Smearing Islam and bashing Muslims, Who and Why

On June 12, 2006, some ten days after the arrest of 17 Muslim men and boys in Toronto, charged with plotting to carry out terrorist crimes, a panel discussion was held at the University of Toronto on the topic of terror and multiculturalism.

At that discussion, three academic experts all agreed that the alleged terror plot uncovered in Toronto had nothing to do with multiculturalism.

"There is really no evidence in this case — as there was no evidence in the Netherlands, as there was no evidence in the U.K. — that there is any logical, causal relationship between policies of multiculturalism and the formation of such [radical] groups," said Professor Melissa Williams, director of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto.

Prof. Williams also said that youth alienation is the factor behind the made-in-Canada extremism among Muslim youth and she compared the motivation for the alleged Toronto terror case to that which motivated the 1999 Columbine high school killers.

Professor Randall Hansen, the Canada Research Chair in Immigration and Governance at U of T and the panel’s organizer, also asserted "I think this is about alienation."

He suggested that in the past, alienated young men sought acceptance outside the mainstream, turning to gothic and punk culture, or to extreme environmental movements.

They also looked back at other violent movements specific to certain contexts and eras, he said. For example, "If you were French [in Quebec] in the 1960s, it was the FLQ."

Professor Rinaldo Walcott, who holds the Canada Research Chair of Social Justice and Cultural Studies at U of T, said he objected to the university providing a platform for panelist Margaret Wente, a Globe and Mail columnist, accusing her of hate speech. Both Wente and Canadian Muslim panel member Tarek Fatah disagreed with the panel’s academic experts.

Fatah, who is well known in Canada for smearing Islam and bashing Muslims, shouted "It has got nothing to do with youth [alienation]. It is 90-year-old ugly men spouting hate against fellow Muslims who are driving this nonsense."

Fatah and Wente are among a few who take every opportunity to badmouth Islam and Muslims in Canada.

Another is Rory Leishman who writes for the London (Ontario) Free Press and calls himself "a member and director of Civitas, a non-partisan, national association of conservative academics, journalists and political activists."

Leishman said he was delighted to receive the Furedy Academic Freedom Award from the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship in honour of his "contributions as a journalist to academic freedom in Canada."

Both organizations — Civitas and the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship — are little known.

In a recent column Leishman asked, "When will the Harper Conservatives and the opposition parties in Parliament finally get serious about safeguarding Canada from Islamist terrorism?"

He then went on to support his racist theme by quoting former CSIS chief of strategic planning, David Harris, who recently told a U.S. Congress subcommittee on immigration that Canada, on a per-capita basis, takes in twice as many immigrants, and three to four times as many refugees, as the United States.

"Canada cannot effectively screen and integrate such numbers, and we’ve seen the proof," Harris warned, further suggesting that the Harper government "consider a moratorium on immigration and refugee intake until we get a handle on our policies and process for mitigating related security risks."

But what Leishman didn’t write was that after he’d made the quoted remarks Harris — who worked only eight months for CSIS under contract — was discredited by the current head of the agency, which is more or less Canada’s equivalent to the CIA.

While it remains a continuing irritation to hear people like Wente, Fatah, Leishman and Harris vent their deep prejudices about multiculturalism — and especially about Islam and Muslims — we should remember that they nevertheless represent a very small minority whose cumulative life achievements are equally small. The more they open their mouths, the more they expose themselves.

They are clearly the "who" behind today’s wave of anti-Islam vitriol.

But the "why" behind it remains largely unanswered.