How Sad for Canada

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“Mod-e-rate: not at either end of a range, not extreme.”

There is no doubt that September 11 has left Canadians more concerned than ever about the security of themselves and their families — indeed, of our whole way of life. Such concerns loom large behind a new anti-terrorist bill put forward by the government just last week.

Along with hastily composed new legislation, racial profiling is openly being used as a Canadian weapon-of-choice in our “war against terrorism.”

But what if Canada became the target of white, European, Christian, immigrant, terrorists?

Would our government feel just as compelled to draft a new bill to restrain or identify them? Would our armed forces go to war against those countries who happened (knowingly or unknowingly) to harbour their leaders? Would law-enforcement agencies use racial profiling to prevent more terrorist activities? Would so-called “expert” commentators fill pages of print and hours of air-time relating how many Bible verses advocate violence? Would we witness a national media campaign espousing broad-based anti-immigrant, anti-Christian, or anti-European sentiment? Would Christian leaders in this country be asked repeatedly to condemn acts of terror committed by their co-religionists? Would all white European Canadians, Christian or not, be found guilty-by-association?

These are hard questions. Most Canadians would answer “no,” “not likely,” or an emphatic “absolutely not!” to all of them.

But consider the implications of this news story. Last week in British Columbia, 81-year-old Mary Braun was sentenced to six years in prison for arson. Braun is a member of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors.

In her well researched book, “Terror in the Name of God,” Simma Holt investigates the extremist Christian sect, describing the B.C. town of Krestova (meaning “City of Christ”), the Freedomite capital, as a longtime “hideaway for Doukhober outlaws… It has always been the stronghold of terrorists… [they] pray as they plan.”

Holt gives chilling accounts of massed nudity, arson, strategic bombings, training camps, children schooled in hatred for outsiders — all directed by men who’ve claimed to be “Christ Incarnate,” who took “many wives,” and who declared themselves and their faith outside the jurisdiction of “secular” (civil) law.

One convicted terrorist, distressed by the failure of his weapons, described himself as “so ashamed that I hide my face; I’m a disgrace to the Doukhobor race”.

The first Doukhobors arrived in Canada from Russia in 1899, but their violent campaigns against religious, social and governmental institutions that they perceived as “evil” did not start until the 1920s. The arsons and bombings peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, but are still being carried out today, as Mary Braun’s conviction attests.

But how did the government of Canada deal with the situation half a century ago? It was surprisingly simple and straightforward. The criminals were brought to a court of law; that is, Canadian criminal law. There was no special “anti-terrorist” legislation back then, no automatic mass deportations back to Russia. And there definitely was no internationally orchestrated bombing raid, sent over to destroy the “hideout” of Doukhobor spiritual leaders back in Russia, despite such defiant declarations as, “We are Orthodox Christians, governed by God himself. We cannot submit to pagan authorities sunk in falsehood, deception and dishonour.” Now, can you tell the difference between this style of religious rhetoric and that of Osama bin Laden?

Why then Canada is treating today situation so differently than in the 1960s when known terrorists were living openly among us?

Is it because all the suspects in the terrorist attacks of September 11 are dark-skinned Middle Eastern Muslims, who used an extreme and distorted interpretation of the Qur’an to justify their actions, while the Doukhobor terrorists, using their extreme and distorted interpretation of the Bible to justify their actions, are white, European-culture Christians? If the answer is “yes” — or even “perhaps yes” — how sad for Canada.

Prof. Mohamed Elmasry is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo and national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

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