Last week, Stephen Harper called Islamism the greatest threat to Canadian security. The PM insisted that, despite internal division in Al-Qaeda, flagging recruitment numbers, and 10 years of combat, Islamism is still more dangerous to our country than anything else.
To face this threat, Harper plans to revive articles in the Anti-Terrorism Act scrapped in 2007. These articles allow authorities such constitution-bending abilities as the right to hold citizens without a warrant for up to three days.
It took me a long time to come up with an articulate reason for why this frustrates me so much. Part of it is a knee-jerk reaction to the inflammatory statement. Another part of it is probably my general dislike of Stephen Harper. Maybe another part of my frustration is that I have to write yet another one of these letters (after a similar one last year) about why Muslims really don’t want to blow you up.
I don’t care about what Harper said. Instead, I care about the comments on the Toronto Star website, and what I’m worried Harper’s worlds will do to Canada.
The majority of these comments read something like this “Harper is exactly right[…]This group that demands an apology is part of the problem, not the solution. They should be apologizing to all non-Muslim Canadians.”
I’m not going to argue with an Internet commentator, because that would be stupid. Needless to say, the Muslim community worldwide does condemn terrorism, and we’ve been doing so since Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were declared enemies of the faith eight years ago. Whether the Internet wants to know that or not is not my concern.
My concern is with the PM’s words. When Harper says “Islamism,” his PR people will insist that he means militant organizations that want to—well, I don’t even know at this point, so I’m just going to say “blow shit up.” But what Stephen Harper means is not what people hear. When Harper says “Islamism,” people hear “Islam.” They think “Muslims.”
I believe these words will legitimize discrimination against Muslims, or at least make those Internet commentators a lot more vocal in the real world. This doesn’t do any favours for Muslims or non-Muslims in Canada.
Before I go on, I’d like to list some statistics. From 2005 to 2011, there were roughly 420 murders in Toronto. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I have heard the police declared that most of these were the result of gang violence.
Meanwhile, in the past 10 years, there have been two attempted terrorist attacks planned by Muslims: the 2006 terror plot, and the foiled 2010 attempt—although I haven’t actually heard anything about that one beyond the clandestine arrests. So, while terror plots have been foiled by the police without the need for the Anti-Terrorist acts’ more sinister articles, the government has not been able to stop these homicides.
There was also an anarchist group that bombed a bank in Québec in 2010.
Also, about 20 people are killed by cows every year in America.
The more I look at it, it seems that Islamic terrorists are not as much of a threat to us as, say, gang violence. Or cows. And the Muslims who are stupid enough to try and commit such atrocious acts have been or are being apprehended. I’m not saying that there are no threats by Islamic supremacists to Canada, but that we’ve been able to deal with them, and that they don’t pose a greater threat than the other crazies in our society.
The first successful domestic terrorist act on Canadian soil was not committed by Muslims, but by the French and the FLQ. During the FLQ crisis, Trudeau’s implementation of the War Measures Act turned Québec into a police state, and it’s been theorized that the Bloc Québecois and the separatist movement were egged on by Ottawa’s disregard for Quebecers at the time. Yes, times are different; 1963 is 1963, and now is now—but no one wants Muslims to feel disenfranchised by a government that is supposed to act in their best interest as citizens.
This is not a time for the politics of division. Not now, when more and more Muslims are becoming citizens of this wonderful country, and not now, when the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks should mean we’re through with violence and paranoia.
The Prime Minister’s words in this light are just stupid, and that’s coming from me—I once electrocuted myself with an electronic tour guide.