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Commentary by Phil Gurski

On rare occasions I pick up a copy of the National Enquirer or World Weekly News when I shop for groceries.  It's not that I am particularly a fan, but they are strategically located at the checkout counter with their flashy, outrageous headlines.  Some are truly unbelievable. I think my all-time favourite was 'Titanic survivor found on ice floe, vows never to eat fish again.'

These periodicals deal in what we now call fake news, albeit with a difference: the stories were never intended to be taken seriously and it is hard to believe that anyone could be influenced by their stark departure from the truth.

We are now living in a very different time where outright lies are taken seriously and they do affect the views and opinions of some people on very serious issues. The claim that crime is up (when it is down in many places) has led to calls for 'law and order' campaigns.  The belief that vaccinations lead to autism (this was debunked years ago and the scientist making the claim shown to be a fraud) has made some parents eschew life-saving vaccines, causing outbreaks of diseases we thought we had beaten, like measles.

In Canada, there is another onslaught of fake news that centres on our Muslim communities and supposed links to terrorism and clandestine efforts to take over our country.  Several Canadian cities have seen demonstrations that appear to have coincided with a motion by a Liberal backbencher to call on the government to look into and report on Islamophobia and other forms of hate.  Among the allegations made by some of those demonstrating in Canadian streets are:

  • M103 (the Liberal MP's motion) is an attack on free speech
  • there is a secret campaign to bring Sharia law to Canada
  • legitimate dissent is in danger in Canada

Reasonable limits

One of the great things about living in this country is that we are all free to express our views and opinions to a tremendous degree.  There are limits, though, and these limits are both legitimate and necessary.  If someone calls for violence, whether against a specific group or in general, that constitutes a crime (we'll leave aside the difficulties in prosecuting these offences).  Incitement to beat another person to a pulp should not be ignored and I am confident that all Canadians would agree with this.

No, M103 is not a blanket on free speech, it is a reasonable call for looking into a worrisome rise in hatred online and on certain radio shows.  Neither is it focussed solely on Islamophobia, although the highlighting of this particular form of potential hatred is not surprising in the wake of the awful massacre at a Quebec Islamic Centre a few weeks ago.  The State has both a right and a duty to investigate individuals and groups who, through their actions or their language, can reasonably be seen as urging others (or themselves) to use violence against anyone. To ignore these actions would constitute State negligence.

Persistent myths

While I support the fundamental right of the Islamophobes and the anti-immigrant lobby (thankfully small) in this country to voice their opinions, I also feel it necessary to address the 'alternative facts' they use to make their arguments. I will limit my comments to three here:

a) no, immigrants are not a drain on the system, commit more crimes than native-born and they do not steal 'Canadian' jobs.  Study after study after study has shown that immigrants are a net bonus to their adoptive societies and that most integrate within a generation. Those that veer towards criminal acts will be dealt with by the same authorities that deal with all others who engage in crime.

b) no, there is no 'creeping Sharia' campaign in Canada. The last time a government (the Ontario Liberals back in 2004) considered allowing limited Sharia for some family issues, the greatest opponents were Muslim women. In the end the McGuinty government changed its mind and also got rid of other forms of religious arbitration, noting that there  is 'one law for all Canadians'.

c) no, the Muslim Brotherhood is not taking over Canadian mosques and planning a stealth terrorism offensive.  Reports alluding to this are comical at best, bad analysis at worst.

Canada is proudly a land of immigrants and it is those immigrants who have built this country and will continue to do so. The vast majority are just average people looking to better their lives as well as those of their families. Yes, there are bad apples, and we will deal with those.

To conclude, here is a great quote I read in a recent edition of Foreign Affairs.  I could not have said things any better:

"Most people around the world now have the same aspirations as the Western middle classes: they want their children to get good educations, land good jobs, and live happy, productive lives as members of stable, peaceful communities."

Amen to that.


Phil Gurski worked for more than three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield).

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

by Chelby Marie Daigle (@ChelbyDaigle) in Ottawa

Why are Canadians converting to Islam in Canada? That’s the question that Australian academic Dr. Scott Flower is trying to answer by collecting the life stories of Canadian Muslim converts.

