The Bullet or the Ballot - New Canadian Media

The Bullet or the Ballot

Rarely in life is there a stark choice between two polar opposites. On most occasions, responses to a problem or an issue can be weighed…

Rarely in life is there a stark choice between two polar opposites.

On most occasions, responses to a problem or an issue can be weighed along a range of options, from soft to hard, easy to difficult, or popular to divisive.  The ways in which we have elected to deal with violent radicalization and terrorism would fall into this bucket.

Terrorists, of course, do not see variation and they do not do nuance.  For them, the world is cleft into black and white, right and wrong, divinely-mandated and sinful.  They portray themselves as the white hats inspired by Allah (at least in the case of Islamist extremists) to impose His will on earth.

Since there is no choice of what we should do, there is no need to consult the masses on the direction to take. Ergo there is no need for democracy.  Why should we ask people who should govern them when it has always been and will always be God who rules?

Tool of persuasion

As the ballot is not an option and as most people fail to understand that the terrorists have their best interests at heart (why won’t they just listen?), the bullet (or the bomb or the knife) has become the tool of persuasion.  And, we have seen all too often the resort to violence to cow populations into subservience.

(There is, of course, another set of scenarios where bullets outweigh ballots. When nations are not allowed to vote – say in dictatorships – or believe that their votes count for little, they may resign themselves to using force to obtain what they cannot do so democratically.  But that is not the topic of discussion here.)

Fortunately, at least  in the West, there is a better way.  We may get frustrated – and cynical – at times over whether or not our votes make a difference, but we nevertheless have that option and there are many examples where the citizenry, ripe for change, did overthrow governments that had been comfortably at the wheel for years. The 2015 federal election in Canada was one such example.

And, as I blogged earlier this year, a particular group of Canadians were desperate to see the backs of the Conservatives and voted en masse to bring about the desired result.  I am speaking of the various Canadian Muslim communities and the efforts of The Canadian Muslim Vote.

Now, U.S. Muslims are coming to the same realization.

Mobilizing the “Muslim vote”

According to a story in the Toronto Star, US Muslims are worried about a possible Donald Trump victory in the November presidential elections and are mobilising their communities to get out and vote.  U.S. Muslims, like their Canadian counterparts, were not keen voters historically and some used to say that democracy was un-Islamic (which is exactly what the terrorists say).

The spectre of a Trump presidency, however, in which Muslim immigration will be banned and the families of terrorists are killed, seems to have galvanized them into action.

This is indeed a very good story and one that all Americans (and Canadians) should celebrate.  When a country’s citizens realize that they have the power to change the government, with all that entails, by merely marking an X on a piece of paper, they not only serve as an example for others worldwide but they undermine the terrorists’s message.

More ballots are always better than more bullets.

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 the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at

Phil Gurski is a former terrorism analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism and has published several books, including the forthcoming When Religions Kill: how extremists justify  violence through faith.” He is a member of New Canadian Media’s board of directors.

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