Jonathan Kay: Don’t blame the media for Islamophobia | National Post

Jon Kay’s balanced assessment in response to Haroon Siddiqui’s column (Canada’s news media are contributing to mistrust of Muslims | Toronto Star), including his dismissal of B’nai Brith’s annual antisemitism report (I always find the police reported hate crimes to be more objective, although imperfect and likely understated).

However, Elke Winter has done some interesting parliamentary and media analysis related to citizenship revocation in cases of terror or treason, presented at Metropolis 2016, that showed that despite balanced coverage, the net effect of the examples used, understandably largely Muslim, did contribute to distrust of Canadian Muslims:

Jews and Muslims have more in common than most people think. And not just on the superficial level of pork avoidance, a love of shawarma and (male) circumcision. In Canada, both the Jewish and Muslim communities are periodically riled up with claims that they are being victimized by epidemics of acute anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. These claims are baseless in both cases.

I flipped a coin. Let’s start with the Jews.

Every year, B’nai Brith Canada releases its Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. And every year, B’nai Brith assures us that its numbers prove that Jews are besieged by a “rising tide of anti-Semitism.”

“All one needs to do is look to the comment section of any major news site on a story examining the Israel-Hamas conflict,” declared B’Nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn when the most recent report was published. “Almost without exception, legitimate debate and dialogue devolves to accusations of the murder of children, Zionist plots and the use of anti-Semitic language blaming the ‘Jews.’ ”

But when you examine B’nai Brith’s catalogue of supposedly horrifying anti-Semitic episodes, what you find is a menagerie of demented Internet crackpots and teenage graffiti artists spray-painting backward swastikas on fences. There is no “rising tide of anti-Semitism” in Canada. It only feels that way because whenever some loon in a strip-mall mosque does express a hate-on for Jews, the incident becomes a sensation on social media.

In other cases, the examples of anti-Semitism are padded out with hateful statements that aren’t really about Jews at all — but quite specifically about the Israeli government. The idea that criticizing Israel automatically qualifies as a form of disguised anti-Semitism has become a lazy debating trick.

Based on the scattered anecdotal reports I hear, I’d say that Islamophobia is somewhat more common in Canadian society than anti-Semitism. You rarely hear of some kid named Avi or Mordechai getting mistakenly put on a no-fly list, for instance. And this month, well-heeled spectators came out to a debate in downtown Toronto where the star performer promoted the thesis that Muslim refugees just can’t be trusted not to rape our Judeo-Christian babies. That’s bad. As was last week’s debunked and retracted Halifax newspaper story about little Muslim children plotting global Islamic conquest from the merry-go-round.

Nevertheless, hate-speech watchdogs take things too far when they suggest that the mainstream media are somehow cheerleading Canada’s fringe Muslim-haters.

This month, former Toronto Star columnist and editorial-page editor Haroon Siddiqui told an audience at the city’s Aga Khan Museum that — according to the Star’s summary — “the media have contributed to widespread Islamophobia by conflating Muslim terrorists with all Muslims.”

In his speech, excerpted in the Star, Siddiqui declared: “The biggest culprits have been the National Post and the Postmedia group of newspapers across the country, which now include the Sun chain. Hardly a week goes by without these publications finding something or other wrong with Muslims and Islam. These publications are forever looking for terrorists under every Canadian minaret. They are hunting for any imam or any Muslim who might make some outrageous statement that can be splashed as proof of rampant Muslim militancy or malevolence.”

Siddiqui and I have appeared on media panels together. I like the guy, and have found him to be quite moderate on most issues. But what he’s written here is unfair.

Yes, the media are fascinated with terrorism — because our readers are fascinated by terrorism. Just as they are fascinated with all forms of horrifying violence — including the kind caused by street gangs, natural disasters and Karla Homolka. It’s human nature. We pay attention when things go bang and boom and all bloody-like.

We also pay attention to questions of motive. And since Islamist terrorists from Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and al-Qaida insistently, repeatedly and explicitly tell us that they are committing their slaughter in the name of Islam, we report that, too. When terrorists in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia stop praising Allah as they self-detonate — or, better yet, stop self-detonating altogether — we media types will be the first to report on that phenomenon, as well.

