Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Canada’s homegrown terrorists …

I've been holding off writing about this, waiting for more information to come out. About the only thing I am certain of at the moment is that we don't know a lot of details, and that more details will emerge in the weeks and months to come. For now, 12 adults and 5 youths are under arrest on a variety of security and terrorism related offences, though current indications are that there may very well be more arrests.

There are obviously a few larger questions swirling around this story. While it's heartening to know the cell was uncovered and broken up before anything happened, and the police, apparently, were in full control of the attempts to acquire amonium nitrate by the group, the fact the group was an apparent 'Canadian' entity, involving not recent immigrants, but established Canadians, so to speak, is somewhat disturbing.

We've already seen some of the knee-jerk reactions. PM Harper, over the weekend, said it was because they hate "our way of life." In his closer on The Hour tonight, George called that assertion ridiculous, and he's bang on the money. Its way too simplistic, and it in fact plays into the hands of extremists. Osama bin Laden made specific reference to that attitude in a recent tape as being part of the problem with leaders of the west, and that we now have a leader speaking in the same rhetoric as Bush is a bit disturbing.

One of the dangers is that we'll see a backlash. There was some vandalism of Islamic buildings in Toronto over the weekend, but more worrisome to me is the idea that this will provoke some sort of change in our immigration policy, or laws, directed specifically at Muslims. The final segment from The Hour tonight was a teaser for a documentary on the National tomorrow, examining the reaction in Europe to rising Muslim fundamentalism. I'll be fascinated to see the report, but whenever people talk about Muslim extremism as a seperate thing, I wonder why our normal body of laws don't apply any more.

Its not religious freedom to plot the murder of your neighbours, and CBC Newsworld over the weekend was FULL of Canadian Islamic leaders saying just that. We already have laws that address murder, and criminal conspiracy, and all manner of organized evil … I wonder why this incident might point to laws that would specifically apply to Muslim extremists. The fact is, it seems to me that, so far anyway, the incident shows that our existing laws work just fine in identifying and stopping these groups before they strike.

There is responsibility on all sides. The general public needs to refrain from operating under a mob mentality, and the Islamic population needs to be vigilant against perversions of the message. Ultimately, its extremism we are fighting here, and not anything to do with Islam inherently, and any laws we make that address Islam directly will be morally weak.

There is a difference between the public space in Canada, and in European locales now considering laws specifically targetted at Muslims. In places like Holland and the UK, they've let the notion of tolerance and freedom go to extremes. For years now, firebrand Imams have been preaching violent revolt to people across Europe, with impunity. But in Canada, things are somewhat different, or so we are led to believe. Canada has hate speech laws, and laws against incitement to violence. Certainly, criminal conspiracies involving the destruction of public buildings are easily prosecutable, and despite the penchant for Canadian tolerance, any suggestion that such plots constitute religious freedom will be identified as just what it is, hate speech and incitement to violence.

Ultimately, Canada's public space is supposed to be different. What I've seen so far since these arrests has bolstered my feelings that things can be different here. There are very few other place sin the world where tolerance has legal limits, as it does in Canada, and because of those limits, I think its far more robust than it might be elsewhere. Part of the reason Canada MAY be able to get out of all this is that we've ALWAYS said its unacceptable to yell fire in crowded theatre, to threaten your neighbours out of hate, or to incite them to violence against others. We are a tolerant people … its one of our hallmarks, but the the limit of that tolerance is your intolerance. Canada has ALWAYS striven to be intolerant of intolerance, no matter where it comes from, and thats why we shouldn't need laws aimed at Muslims. It doesn't matter who you are, telling others to go out and kill people is GOING to get you arrested, and no one is going to buy the religious freedom argument. Thats WHY we have laws against hate speech and incitement to violence … so we can deal with those people when necessary.


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