Thursday, June 5, 2014

FRED REED: Responce to NCCM's call to renew efforts to combat radicalization

By Fred Reed -- June 5, 2014

Dear NCCM, salam!

It is impossible not to be touched by NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee's cry of anguish following news of the death of another Canadian in a suicide attack in Iraq (June 4, 2014). Links provided by the NCCM statement give access to the stories of several young Canadian Muslims who have died in similar circumstances in Syria, Iraq and Russia. But the NCCM's call to Canadian Muslims to combat the message of violent extremists raises more questions than it answers.

• Would it not be more useful in understanding the actions of a small number of young men to place those actions in context? It can be objectively argued that Canada (and the "West" in general) is pursuing what can be interpreted as a campaign of violent intervention in Muslim-majority countries, either directly as in Canada's "mission" in Afghanistan, or indirectly, through the Canadian government's unconditional support of Israel, its endorsement of the military coup in Egypt that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Morsi, or its inclusion of the Palestinian organization Hamas on the list of "terrorist entities" following the latter's electoral victory in internationally-monitored elections. The crushing of the Spanish Republic in the late 1930's by the forces of General Franco provided motivation for many young Canadians to travel illegally to Spain and take up arms against fascism in that country. Though these young men (and women) fought and died in battle, and suicide bombings and killing of non-combattants were foreign to their experience, their motivations may well have been similar: powerfully emotional, and driven by the personal and ideological imperative to "do something" meaningful with their lives.

• The NCCM statement indirectly raises the question of the role and responsibility of the Canadian security services. It is well-known that there are informants in every mosque. What precisely the function of such informants is remains open to question. Is it possible that, like the FBI in the United States, the security services may be aiding and abetting young men who feel impelled to translate their understanding of religion into violent immediate action, both at home and abroad?

• Do the Canadian government and the Canadian security services consider those who fight the Syrian government with gun in hand, and carry out suicide operations in Syria, to be "terrorists", given Ottawa's declared opposition to the current Damascus government? Or, like the United States and other NATO countries, has Canada countenanced the ideological indoctrination, travel and military involvement of young Canadian Muslims abroad? Likewise, given their penetration of Canada's mosque infrastructure, are the security services totally unaware of the vectors of radicalization and unable to take action against them? Given the history of the RCMP, particularly in Qu├ębec before, during and after the October Crisis of 1970, it would not be surprising to learn that the security services may be more than idle onlookers and may actually function as provocateurs.

• Are young male converts to Islam particularly susceptible to indoctrination by promoters of violence in the name of "Islam"? While no clear pattern seems to emerge, it does appear that a certain kind of susceptibility may predispose young men to accept the apparent certainties offered by "Islam", by means of which they can then suppress their conscience and renounce responsibility for their acts. These acts are presented to them by their shadowy handlers as submission to "God" and their violent death, as it brings death to other innocent people, will be praised and justified as pleasing to "Him." Worse, many of the violent acts catalogued have been inflicted upon other Muslims, whose only "offense" consisted of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or belonging to the "wrong" confession and thus outside of Islam.

• What is the connection between the radicalization process and the message of preachers of violence widely available on internet? What is the doctrinal space created for such individuals within the fold of self-styled "orthodox Islam", with its insistance on viewing Islam and Muslims as overpoweringly positive and all other belief systems as irredeemably negative; on its self-assigned monopoly of Truth, which disqualifies the experiences, aspirations and beliefs of others? What, finally, are the mechanisms that have allowed this version of "Islam" to become the dominant discourse in Canadian mosques?

Abhorrent ideology and heinous acts, indeed! But neither has arisen in a vacuum. They have emerged within the broad context of a hyper-conservative, litteralist interpretation of Islam that has, in our day, transformed the dispensation of Mohammed (PBUH) into the "laughingstock of nations."

Is it too late? How can Canadian Muslims rid their mosques of the culture of blind acceptance and binary reasoning that create such fertile ground for that ideology and those acts?

Insha'Allah the NCCM will launch a broad debate on this very question soon.

Fred Reed is an international journalist and award-winning literary translator. He is also a respected specialist on politics and religion in the Middle East. He resides in Montreal, QC.