While reading this National Post piece by Stewart Bell I got thinking about fear and Canadian-ness. In the piece Bell discusses a recent report released by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, a partnership of think-tanks in Britain, the United States, Israel and Jordan.
From white supremacist propaganda to radical Islamist recruiting videos, the Internet is awash with extremist content, but a report released yesterday says it is time to “end the current climate of impunity” enjoyed by those responsible.
The report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence calls on authorities to go beyond simply shutting down Web sites used to promote violent political extremism and to prosecute those behind them.
“We propose the selective use of takedowns in conjunction with prosecutions as a means of signalling that cyberspace is not beyond the law,” writes the centre, a partnership of think-tanks in Britain, the United States, Israel and Jordan.
While the report’s focus is Britain, the Canadian government was consulted by the study’s authors and Canada is experiencing similar problems with extremist groups using the Internet to recruit and radicalize followers.
Apparently, in Canada, the problem is not that police do not have the resources to shut these sites down but rather that the police do not use the resources at their disposal.
Initially my thought was “Great! Maybe now they will go after those white supremacist sites that threaten and terrify so many Canadians and that promote violence against so many Canadians.” But alas, it seems this is not the intention. I should have known. We’re not the Canadians they’re thinking about when they think about protecting Canadians. The authorities want to protect ‘real’ Canadians.
While extremist groups of all stripes use the Internet, Canadian intelligence officials are particularly concerned about the radicalization of young Muslims, which the government calls a “serious problem” and a “direct and immediate threat” to Canada.
Really? So groups that call for ridding Canada of people of colour are not a direct threat to Canada? Does the terror that people of colour feel not count? What about the sites inciting hatred toward Muslims and Arabs? Does the fear that Muslims feel not count? Does the Islamophobia we Muslims living in Canada experience not count as a threat to Canadians? Or are we not real Canadians?
It seems we don’t count. Whether we be Muslims or not, it is not our safety and fear the authorities are concerned about. We are told to fear Caribbeans and Sikhs because they’re gang bangers. We are told to fear East Asians because they’re drug smugglers. We are told to fear Muslims and Arabs because they’re terrorists. But the question is who are they implying should be scared? Those who are scared, those who are threatened, those who authorities are hoping to protect are White and Christian. They are the Canadians authorities seem to mean when they dismiss the sources of fear for people of colour and Muslims. However, the threats to people of colour and Muslims ARE a threat to Canada because we live in Canada. We are a part of Canada.
Instead it seems that Muslims, who are Canadians, are being reported as a threat to their own country. When was the last time a crime by a white, non-Muslim was described as a threat to Canada? The way in which this statement is worded creates a dichotomy – Muslim vs Canada. This statement has pitted the young Muslim against Canada. All of a sudden he is no longer a part of Canada. He is a threat to the country. Unless they are implying that these young Muslim men are a threat to themselves as well.
And of course, all this is to say nothing about addressing the real causes of the radicalization of these young Muslim men. But that is for another post.
Muslims for too long have been seen as foreigners. This despite the fact that we have been in Canada for generations. Yet, Muslims, along with people of colour, are still seen as not real Canadians. Our concerns are placed behind the concerns of White, non-Muslim Canadians. This is still an unfortunate reality and too often leads to feelings of alienation and displacement within the Canadian context.