Fred Litwin is a Canadian who writes the Gay and Right blog and runs the Free Thinking Film Society. He founded the latter in 2007 in Ottawa to present to local audiences “courageous voices in the non-fiction film industry” whose documentaries “reject cultural relativism, central economic planning and American culpability for all that ills the world” and, being unwelcome in many “art house cinemas,” might otherwise fail to find the audiences they deserve. The present essay – which Litwin has written especially for rights.no – provides an illuminating overview of some of the challenges facing his country today. Too often, many of us in Europe and the U.S. overlook Canada, but it is burdened by problems that also beset the rest of the West – and too many Canadians in positions of authority, alas, have chosen to address those problems in ways that provide a grim cautionary lesson.
By Fred Litwin (Norwegian version)
Of all the countries in the West, Canada might be the least prepared to deal with the problems of Islam, largely because of a politically correct press, weakened security services, and a minority Government that avoids controversy at all costs.
Here is some of the evidence that radical Islam is taking root in Canada:
· The 2006 case in Toronto where 18 Muslims were arrested for being part of a terrorist cell and planning a variety of attacks in Ontario. To date, one member has been convicted, three have plead guilty of intent to cause an explosion, and one has plead guilty to importing firearms.
· A Toronto imam in October 2009 called for Allah to “destroy” the enemies of Islam “from within themselves” and called for God to “damn” the infidels. Imam Said Rageah at the Abu Huraira Centre typically talks to about 800 to 1,000 people at Friday services.
· Adel Mohammed Arnaout is a Lebanese immigrant living in Toronto who has been accused of sending three letter bombs to residents in Toronto.
· Mohammad Momin Khawaja was found guilty of involvement in a plot to plant fertilizer bombs in the UK, and was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison. Khawaja worked as a computer software developer for the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2004.
· Jewish schools were firebombed in Montreal in 2004 and 2006. The 2004 attack destroyed the library of Montreal’s United Talmud Torah school. It was in retaliation for Israel’s killing of a Hamas leader. A 19-year-old man received a two year sentence for the attack. Azim Ibragimov pleaded guilty to firebombing the Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish Boys School in 2006 and attempting to attack the Snowdon, YMHA (Young Man’s Hebrew Association) the following year. He received a 4-year sentence.
· Khaled Mouammar, the President of the Canadian Arab Federation, called the Canadian Minister of Immigration a “professional whore” for supporting Israel. He also wanted the Canadian government to remove Hamas and Hezbollah from the list of banned organizations and have them replaced with the Israel Defence Forces. It was then revealed that Mr. Mouammar spent the 11 years prior to February, 2005, sitting as a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board, deciding whether refugee claimants from such North African countries as Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Somalia should be allowed to stay in Canada.
· The honor killing of three sisters, found dead in a car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal, by their father, mother and brother near Kingston, Ontario. The three were arrested on their way to the airport to leave the country.
In addition to the above cases, there have been many cases of incitement in Islamic private schools, of universities hosting Israel-Apartheid weeks, of Canadian government agencies (including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) using radical Islamist groups to educate agency employees on accommodation, and of Provincial Governments giving in to Islamist demands.
But Canada’s real problem is cultural. A number of terrorism-related cases are being used to weaken our security services, and these cases have started to turn public opinion to the side of the islamists. It all started with the case of Maher Arar – a case that started a media frenzy to trivialize Canada’s national security.
Maher Arar is a telecommunications engineer with dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship who lived in Montreal. On his way home to Canada in 2002 from Tunisia, he was detained at JFK airport in New York and was then deported by the Americans to Syria. He was jailed in Syria for almost a year, where Arar claimed he was tortured and then released to Canada.
There was a huge public outcry in Canada that led to an official investigation and the Government of Canada paid Arar a total of $10.5 million to settle his case. However, there was some suspicious activity by Arar. In October 2001, Arar had a meeting with Abdullah Almalki, who was a person of interest to the RCMP – he had a relationship with Ahmed Said Khadr, an Egyptian associate of Osama bin Laden. Supposedly, they were at a restaurant in Montreal and went out to have a chat in the rain. Even today, the Obama administration is adamant that Maher Arar’s status as a person on their watch list should not be changed.
Regardless, there was an awful lot of hand-wringing in Canada. Official apologies, the monetary award, and a continual stream of media interest has made Maher Arar into a victim par excellence. Three other cases have also helped turn the fight against terrorism into a cultural battle against the government.
Briefly, the cases of Mohamed Harkat, Omar Khadr, and Adil Charkaoui have all contributed to a sense that the Government is out of control, that our civil liberties are under threat, and that Islamophobia is a real problem.
Mohamed Harkat is an Algerian, living in Ottawa, who has been accused by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) as being a sleeper agent for Al-Qaeda. While in Algeria, Harkat joined the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) in 1989. IN 1990 he went to Saudi Arabia and then on to Pakistan where he worked in food distribution. CSIS alleges that Harkat then joined the more militant Groupe Islamique Arme wing of FIS, but will not come through with its sources. In 1995 Harkat went to Malaysia, where he purchased a forged Saudi passport which allowed him easier access into Canada. Once in Canada, Harket claimed refugee status saying that he would be persecuted by the Algerian government because of his membership in FIS, and he was accepted into Canada.