Funding for his research has come from Canadian government agencies concerned about the number of converts to Islam involved in terrorist activities nationally and abroads recently Martin Couture-Rouleau, who killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Quebec, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and then tried to storm Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and ISIS recruit John Maguire, who released a video threatening further terrorist attacks on Canadian soil.

But at a panel discussion organized by Muslim Link in Ottawa this weekend, “The Dilemmas of Studying Conversion to Islam in the Post 9/11 World”, Flower shared that national security interests are not what drives his research.

“If I’m totally honest, I would prefer to do this research without a 9/11 shadow hanging over me or in a securitized environment,” Flower explains. “My interest is really just understanding the journeys of converts to Islam, free of the national security dimension. But that’s now the reality that we live in.”

This “reality” he speaks of has left government, law enforcement and even Muslim religious leaders asking the question: Are converts to Islam more prone to radicalization?

“Governments should base their national security policies on empirical evidence and so far there is no empirical evidence to justify believing that converts to Islam pose a special security threat.”

Flower feels that question cannot be answered without a better academic understanding of the causes and processes of conversion to Islam in Canada.

“Governments should base their national security policies on empirical evidence and so far there is no empirical evidence to justify believing that converts to Islam pose a special security threat,” Flower states.

Debunking misconceptions

In 2014 Flower published an initial study, “(Mis)Understanding Muslim Converts in Canada: A Critical Discussion of Muslim Converts in the Contexts of Security and Society”, funded by the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS).

Based on the life stories of 25 converts living in Ontario, the study explores how social contexts affect converts’ beliefs, experiences, attitudes and behaviours. The study concludes that there is no “conveyor belt” mechanism that leads a convert to become a terrorist.

With funds from Public Safety Canada, Flower is now carrying out this study nation-wide.

One misconception Flower wants to debunk is the assumption that converts to Islam are not well educated about the religion and therefore are more at risk of radicalization.

“Based on our research, converts spend an inordinate amount of time studying Islam before they become Muslim,” he explains. “They are not sheep. They are not the type of people who are followers. They are not the type of people who are easily led.”

Sharing research

Flower has made a troubling observation based on his initial research in Ontario – the majority of converts are not connected and do not feel welcome at their local mosques. Some of this alienation is based on race and ethnicity.

“One of the things that comes up for White converts in particular, according to our data, is that they sense a greater level of suspicion from born Muslims,” Flower states. “There is also an ethnic dimension to a lot of Canadian mosques – this is a Pakistani mosque, this is Turkish mosque – so it is hard for converts from other cultures to fit in.” Flower says this is a key research finding that Muslim Canadian institutions should be aware of.

“Imams admit that they don’t really know much about converts or how best to support them.”

Flower also wants the imams who have been connecting with him and his team from across the country to know he is opposed to the idea of them using a “checklist” to screen new converts as has been proposed by Imam Syed Soharwardy in Calgary

“Imams admit that they don’t really know much about converts or how best to support them,” Flower shares. “Imams feel pressure, particularly from government, to be responsible for the management of converts in order to prevent them from becoming radicalized. There is no evidence to support such policies.”

Building trust

Flower and his team have also been reaching out to Canadian Muslim institutions in order to build trust and alleviate fears and suspicions about his research.

“In the current national security climate, Muslims, and particularly Muslim converts, feel closely examined, so there is a real reticence to come forward and talk to us because we are funded by Public Safety Canada,” Flower explains. After Bill C-51 was passed through the Senate, several converts who had been booked for interviews backed out.

Predicting these fears, Flower has designed his interview process to protect participants’ anonymity. Signatures are not even collected from participants so that no story can be traced back to an individual participant unless that is something they choose to disclose.

Ultimately, Flower feels that his research could actually help to combat the stigma against Canadian converts to Islam within mainstream and Muslim Canadian communities by debunking the myths about them. “But we only can do this if more converts are willing to share their stories,” he says.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

 

 

By Balwant Sanghera

VANCOUVER: India will be celebrating its 66th anniversary of independence from the British on August 15. No doubt, some recent developments haven’t been favourable to India’s

News East West

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Published in India
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 20:45

Who speaks for Muslims?

The debate as to who speaks for Muslims in the West has festered among the minds of the western intelleigentsia and politicians since Islamists have capitalised on this question.

