tsecnetwork.ca/2015/12/03/sharia-law-supporter-omar-alghabra-is-the-new-parliamentary-secretary-for-foreign-affairs/

I write this blog in full recognition that it comes just at a time when Donald Trump is calling for a temporary but blanket banning of all Muslims from entering the United States. In this context, let me begin by introducing readers to Omar Alghabra for those unfamiliar with him.

In the recent Canadian election, on 19 October just five days before his 46th birthday, Omar was elected as the Liberal MP from Mississauga Centre, a new riding, but from 2006-2008 he used to represent Mississauga Erindale, part of which is now included in Mississauga Centre. He was greeted by much of the Canadian Muslim community, and especially the Arab Canadian community, as Canada’s first Arab and Muslim MP, even though Rahim Jaffer preceded Alghabra as a Conservative MP (1997-2008) as did Yasmin Ratansi, a Liberal MP (2004-2011) who had been the first female Muslim MP elected to Parliament. But both Rahim and Yasmin are Ismailis, so many Muslims do not regard them as expressions of mainstream Islam. Further, neither saw themselves in that light either.

Alghabra lost in the 2008 election by the narrowest margin of .71% of the vote. In the last election, he was strongly supported by Hazel McCallion, Mississauga’s very long serving and very much loved previous mayor, and by the current mayor, Bonnie Crombie. Mississauga is Canada’s sixth largest city in which 60% of the population consists of immigrants. Omar Alghabra was elected with a clear majority of 54.72% over strong Conservative and NDP candidates, amassing 28,372 votes in a riding which is estimated to be 16-17% Muslim.

Though I attended a meeting in Mississauga recently when Bonnie Crombie, Mississauga’s mayor, promised to raise $5 million to resettle Syrian refugees, and Omar Alghabra was evidently also there, I never met him. However, I did read with favour his answer to a question when asked, as a Syrian with a mother and three sisters in Syria, whether he thought Canada had previously let down the cause of Syrian refugees, he replied, “This isn’t about how Syrians or anyone else sees Canada; it is about us, it is about how Canadians see ourselves — who are we?”

Alghabra was one of eleven Muslim candidates, all but one Liberal, to win in the 2015 election, and only one of two to have been an MP previously. Eight of the eleven Muslims are Arab. Thus, Arab and Muslim representation in our current parliament has a higher percentage of seats than the percentage of Muslims and certainly of Arabs in Canada. Muslims who complained that there should be at least four Muslim representatives in Parliament, certainly have no case for arguing their voice in not being heard, even if this arithmetical view of multiculturalist representation is fundamentally bogus in any case. Jewish MPs should represent all their constituents. So should Muslim MPs.

In the 2006-08 parliament, Alghabra served on the Liberal side as the immigration critic as well as natural resources critic, but in this past campaign, he largely focused on the Liberal promise to invest $125 billion over 10 years in transit, housing and daycare that targeted aid for middle class families. As a Liberal, he also argued that these initiatives would stimulate the Canadian economy

Given his strong support for Justin Trudeau in his leadership bid, given his role as one of many of Justin Trudeau’s policy advisers (not a Senior Policy adviser as often reported), given that he is only one of two Muslim MPs out of eleven with previous parliamentary experience, given the size of his victory, it was no surprise that he was named a Parliamentary Secretary on 2 December or why he might have hoped and even expected to be named to Cabinet. I dare say that if he had been a woman, he would have been given a ministerial appointment. As Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Consular Affairs, he is only responsible for consular affairs, not foreign policy; the final section of his title is often omitted by critics. The mandate of consular affairs is the service offered by our embassies and consulates to Canadians travelling abroad. Finally, Justin Trudeau has three senior policy advisers, Gerry Butts, Katie Telford and Dan Gagnier. None are sitting MPs, but every single MP can be characterized as an adviser to the leader of the Liberal Party and now the Prime Minister.

Though he campaigned overwhelmingly on domestic issues, Alghabra is of Syrian origin. Alghabra’s family lived in Saudi Arabia when he was born in Al Khobar. He came to Canada alone from Syria at 19. He has a mechanical engineering degree from Ryerson, an MBA from York University, and, though he worked for many years as an engineer for General Electric, prior to the recent election, he was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow with the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson. In addition to his focus largely on infrastructure improvement and transportation, especially dear to Mississauga, he also touted his strong support for democracy.

I was raised in areas where they don’t believe in democracy and civil rights, cultures of equality and justice, and there is no belief that a citizen has the power over their own destiny…now I have a unique appreciation for Canada and what Canada has to offer, so it is that passion about striving to protect the idea and the noble concept of democracy.