In 2002 Harkat was arrested as a threat to Canadian national security. Supposedly Harkat ran a guest house in Pakistan that shuttled Mujahadeen into Chechnya and the US accused Harkat of assisting terrorists, including the 9/11 hijackers. In 2006, Harkat was released but was forced to wear a tracking bracelet and could only leave his house upon approval by the Canadian Border Services Agency. In 2008, a judge ruled that CSIS must disclose their secret evidence against Harkat and that his release conditions must be loosened. In 2009, CSIS was ordered to share its material on Harkat, and this now puts the entire case against Harkat in Jeopardy.
Adil Charkaoui is Moroccan-born permanent resident of Canada who was arrested in 2003. CSIS believes that Charkaoui flew to Pakistan in 1998 to study religion and then slipped tino Afghanistan to attend an Al-Qaeda training camp. Like Harkat, Charkaoui has seen the Canadian government withdraw much of the evidence against him, because they do not want to disclose their methods in court.
Omar Khadr was captured by American forces when he was 15 after a firefight in Afghanistan. He has been in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp ever since charged with throwing a grenade that killed a soldier. Repatriating Khadr to Canada has been a preoccupation with the left for years, and he is the poster boy of Islamophobia.
It now appears that both Charkaoi and Harkat may be suing the Canadian government, like Arar, and may receive multi-million dollar settlements. Should Khadr ever get back to Canada, he would probably also sue. In any case, public opinion in all three cases is slowing turning against the government.
But, a new case this year has thrown some light on the cultural side of what it means to be a Canadian. Suaad Hagi Mohamud is an Ontario woman who was stranded in Kenya for 3 months for possibly being an imposter. Ms. Mohamud arrived in Kenya to visit her Mother on May 1st but was stopped on May 21st at the airport by a Kenyan immigration official who told her she did not look like the picture in her passport. The Canadian High Commission investigated and agreed. She eventually returned to Canada after DNA testing confirmed her identity. While being interviewed by the Canadians, she didn’t know that Toronto (where she had lived for 10 years) was on Lake Ontario, didn’t know the acronym for her own workplace, she couldn’t name the current Prime Minister of Canada, she gave a wrong birth date for her son and couldn’t provide any details of his birth. Published pictures show her passport picture to be very different from her appearance in Kenya – possibly leading to the conclusion that she was trying to sneak her sister into Canada.
The left-wing blogosphere and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) sprang into action and made the Government look like it was full of raving racists. What other reason could our diplomats have other than racism? The CBC show, The Current, hosted a panel that was unanimous that no one could possibly be expected to answer such questions – they were all culturally dependent! One of the panellists claimed that many people don’t know the date of birth of their children and may only think it might have been in the ‘rainy season’. When one person did bring up that her picture was indeed different, the moderator shut down that part of the debate, saying that they should only discuss the questions.
So, we now find ourselves in a strange place in Canada. The government has been weakened in its ability to defend against terrorism, and the media has decided that you can’t expect immigrants to know anything about this country. So, it is not surprising that Jack Layton, head of the Canada’s left-wing party the New Democrats, sent an Eid message to Muslims that said “Dear brothers and sisters, Ramadan is an opportunity to renew the spirit and faith in Islam. We are not celebrating the end of Ramadan, but thanking Allah for the help and strength given throughout this special month…” This led Tarek Fatah, head of the moderate Muslim Canadian Congress to wonder if Layton had actually converted to Islam. Fatah was also disturbed that Layton then went on to call for the repatriation of Omar Khadr. As Fatah says, “Might I ask, what has Omar Khardr got to do with Eid or Ramadan or with Muslims? Far too many politicians are two bending over backwards to solicit votes from the Muslim Canadian Community and in doing so naively believing that we Muslims take our political cues from men in beards and women in burkas.”
Given the above cases, is it no wonder that Canadians are confused. The media tells us continually that we are islamophobic and that our security agencies are out of control. It is not surprise that Dick Fadden, the new head of CSIS recently said:
Why then, I ask, are those accused of terrorist offences often portrayed in media as quasi-folk heroes, despite the harsh statements of numerous judges? Why are they always photographed with their children, given tender-hearted profiles, and more or less taken at their word when they accuse CSIS or other government agencies of abusing them? It sometimes seems that to be accused of having terrorist connections in Canada has become a status symbol, a badge of courage in the struggle against the real enemy, which apparently is government.”
So, how bad are things in Canada? The honest truth is that no one knows. The media follows a politically-correct line; government agencies are in retreat in the courts; and the Canadian Government is extremely timid, given its minority status in Parliament. I suspect that our slumber is getting deeper, and that we’ll only wake up when the Americans start yelling.