The Khadrs on TV: Once more, fanning the flames of Islamophobia?

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It was scary.

Last week I had to view the CBC documentary about the Khadr family several times to be able to comment on it to the media. Here is a young Canadian Muslim, Abdurahman Khadr, assuring millions of Canadians that he is now telling “the truth” about his life as a terrorist-in-training in Afghanistan, about his family connection to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin, and about being a CIA agent.

His mother Maha, and his sister Zaynab, who spoke English with a Canadian accent, were showing only their eyes to the world, but opening their mouths with a message full of hate for the West, a West that they claim is full of teen drug addicts and homosexuals.

Yet both mother and daughter have no qualms about asking the Canadian government to issue them and the family’s other two sons in Pakistan new Canadian passports to replace “the ones they lost.” They seem so eager to come back to this bad country. To do what, exactly? First, to get one son free medical care for injuries sustained while fighting in Afghanistan.

I was sickened by watching this documentary. It was like a 9/11 nightmare all over again, for the Khadrs on TV are fanning the flames of Islamophobia in Canada. It’s as if they think Canada’s Muslims needed them and their notoriety; nothing could be further from the truth. I sincerely hope the Canadian government does not issue the overseas Khadrs with Canadian passports and that the American CIA will not pressure our government to do so.

At the same time, I’m left wondering why the CBC didn’t exercise greater discretion in allowing Abdurahman Khadr to shamefully strip bare his life (whether truthfully or not) and cause such humiliation to everyone associated with him — especially Canadian Muslims.

Or is this a game about ratings? I am sure the documentary resulted in a huge rise of CBC viewership. In fact, Abdurahman’s Canadian lawyer Hussein Hamdani told the Toronto Star that his client had to sign an agreement with the CBC not to tell his story to anyone until the documentary aired.

But should we then be blaming the media for airing a good TV story about how fanatical parents brainwash their children? Or has the streetsmart young Khadr managed to manipulate the CBC into using his story in order to protect him from possible targeted assassination attempts by the CIA, Al-Qaeda, or both? On top of that, maybe he is also trying to make money on a future book, or even a movie. So who, exactly, manipulated who? I want to know.

And what about the CIA? Is it still employing the young Khadr in some capacity, telling him to go public with his story so it will be easier for the RCMP and CSIS to go after Canada’s 600,000 Muslims? Who would be to blame if, for example, they were to wiretap them all as potential Muslim "terrorists"? Who would dare to challenge any terror tactics used against Canadian Muslims if the Khadrs were held up as a model for all of us?

Maha Khadr, Abdulrahman’s mother, said that she would be happy to see her children die as shaheed (martyrs) just as her husband did. His sister Zaynab recalled how their late father asked them to pray that someday he would be shaheed. Meanwhile, the youngest Khadr, 14-year-old Karim, lies in a military hospital in Rawalpindi, paralysed from the waist down. He was shot in the spine in the same battle that killed his father.

Maha told the CBC, "You know we are promised that we go to heaven." And daughter Zaynab commented, "I’d love to die like that. I’d love my daughter (3 years old) to die [as a martyr] … It’s heaven, you know."

Do the Khadrs represent a typical trend or attitude among Canadian Muslims? Absolutely not. Among us, we do have ultra-conservatives, but they are a tiny minority, just as in any community. And not all of them are militants. Neither are those militants all terrorists.

But the Khadrs’ story is still scary for every one of us as Canadians. One thing I am sure of is that they are not your typical Canadian Muslim family. I can swear to it.

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