He has a long record of citizen activism. The criticisms aimed at him largely focus on that activism rather than his previous record in parliament. Those critiques deal largely with five issues: a) his alleged support for sharia law; b) his role in and support of the Canadian Arab Federation; c) his indirect support for terrorist organizations; d) his defence of the Palestinian cause; 5) his criticisms of Israel. I will discuss each in turn.

The critics of Omar Alghabra often cite his support for sharia law and his response to the Ontario government decision to reject allowing sharia law to operate in Ontario, allegedly calling the defeat “disappointing.” When I undertook a search for his position of sharia law, the only references I could find was a group of critics each citing the other to support the claim that he supported sharia law. If a reader can find a source, I would really welcome being shown it. Though even if he did say something along these lines, I am not sure what the problem is.

Sharia or Divine Law for Muslims is the Law of God, which, however, requires interpretation and case law to discern its application. Hence the many schools of fiqh schools dealing with sharia law. Suppose Algahabra did support sharia law. There is a radical difference between supporting sharia law and imposing sharia law by dictate as in Iran and in jurisdictions under the control of fundamentalist Islamicists. Sharia law requires Muslims to uphold the laws of a local jurisdiction, except, and only except, if those laws force a citizen to be a sinner. That, of course, is where the danger lies. For, as we see in Iran and Saudi Arabia, sin can be applied very broadly.

Ezra Levant has placed the conflict over the role of sharia law within a larger framework  of a program of lawfare, an attempt to gradually and incrementally make sharia law respectable.  Barbara Kay referred to those efforts as “soft” jihadism; “soft jihad strategy exploits liberal discourse and weakens our legal system to induce guilt about a largely mythical ‘Islamophobia’.” (Barbara Kay, “Paving the way for ‘soft jihad,’ 2 July 2008, The National Post. http:/www.barbarakay.ca/articles/views/54 Barbara Kay was objecting to the use of human rights commissions to adjudicate whether Ezra Levant or Mark Steyn were engaged in hate speech.

When Muslims utilize Canadian legal processes and institutions, such as Human Rights Commissions and appeals to anti-discrimination Canadian law and human rights codes, not “Islamic law,” they have every right to do so. Whether they win or lose in such a claim, in articulating arguments based in Canadian law, not sharia law, they reinforce and uphold that law; they do not undermine it. That is precisely why Barbara Kay, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have all campaigned against the authority of human rights commissions. The reality is that violations of the applicable human rights code are relevant, not violations of Islamic law. There is the added reality that the vast majority of Canadian Muslims do not want sharia law o be enforced by the state, just as the vast majority of Jews do not want Jewish law to be enforced by the state.

However, when the proposal was made to permit the use of sharia law within the boundaries of Canadian law to operate in areas like divorce, inter-personal financial disputes, etc., not only was this denied, but previous permission for Jewish law to be used in such areas was withdrawn. Further, when the human rights commission ruled against the request of the Muslim organization to declare Mark Steyn’s book as an example of discrimination, in the name of freedom of speech, the Commission denied the request. However, in her comments afterwards, Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, indicated that there are many competing freedoms in Canadian law and the freedom to express oneself is not absolute and does not trump other decisions, such as religious freedom and protection from hate crimes. Even though the commission ruled in favour of the publication, in her comments Barbara Hall indicated that the writer could have been more alert to religious sensibilities and more objective in his commentary. However, one can well understand the concerns of such writers given the issuance of fatwas against Salman Rushdie and the more systematic efforts of some Muslim organizations to take legal actions against those who slight or mock Islam or its sacred symbols.

Tomorrow: Omar Alghabra: A Muslim Mole?

 

Turkey – Domestic Changes

Turkey – Domestic Changes

by

Howard Adelman

I begin with domestic matters because they help understand the direction of the Turkish leadership. Tomorrow I will take up foreign policy.

Sixty-year old Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s current president and former prime minister for the last eleven years, and mayor of Istanbul before that, has transformed Turkey domestically and certainly redirected Turkey’s foreign policy. Erdoğan is to Turkey what Putin is to Russia. After founding his new party in 2001, that party in the Turkish elections of 2002 took two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. A year later, after his banishment from politics was overturned and his then ally, Abdullah Gűl, served as interim Prime Minister for a year, Erdoğan became Prime Minster. Only this year did he assume the role of President after converting the Turkish political system from a parliamentary to a quasi-presidential democracy by shifting the largely ceremonial role of president to the most powerful figure in the country. However, in contrast to his earlier victories, he only won the presidency with less than 52% of the vote. However, he has set up a shadow government of directorates to monitor Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Cabinet who all come from his own party.

