The Enemy Within … from The National on CBC

Tonight the CBC ran a documentary that I mentioned in a recent post, about a rising backlash against Muslim immigrants in places like Holland and the UK.  Mark Kelley did a very thorough job of looking at both sides of the issue, talking with a variety of politicians and regular people.  Ultimately, it provided a lot to think about with regards to how we deal with other cultures.

The trouble, it didn't talk much about multiculturalism, at least not of the Canadian variety.  There was a lot of discussion about how Muslim immigrants, and second and third generation citizens interact with "Dutch" or "UK" society, but it was more about the conflicts, not the similarities.  There were a couple of points where he almost makes it to the truth … talking to the Dutch politician Fatima Alladuk is one of the places he approaches the answer, as he does just beofre that when he observes the Muslim who speaks fluent Dutch and was born in Holland can never be as Dutch as the guys in bar with the fake Rembrandt.  When he discusses the issue with the friend of Theo van Gogh, he comes SO close to the answer when they observe that margianalization is the cause of the divisions.

But Kelley never quite gets to the root of the issue.  He accuses the architect of the Dutch Burkha ban of creating a racist policy, but Kelley lets him slide out of the chareg without sticking to his guns.  Its defended by the claim that majority approval makes it democratic … "If it is democratic, how can it be racist?"  And the answer to that is simple … its the singling out of people not because they are violent or extremist or dangerous, but because they wear a head scarf.

Does the Burkha ban include a Sikh turban as well?  How about Hindu ornamentation, or a Christian cross?  If it doesn't, then clear distinction is being made between one religion and others, but no distinction is being made on the basis of any ACTUAL criminal or dangerous activity.  Instead, simple belief in a certain religion is being used as criteria, and Kelley should have cornered him on this.  The reason the plot was uncovered in Canada had NOTHING to do with religion, even though the plot itself involved people who might have had 'religious' intent … the plot was uncovered because some people were doing illegal things, namely, trying to build a bomb among other things.

Ms Alladuk clearly identified the issue when she pointed to economic ghettonization as the cause, but that seemingly gets ignored by everyone.  In France, the riots of earlier this year were called Muslim riots, but they were economic, not religious, and the root cause of immigration backlash like we see in Europe is economic and social, not true security.

The simple fact is, what matters isn't the religion someone believes in.  If someone I employ wears a Burkha to work, it makes absolutely no difference to me, anymore than a cross would.  If I see someone in Muslim dress on the street, there is no logical reason, even in today's world, to fear anything, and the arrests in Canada show that.  They show that by focussing on ACTUAL threats, instead of religious profiling, we arrest terror cells before they build their bombs.

It was an fascinating report … and I think that, ultimately, Mark Kelley got the point across that its Fatima, and the well-spoken Muslim gentlemen in the bar just before her segment, who represent the true Muslim face, and who also seem to have the best handle on whats going on.  If this 'war on terror' forces us to lose the tolerance that makes us who we are, then we have already lost that war.  The issue will always be people who are involved in criminal activities … religion will never have anything to do with that.  I hope we in Canada never forget that.  

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One Response

  1. I just saw the documentary online and stumbled onto your comment afterward. I truly agree that Mark Kelley did get close to the issue, but didn’t really tackle it as directly as he should’ve. When he was talking to the person responsible for suggesting the Burkha ban, he should have pressed the issue of what a true democracy really is. The documentary did make me really think though.

    I guess no matter what you will always have extremism. It doesn’t matter what religion, race, sexuality etc. There will always be people who take things too far and these are the people we should be focusing on. We shouldn’t be racially profiling Muslims just because a few extremists conducted terrorist activities. Being Muslim is only part of a person, but not the whole person.

    What did scare me a bit though is the idea of a “threat” on democratic values.

    Great comment!

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