Moreover, it would be nice if Siddiqui might acknowledge that in the last two years, not one but two Canadian governments — Stephen Harper’s Tories and Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois — have been booted out of office in large part because media commentators were disgusted by their Islamophobic fearmongering on the niqab issue. I myself was working at the National Post during the 2014 Quebec election campaign, and personally authored several articles denouncing the xenophobic messaging from PQ hardliners. In both cases, it wasn’t media Islamophobia that held sway at the polls, it was media anti-Islamophobia.

Canadians should be proud that they live in a tolerant country where both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are marginalized and discredited sentiments. Haroon Siddiqui is correct to advocate vigilance against these forms of hatred, but he greatly exaggerates the scope of the problem.

Source: Jonathan Kay: Don’t blame the media for Islamophobia | National Post

Canada’s news media are contributing to mistrust of Muslims: Siddiqui

Haroon Siddiqui’s guide for the media (I would add test these by substituting ‘Christian,’ ‘Sikh,’ ‘Jewish’ or other religions to check for consistency) :

The credibility of media with Muslims is very low. Muslims generally don’t trust us. In fact, they’re outright afraid of us. They don’t think they would get a fair shake from us. They are petrified that their words would be twisted and distorted.

Let me offer some suggestions.

  • It would be helpful for newsrooms, or the media industry as a whole, to articulate some ethical guidelines on coverage of and commentary on Muslims.
  • Develop a manual to clarify what do the following words mean and whom do they apply to – “moderate Muslims,” ‘anti-modern Muslims,” “fundamentalist Muslims,” “militant Muslims,” and “Islamist Muslims.” Who, exactly, are “radical Muslims” – those who believe in violence, or something else? Who are anti-modern Muslims – the Muslims who don’t drive cars, don’t use iPhones, don’t Tweet, don’t build or visit museums, or refuse blood transfusions?
  • Subject opinion pieces and commentaries to the simple test of truth. Give us a range of views, not just those that might just confirm your own prejudices. The CBC commentator Rex Murphy has advanced questionable propositions about Muslims. He is free to express his views, of course. But where’s the counter-opinion on the taxpayer-supported CBC?
  • Don’t find excuses to attribute crimes by Muslims to their religion. Use the same standard for them as for other people.
  • Avoid double standards on free speech. It seems that we must have free speech to malign Muslims but Muslims must not claim the right to be free from hate speech, which is also a very Canadian value.
  • Resist generic photos of niqab-wearing women when the story has little or nothing to do with niqab. You create the impression that most Muslim women wear it, whereas the number who do is a tiny, tiny minority – in Canada, no more than a few dozen. Don’t distort that reality.

I describe myself as an “incurably optimistic Canadian.” So I think if any nation can debate this issue, within the framework of free speech and fair play, it is Canada. If we get this right, we might even export it to the United States and Europe.

We owe it to Canada to at least try.

Source: Canada’s news media are contributing to mistrust of Muslims | Toronto Star

Harper senators hold McCarthyesque hearings: Siddiqui | Toronto Star

Not the Senate’s finest hour, particularly on the Government side:

[Liberal Senator] Mitchell accused [Marc] Lebuis for making “very, very sweeping allegations, based on anecdotal evidence,” without “any intellectual, academic, empirical evidence.”

But the Conservative senators thought otherwise.

Senator Beyak: “Thank you, Mr. Lebuis, for an excellent, well-informed and documented presentation.” Senator Stewart Olsen: “Thank you, Mr. Lebuis. What you are suggesting is that vigilance is necessary for the preservation of democracy and that our ancestors were extremely vigilant.”

Another witness was Shahina Siddiqui (no relation), head of the Islamic Social Services Association, Winnipeg: “Please do not treat Muslim Canadians as if they are the enemy because we are not … Don’t give in to fear and propaganda, otherwise, we will tear each other apart.”

Senator Beyak told her, thrice, to stop being “thin-skinned.” Canadians are “tired of hearing excuses. If 21 Christians were beheaded by Jews, they would be called ‘radical extremist Jews.’ And if pilots were burned in cages by a Christian, they would be called ‘radical violent Christians’ … What would you answer to people who are legitimately concerned” (emphasis mine).