Control of the Media

Unlike Russia, where corruption and control of the media have allowed Putin to undermine the nascent democracy of Russia, Erdoğan has not achieved the position yet. Events, however, are changing the situation rapidly. Though Erdoğan seven years ago began arresting critics in the media whom he accused of being the propaganda arm of a coup effort, only in the last two years has he revealed himself to be determined to assert absolute control over the media. Yesterday afternoon I received news that Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s top-selling newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, the director of STV, a news channel, had been rounded up two days previously by Turkish police. The mysterious twitter account, Fuat Avni, had three days before that predicted these arrests and that of 150 or so other journalists. Some of these have gone into hiding. The charges: affiliation with the Fethullah Gulen movement, Erdoğan’s once erstwhile ally in overcoming the stranglehold the military held over the state, and an alleged conspiracy to undermine and/or attack a small rival Islamist group, the “Tahsiyeciler”, a group whose leaders Erdoğan had arrested only four years earlier who follow the teachings of the Islamic scholar, Said Nursi. Is it a wonder that Turkey ranks 154th on the world press freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders?

The attacks on the domestic press were matched by a vicious campaign castigating the foreign – particularly Western – press of distortions, disinformation, ignorance, lying and even spying. Ceylan Yeginsu, a journalist working for the New York Times, that in its editorials had once lauded Erdoğan for his leadership role in the emerging Turkish vibrant democracy, had to flee the country for his life after being attacked in the AKP-controlled press and receiving multiple death threats. When Erdoğan himself was not deriding the Western press for being propagandists and undermining the new Turkey, that role was taken up by Ibrahim Karagul, editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdoğan newspaper, Yeni Safak, and the new English newspaper in Turkey, Daily Sabah, initially owned by Erdoğan’s son-in-law. And this is just the surface in this information war that permeates the electronic media as well.

Turkey’s Deteriorating Democracy

So much for the hopes for democracy in Turkey once the military had been removed from power in the name of rule by and for the people. That populism has been enhanced by the distribution of free coal to the needy. However, the crushing of the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 was just more public action in a coordinated effort to destroy any opposition in Turkey. The cronyism and corruption that is endemic and very widespread in Turkish society has permeated the AKP (one in five Turks and about 50% of businesses pay bribes to access public services). The effort to protect ill-gotten gains once that corruption had been revealed by the Fethullah Gulen movement have led the government to place a publication ban on the parliamentary committee looking into corruption. At the same time, Turkey has followed the lead of the Canadian parliament under Harper’s Conservatives of passing legislation through complex omnibus bills with relatively little time for debate. The bills in Ankara include provisions which infringe human rights protections.

The corruption scandal possibly accelerated the leadership’s plans to enhance its control of the media. Turkey has slipped from 53rd to 74th on Transparency International’s corruption index. Further, that corruption as well as increasing disparity between the rich and the poor are now being legalized as a new presidential provision permits young Turkish men to buy out their compulsory military service for $US8,700. Turkish writer and 2006 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Orhan Pamuk, has also denounced Turkey’s increasing climate of fear.

Educational Revisionism and Social Policy

In addition to its educational reforms that provided free textbooks for needy students, Erdoğan and his allies have pushed for making Ottoman Turkish compulsory in schools, introducing more and more elements of Ottoman culture into the curriculum, introducing segregation of schools by gender, and introducing Islamic religious instruction for students in fourth grade and higher, and planning to introduce such education at even lower grades in the face of EU demands that compulsory religious education requirements be scrapped. In the meanwhile, the educational authorities have eliminated human rights and democracy classes previously taken in fourth grade. These changes have taken place in parallel with the long term trend of religious cleansing of non-Muslims in Turkey as property disputes affecting the Armenians, Syriac church and the Yazidis drag out through the bureaucratic and legal process.

Unfortunately, at the same time, Erdoğan has pushed for technological modernization. Language, cultural and religious revisionism are difficult to blend with modernization that becomes self-propelling and innovative instead of simply copying from the West. Thus, Turkey ranks last among 44 countries on the English proficiency list, even though English is compulsory in Turkish schools. Raising a generation of devout Muslims may be at odds with encouraging technological innovation. Turkish pupils, along with other pupils from predominantly Muslim countries, are in a race for the bottom. Turkey now ranks 44 out of 65 countries in the measurement of 15-year-old educational achievements in mathematics, science, literacy and problem-solving.

The social indicators have been very bad. Child poverty has risen by 63.5%. With 301 minors killed in the disaster at Soma this year, Turkey had by far the worst record of workers’ deaths compared to any European state. On the gender front, the news is even worse. Although Erdoğan in 2004 passed a new penal code protecting women’s sexual and body rights, and although Erdoğan has promoted changes in the treatment of women in the army by increasing the number of female officers and NCOs to facilitate dealing with terrorism and to enhance the professionalism of the military, on 24 November he claimed that gender equality contradicted the laws of nature even though 22% of AKP seats were held by women.

