Glavin: Amira Elghawaby seemed the perfect appointee to combat ‘Islamophobia’ — except for all the politics 

Of note, Glavin’s assessment of the political targeting considerations:

It’s profoundly unfair to Amira Elghawaby that she was engulfed in a whirlwind of opprobrium and hurt feelings and disgust pretty well from the moment the Trudeau government announced last week that she’d been chosen to serve as Canada’s first Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia.

No matter what you might think about Elghawaby or about her harshest detractors — among whom you can count members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s own cabinet — the appointment was doomed to turn out badly, no matter who’d been picked for the post. The whole point of Elghawaby’s job — who she’s supposed to represent, exactly, and what she’s expected to be combatting — has been obscured in a shambles of pious boasts, half-truths and cynical disinformation.

According to Trudeau’s announcement last week, Elghawaby is intended to be Canada’s representative in the matter of this thing that has come to be called Islamophobia. But after certain of his Quebec lieutenants and the Quebec government erupted in umbrage owing to indelicate insinuations she’d appeared to have made about Quebeckers, Elghawaby went from being a representative of the Government of Canada to what Trudeau called “a representative to the Government of Canada.” On Monday, Trudeau put it this way: “She is there to speak for the community with the community and build bridges.”

This is not quite throwing Elghawaby under the bus. Neither is it a case of Trudeau having unfairly set up a Muslim woman in the first place to challenge Quebec’s entrenchment of laïcité secularism, which clearly disfavours devout Muslim women in the public service.

At the same time, it’s not hard to make the argument that Trudeau hasn’t shown much mettle in forcefully challenging Quebec on this front himself. Today, Elghawaby told Quebeckers she was sorry that her words “have hurt the people of Quebec … I have heard you and I know what you’re feeling.”

The trouble isn’t just Elghawaby’s views about Quebec’s Bill 21, which the Canadian Civil Liberties Association reasonably describes as a “horrendous law that violates human rights and harms people who are already marginalized” because it prevents teachers, police officers and other public servants from wearing hijabs and turbans and yarmulkes and crosses.

Part of the problem is this: If a job description in a federal posting called for the composite stereotype of a faintly obnoxious and earnest upper-class social justice enthusiast from one of the leafier Liberal strongholds of the Greater Toronto Area, Elghawaby would be the ideal candidate — except she’s an Ottawa resident.

As an activist and frequent opinion-pages contributor, Elghawaby has adopted all the respectable standpoints with just the right degree of transgressive élan, rarely too strident or too squishy. She’s called for removing the Queen as Canada’s head of state and dismissed Canada Day as a festival of “Judeo-Christian storytelling.” She’s been gushing in her praise for Trudeau and backs the Trudeau government’s extremely contentious moves to regulate commentary on the internet. She has argued in favour of Muslim prayer rooms in schools, and once blasted the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper as having done more harm to the image of Canadian Muslims than al-Qaida’s atrocities in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

That last claim was clearly over the top, but fair enough. In certain high-fashion “progressive” circles, that’s the sort of thing one is expected to say.

More worrisome is Elghawaby’s apparent contentment with the conflation of anti-Muslim bigotry with genuine and justifiable alarm among liberal Muslims and national security agencies arising from the presence of reactionary, grossly antisemitic and foreign-influenced Islamist elements within Canada’s Muslim leadership itself. For years, the Trudeau government has used the spectre of “Islamophobia” to dismiss these concerns.

It’s a pattern that began in the traumatic days of January 2017, after six Muslims were massacred at a mosque in the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy. Back then, the Trudeau government sacrificed all-party consensus around a definition of the term Islamophobia, leaving it sufficiently open-ended to include a mere disdain for the Islamic religion itself or even high-pitched opposition to the theocratic-fascist ideologies of Islamism — which is not the religion, Islam.

According to the definition set out in the contentious federal anti-racism strategy, Islamophobia is defined this way: “Includes racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling, Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.”

So whatever Islamophobia is, it includes these things.

Two years ago, at the national Summit on Islamophobia where the establishment of the post Elghawaby has taken up was first proposed, the main matter at hand was the Canada Revenue Agency’s audits of certain Muslim-centred charities. At that summit, Trudeau said the CRA was targeting Muslims, and it should stop. “Institutions should support people, not target them,” Trudeau said.

This puts the prime minister squarely at odds with Canada’s national security agencies and the Research and Analysis Division of the CRA’s Charities Directorate. Based on the Finance Ministry’s 2015 Assessment of Inherent Risks of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in Canada, the “most likely” destinations for Canadian funds supporting terrorism were Afghanistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories and several other mostly Muslim-majority countries. Terrorist groups with “a Canadian nexus” in the assessment included several Islamist fronts associated with al-Qaida, the Islamic State (ISIL), Hamas, Hezbollah and so on — terrorist groups that rely on an Islamic cover story for their savagery.

Trudeau ordered the CRA Office of the Taxpayer’s Ombudsperson to inquire into the claim that the CRA’s audits of certain Muslim charities constituted “systemic Islamophobia,” but the review has been stymied by the Ombudsperson’s inability to ferret out specific national-security information from the relevant agencies.

The Muslim Association of Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims — Elghawaby’s employer during the Islamophobia summit — are now demanding that the CRA audits be called off altogether. They also want the Ombudsman’s review to scrapped because it’s apparently useless. They certainly have a point there.

The whole thing is a mess, and it’s just as jumbled and fractious as Elghawaby’s appointment, which is as Trudeau described it — to “build bridges.” But it’s to build the Liberal Party’s bridges to Muslim voters.

In a 2017 opinion piece for the Ottawa Citizen, Elghawaby quite reasonably described the Quebec government as a bully that was “out to gain votes off the backs of vulnerable minorities.” That’s at least arguably exactly what the Trudeau government is doing here, too.

As Trudeau himself said of Elhawaby: “Her job now is to make sure she’s helping the government.”

Source: Glavin: Amira Elghawaby seemed the perfect appointee to combat ‘Islamophobia’ — except for all the politics 

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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