So, this Muslim from Manitoba must answer for the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

But she remained remarkably calm: “Canadians are as concerned about the loss of innocent life, whether it is done by ISIL, Al Qaeda or by all other terrorist groups. The number one target of these groups are Muslims.

“It’s not about Muslim versus Canadians or Canadians versus Muslims; it is humanity versus terrorism.”

Liberal Senator Joseph Day told her:

“I have a grave, grave concern that we’re going to see more retaliation. We’re going to see more bullet holes in mosques and mosques burned …

“As soon as your community starts seeing this activity, which has been triggered by something happening way off somewhere else, more and more young people are going to join up to go fight for the jihad. It’s going to be more and more difficult for your community … We’ve got to stop it now or it’s going to get out of control.”

Siddiqui: “We have to stop it now because we have the experience of Japanese internment. We did that to Japanese-Canadians out of fear. I hope this is not going to go there.”

She told me later that the committee hearing felt like the “Tea Party was in action. It was a very charged atmosphere — more like an inquisition from her (Senator Beyak).”

Harper senators hold McCarthyesque hearings: Siddiqui | Toronto Star.

Radicalization, the Loss of Canadian Innocence and the Need for Perspective

With the two killings this week of Canadian soldiers, one by Martin Couture-Rouleau’s running over soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the other by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and his the attack on the War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

Surreal morning for me as I was downtown for meetings, about 8 blocks away from the Hill, learning about the shootings from TV monitors, along with others glued to TV monitors following developments. Felt very much, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I was in LA during the 911 attacks.

Some common points in recent commentary.

A note of caution on over-reacting and the need to maintain balance between freedom, access, and security. John Ivison: In response to Quebec terror attack we must remember a healthy balance between security and freedom, a point echoed by Andrew Coyne in Andrew Coyne: We can’t stop every little terror attack, so let’s brace ourselves and adapt where he recommends, not “a panicky search for false assurances, nor even defiance, but a collective insouciance.” Martin Regg Cohn praises the Ontario political leaders for keeping to the normal Parliamentary schedule in The democratic show must go on: Cohn.

While there was universal praise, and deservedly so, for Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, both for his quick and efficient handling of the attack as well as his philosophy of keeping Parliament a public space, Michael Den Tandt savages the overall handling of the attack in Michael Den Tandt: Ottawa shooting shows Canadian capital’s utter lack of readiness, and how information was not communicated. Haroon Siddiqui makes similar, but less well argued points, in Killings of two soldiers raise troubling questions: Siddiqui.

Margaret Wente takes the opposite tack, in an almost boosterish tone, contrary to much of the reporting, argues that Canadians will not change and that the attack was handled calmly and without hysteria in  Terrorists don’t have a chance in this country. Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun takes the opposite tack in Canada will never be the same, as does Ian MacLeod in The Ottawa Citizen, in Analysis: Effects on Ottawa will be lasting and far-reaching (with video).

Also in the Post, which generally has some of the strongest reporting in this area, Tom Blackwell, their health reporter, reports on the “lone wolf” phenomenon and some of the factors that may result in some being open to radicalization in ‘Rhetoric and bluster’: Was attack on soldiers really terrorism, or just the violent act of a disturbed man? The Globe has a good profile on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the War Memorial and Parliament Hill in Suspected killer in Ottawa shootings had a disturbing side, that reinforces some of these points.

From La Presse, a report on the local mosque in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and what appears to be a very conservative Imam in terms of social teachings but no indication that he preached violence, or whether Couture-Rouleau went to the mosque regularly (seems he was most active on social media) in Un imam controversé à Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Listening to the RCMP outline what they did and what they could do, particularly in the case of Couture-Rouleau (as of writing not as fulsome an account for Zehaf-Bibeau) hard to see that any of the Government’s recent or planned initiatives would have made a difference. The RCMP monitored him, spoke to friends and families who shared their well-founded worries, confiscated his passport but as the RCMP officer at the press conference said, “We couldn’t arrest someone for having radical thoughts, it’s not a crime in Canada.”

Couture-Rouleau, like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, were both born in Canada. Couture-Rouleau was not a dual-national and would not be subject, had he lived, for citizenship revocation. It is unclear whether Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, given his father was Libyan in origin, would be entitled to Libyan citizenship and thus theoretically subject to revocation.

