Weighing Justice

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Now that the most devastating terrorist attacks ever launched against the U.S. have become part of world history, it is painfully apparent that multi-billion dollar economic and material losses pale against the scarcely imaginable death toll of some 7,000 Americans and foreign nationals.

But if we thought the events of Sept. 11 had shown us the worst evils of human nature in the victimization of innocent people, we should think again, for it appears that the U.S. will soon be targeting even more innocent civilians to avenge what happened to its own.

Humanity is once more poised to fall into a fatal moral trap that dictates more killing as the only justification for killing. Yesterday, the victims were American, but tomorrow they could be Afganis, Iraqis, Syrians, Iranians, Libyans, or Palestinians.

And such shameful cycles of death will continue, with innocents always paying the highest price. It is already happening in many conflicts around the world; Irish Catholics and Protestants, Israelis and Palestinians, Chechens and Russians, Kashmiris and East Indians, or Albanians and Macedonians, to name only a few.

In Canada, we do not have a tradition of open battle between conflicted ethnic or religious groups, but we wage war all the same, hurting one another in more subtle but painful ways, chiefly in practicing guilt-by-association. The targets of yesteryear were Italian, German and Japanese Canadians; today, they are Muslim Canadians.

It seems that humanity lost its moral compass long ago, for we are all so easily numbed by the victimization of one type of innocents or another. How painfully sad we have become.

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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