There are hundreds of Islamic organizations in North America and each one wants to take ownership of it. Is it all about ownership? It shouldn't be. Is it all about portraying a better image of Muslims? I doubt it. Is it all about challenging the self-created fear of Islamophobia? Perhaps.

What do I mean by "self-created fear of Islamophobia"? Do I dare to say that Islamophobia actually doesn't exist at all? Yep, it didn't exist but some of our Islamic centres created the term and spread it around through their actions.

What were those actions? By not denouncing armed Jihad against those Western societies where they are abode now, by not calling a spade a spade such as honour killings, Taliban's attack on Malala Yousafzai, AlQaeda's sectarian war against minorities in the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan, etc,.

However, the fact that over 90 per cent of Muslims are not associated with any Islamic organisation or mosque and visit it no more than once or twice a year. That alone should make America skeptical of Islamist groups like CAIR, ISNA, ICNA and MSA. [

Ihsan Bagby, a professor and an imam at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. wrote after 9/11, "There are a large number of Muslims that hold on to their identity as Muslims, but choose not to practice, not to act out their beliefs in everyday life...a large portion of the American Muslim community are in this group."

The report by prof Bagby, "The Mosque in America: A National Portrait," revealed that of the six million Muslims in the United States, only about 350,000 on average attend the Friday midday prayers.

Thus the incessant drumbeat by Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in the U.S. about rising Islamophobia is reflecting the mindset of the mulla and his scant followers in America, not me or the 90 per cent who have little interest in praying behind misogynist and homophobic clerics.

Even if it were true that Islamophobia exists, the next question would be: What should we do now?

My answer is that all Islamic organizations should make a resolution for 2013 that they would preach to fellow Muslims to live a normal life instead of preaching the addiction of victimhood.

You may ask, what do you mean, a normal life here?

A normal life for a Muslim should be a life without obsessions. Free of all obsessions such as identity crises, niqab, hijab, jihad, alienation and gender segregation and contempt for joy.

As Muslims we should identify ourselves with the culture and land we associate with. Islam also teaches this but unfortunately Islam's true liberal teachings are not being told to us by our traditional Islamic organizations in the West that are in the hands of mainly Islamists.

Similarly Niqab, armed Jihad, alienation and segregation are not endorsed by original version and modern interpretations of Islam but sharia-bound Islamists use them in order to further their agenda.

A critical question arises here that since a majority of Muslims in the West live a normal life then why are we concerned about our abnormal image in the West?

Unfortunately, that majority is not visible in the media. Nor that majority is recognized by Western politicians and policymakers. Same is the case here in Canada and the USA.

So the responsibility lies to the power cores of the Western world as well for not recognizing the majority of the regular Muslims that are essential fabric of the societies. Rather, our media would like to portray the picture of a Hijabi or Niqabi clad or a long kurta wearing a beard man in order to show a Muslim representation. Likewise, our politicians hug and have photo sessions with such typical faces to tell us how much they love diversity.

A recent example is Canada's Liberal Party Leadership Candidate Justin Trudeau's participation and speech in Revival the Islamic Spirit Conference in Toronto.

It was suggested by liberal Muslims that he should not endorse the medieval agenda of revival the Islam Spirit conference for the fact that that mob never respects gay rights, equality and true freedom of men and women and true essence of freedom of expression, etc.

But Justin Trudeau chose to go there and opened his speech with the statement, "I am here today because I believe in freedom of expression."

That was a nice statement without any context but the same crowd cheered that never acknowledges Salman Rushdies' rights of free expression. Shallow Politicians like Justin Trudeau would never realize the depth of these core issues.

So it's a responsibility of secular liberal Muslims in Canada and the US to come forward in 2013 and form new voices against ongoing Islamism that wants to take away the normal way of life from majority Muslims.

Remember, no more than 10 per cent of Muslims fit the Muslim stereotype of the bearded man dressed in medieval attire and women in hijabs with blue mascara and deep red lipstick wearing stilettos. The rest of us are just like you. We go to the ball game, eat our hot dogs warm and drink our beers cold.

 
 
 

 

Follow Tahir Gora on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TahirGora

Published in Commentary

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