And while tragedies for the families and friends of the soldiers killed, and (another) reminder that we have extremists among us, both reassuring and worrying that both of these appear to be “lone wolf” attacks rather than groups and more “sophisticated” plans and conspiracies that could result in significantly more casualities.

I tend to be between Wente and Warmington: no, not everything has changed but neither has everything remained the same. Our political leaders, of all stripes, as well as the media and others, will play a role in ensuring, or not, that we retain perspective and balance.


Harper learning to separate Islam from terrorism: Siddiqui | Toronto Star

Signs of change noted by one of the harsher critics of the Harper Government, Haroon Siddiqui:

Harper himself avoids Canadian Muslims except for a selected few, such as the minority Ismailis. The prime minister and his Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney have pointedly courted those who’ve come to Canada fleeing persecution in Muslim lands — Christians and Ahmadis from Pakistan, Christians from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, Bahais from Iran, etc. Some openly spit hatred at Muslims, yet are cosseted by the Harperites.

Contrast this with Barack Obama and David Cameron of Britain who do extensive outreach to Muslims, at home and abroad.

And unlike Obama who speaks knowledgeably and confidently about how terrorism violates Islamic principles, Harper has been clumsy, speaking instead of “Islamic terrorism.”

But he is learning.

Last month in opening the Aga Khan Museum, he said:“The Aga Khan has devoted an extraordinary amount of time, toil and resources to the ideals of Islamic culture and history. In doing so, His Highness has greatly contributed to demystifying Islam, throughout the world, by stressing its social traditions of peace, of tolerance and of pluralism. This is a vision of Islam of which all Canadians can be proud especially when a contrary and violent distortion of that vision so regularly dominates the news.”

A few days later, speaking in New York, Harper went against the holy grail of Islamophobes, that terrorism emanates mostly from mosques. Speaking of radicalized youth, he said:

“Our experience in Canada has been that their connection to the Muslim community is often extremely tangential. A surprising number of these people have no background in Islam whatsoever. They’re individuals who for whatever reason drift to these kinds of causes. Even those with backgrounds in Islam, they’re often people who are not participants in mosques . . . They’re off on kind of a radical, political fringe.

“Our security and intelligence people would tell you that a good relationship with our Muslim community has actually really helped to identify a lot of these threats before they become much more serious.”

Harper learning to separate Islam from terrorism: Siddiqui | Toronto Star.

Aga Khan Museum will prove to be of historic significance: Siddiqui

Look forward to visiting it during one of our visits to Toronto:

The museum was planned for London but ran into bureaucratic hurdles. The Aga, spiritual leader of Shiite Ismaili Muslims, could have located it anywhere — in Europe, which is where he lives and works France and Switzerland or Africa or Asia which is where much of his nearly $1 billion development and cultural work is done or the United States. He chose Canada instead as a tribute to our pluralism and also to make a contribution to it “in the best way possible.”

England’s loss is Canada’s gain.

This is no ordinary museum.

  • It has not cost Canadian taxpayers a penny.
  • It is an architectural jewel, inspired by great Islamic structures and taking its inspiration from the Qur’anic theme of light, “God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth,” light that basks all humans equally, and that lights up the heart and soul, etc.
  • It uses the familiar geometric patterns of Muslim lands to let in all the light possible. But it has no minarets and no huge domes.

“His Highness did not want this building to use overtly Islamic forms or references,” reveals architect Fumihiko Maki of Japan. “He wanted to have a modern building appropriate to its context.” References to Islam are “sublimated.”

Aga Khan Museum will prove to be of historic significance: Siddiqui | Toronto Star.

Philippe Couillard is in a secular charter mess of his own: Siddiqui | Toronto Star

While there is merit to Siddiqui’s points, there is a strong current, whether we like it or not, in Quebec that fears the “other.” Bouchard and Taylor recommended their laicisme ouvert in recognition of this reality. Let’s see the detailed proposal before being too critical:

Irony is that the premier-elect stands compromised on the very issue that Quebecers have soundly rejected — defeating not only the PQ government but the charter’s chief architect, Marois, in her own riding, and the five militantly pro-charter women she had backed it (including four Muslim and one Jewish), each full of contradictions and wild conspiracy theories against Muslims and Jews.