Erdoğan, however, is a champion of motherhood rather than sisterhood. In spite of an enormous increase of almost 40% in GDP per capita under his rule, there was still only a 30% female participation rate in the workforce. His policies threatened to exacerbate the health, education and income disparities between men and women already deeply rooted in Turkish culture. Not to speak of honour killings! While not as bad as the situation in Pakistan, those murders still take the lives of 200 Turkish girls each year in spite of the 2004 law designed to combat such crimes. Between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women in Turkey went up 1400% and since Erdoğan came to power, 7,000 Turkish women have been murdered. On the UNDP’s Gender Equality Index, Turkey’s standing has slipped from 69th to 77th out of 187 countries.

When my brother, a renowned Canadian cardiologist, was invited to Turkey in 1996, and where they first diagnosed him with a blastoma after he had fainted on a golf course where he had gone to play with other Turkish doctors, Al had been very impressed with the advanced state of medicine in Turkey in the hospital he had visited. Now Turkey seems to be moving backwards in time to revive traditional medical practices including:
• acupuncture (the stimulation of specific points along the skin with thin needles)
• apitherapy (the use of honeybee products for treatment)
• phytotherapy (treatments based on traditional herbalism)
• hypnosis
• the use of leeches
• homeopathy
• chiropractic treatments
• wet cupping
• larval therapy (the introduction of live, disinfected maggots into the skin)
• mesotherapy (the injection of special medications into the skin)
• prolotherapy (the injection of irritating solutions into an injured spot to provoke regenerative tissue response)
• osteopathy (nonsurgical treatments of the muscle and skeleton system)
• ozone therapy (the introduction of ozone and oxygen gas mixtures into the body)
• reflexology (massage-like treatment of pressure on reflex areas).

The issue is not the legalization of these treatments, but making them part of the education in medical schools. Some, like the use of leeches, are already part of modern medical practice. Others, however, have not been validated by science. So in addition to taking time away from enhancing modern medical practice, practices which have not yet been validated by science will be introduced into the medical curriculum. Further, the system of independence in educational decisions by qualified professionals is being undermined by state dictates in favour of validating traditional culture.

There are those who posit that this is merely a method of bringing traditional medical practices under state supervision. Then why are the costs of those treatments not covered by public health insurance? Some argue the expansion has been introduced to enhance medical tourism. Further, Turkey is far from unique in allowing and regulating such practices.

Standing in opposition to these rationales, one of the indicators to the undermining of scientific medicine has been the lethargic response to a rise in measles which has been blamed on the large number of Syrian refugees who have found a haven in Turkey, rising from very low numbers – 7 cases in 2010 – to over 7,000 cases last year. No provision in the Turkish 2015 budget targets contagious diseases like measles. Further, excluding Syrian refugee births, infant mortality and maternal deaths increased in 2013 for the first time since 1945.

Crime has also increased, much as a by-product of the Syrian civil war. Almost 500 high quality 4x4s have been stolen from Turkish car rental companies for transfer to Syria.

Kurdish Separatism

Erdoğan has to be praised for beginning the process of recognizing the Armenian genocide, enhanced by Pope Francis’ recent visit to Turkey, but with little sign of real progress. Erdoğan is perhaps best known for pushing reconciliation with Kurds who had been forcefully resettled in the thirties and banned from using their language. He has even entered into discussions with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party) itself. However, while now allowing school children to be taught in Kurdish, would Kurds also have to learn classical Ottoman Turkish? Further, was Erdoğan strongly motivated to make peace with the PKK early in his national political career because he respected the group rights of the Kurds or because he wanted to undermine the rationale of the military for maintaining a relatively large army while, at the same time, solidifying his support with the Turkish public?

One very much suspects the latter given his subsequent career in national politics in Turkey and seemingly confirmed by the recent decision on December 10th in the face of the adjacent threat of Islamic State to enable middle and upper class military recruits to buy their way out of national service, a decision made without any consultation with the military general staff as required by the Turkish constitution. However, Erdoğan has never seemed to care about the constitution when it is to his populist advantage (currently an average Turkish citizen contributes about US$200 for each member of the family for defence) and when it undermines support for his critics on the left who were bound to vigorously oppose the move’s inegalitarian character. Further, if, as projected, 700,000 young men pay the state $8,700 each (men older than 30 pay US$13,300), US$5.7 billion will be added to state coffers from the men under 30 years of age alone, especially since parliamentary elections are to be held in June 2015. This is in addition to the monies saved on defence. The loans men are taking out to pay for the exemption in response to a spate of bank ads and the sales of unproductive capital (property, gold rings) has already acted within days to stimulate the economy. The greatly increased revenues to the state may be bad for the economy in the long run, but, in the short run it is much more than enough to pay for Erdoğan’s vain, enormous, lavish and enormously expensive presidential palace.

Is Erdoğan’s populist and Islamic program complemented by his foreign policy?