Had Couillard taken a principled position, he would now have had the golden opportunity to put an end to all the anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic and anti-Sikh nonsense that has been peddled in the name of secularism.

Another of his mistakes was to accept that hijab equals militancy. He formed a Liberal panel to study “fundamentalism,” including the radicalization of young people. To mitigate the proposal’s Islamophobic undercurrent, he said the panel would also tackle Christian fundamentalists who won’t have their children vaccinated. That’s a matter for public health authorities, as jihadism is for police, to tackle, not politicians pondering basic rights and freedoms.

The premier-elect made it worse Tuesday by elevating his internal party proposal into the broad official quest for consensus on the charter — “to prevent certain manifestations of fundamentalism.”

Philippe Couillard is in a secular charter mess of his own: Siddiqui | Toronto Star.

‘You are as equal as anyone’ | Toronto Star

An alternate “welcome to Canada and Canadian citizenship” speech by Haroon Siddiqui of The Star, with the classic liberal emphasis on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights (as part of the changes introduced along with Discover Canada, the 2010 citizenship guide and test, the Charter was no longer handed out at citizenship ceremonies, replaced by a pamphlet emphasizing the role of the Crown):

Respect that Canada is a Christian-majority nation. But know that it is not a Christian country. Canada has no official religion. All faiths are equal. Canada has no official culture, either. So be free to practise your faith, if you so choose, and live your culture as fully as you like — within the rule of law.

The rule of law is what binds all Canadians together, new and old, the foreign-born and the Canadian-born. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is our common holy parchment.

Canada wants you to succeed. The more you succeed, the more successful Canada becomes.

i‘You are as equal as anyone’ | Toronto Star.

Values charter not an attempt to drum up sovereignty support, Marois says

Would rather believe the commentary in Quebec and English Canada than these protestations to the contrary:

Values charter not an attempt to drum up sovereignty support, Marois says – Canada, Need to know –

And the usual political games with PQ leader Marois intimating that some members of the Quebec Liberal Party oppose the position of the Party (likely true, as in the case of most political parties, but Couillard has managed to maintain party discipline):

Le PQ doute de l’unanimité anti-charte au PLQ

And an admission that the Charter is not in conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from Daniel Turp, a prominent sovereignist and former Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament:

Charte de la laïcité – Québec devrait user de la clause dérogatoire | Le Devoir

Lastly, Haroon Siddiqui of The Star has a blistering critique of the toughening up of the Charter in Bill 60:

The bill is based on demagoguery. It proposes a solution for a problem that does not exist. It divides society.

It is Orwellian. It claims to preserve secularism by axing a fundamental secular right – the right to freedom of religion that includes the right to show it.

The ostensibly leftist PQ is following rightwing European xenophobes, anti-Semites and Islamophobes. Its bill goes in tandem with recently announced reductions in immigration to Quebec. It is pandering to Quebecers who think that immigration is a threat to “the heritage of Quebec society” (46 per cent, according to a Léger poll) and those who are alarmingly intolerant of religious minorities (according to Forum Research and Angus Reid polls).

Hijab is what Marois really wants to banish

Interesting insights from Charles Taylor, on how the model of laicisme ouverte was a tactical move to find a compromise that should work with the population. A valid call, even if the fundamentals are still questionable:

Sure enough, Taylor conceded in our latest phone conversation that the recommendation was a political compromise, meant as “a prophylactic.”

He revealed: “We did struggle over that for weeks.

“We didn’t have any real concern that wearing a religious symbol would make someone an unreliable official. It was never that we mistrusted the judgment of a kippa-wearing judge.

“Rather, we feared that the idea would run into stiff resistance. We wondered, ‘Is the population ready for this?’

“We looked at it from the point of the accused — would they find it traumatic (to be judged by someone visibly non-Christian)?

“So, we said, ‘Let’s go for this limited recommendation now, and at a later date when the population feels confident enough with diversity, we can loosen the whole thing.’

“We were recommending it as a prophylactic. It was a scaling down, so that it might provide a way out.”

Hijab is what Marois really wants to banish: Siddiqui | Toronto Star.

And Québec solidaire, the small left-wing party, notes that an election is not the best means to have a discussion on the proposed Charter, human rights, and accommodation:

Charte des valeurs – Une question trop complexe pour être un enjeu électoral, croit QS