I've got a few bones to pick with some statements in this article, in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accused of racist motives for not trying really, really hard to get Omar Khadr freed from Guantanamo Bay, returned to Canada, and (I'm speculating a bit here) given a job teaching Canadian Studies.
Let's start with a quote from the article and let the nitwittery speak for itself:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is indifferent to Omar Khadr's plight because the Guantanamo Bay prisoner is ``brown-skinned" and a Muslim, the leader of one of Canada's largest Islamic groups said Monday.
Harper's resistance to calls to repatriate the Canadian citizen shows he is pandering to Islamophobes, said Canadian Islamic Congress president Mohamed Elmasry.
"In this case, Mr. Harper is playing politics because of the backdrop of Islamophobia in this country," Elmasry said.
"This is where a leader comes in, to say this is really wrong and I have to correct that wrong by bringing this person (back to Canada) even if I lose some political points with Islamophobes."
[Snip some more of the same, then....]
Elmasry contrasts Khadr's case with that of dual Canadian-British citizen William Sampson, who was freed from a death sentence in Saudi Arabia in 2003.
Prior to his release, Ottawa had said it had made pleas on Sampson's behalf to the highest levels of Saudi government.
"Why is Stephen Harper so callously indifferent to Omar Khadr's case?" Elmasry wrote.
"It's painfully obvious: William Sampson is a white Westerner while his fellow Canadian citizen, Omar Khadr, is brown-skinned and a Muslim."
Ahhh, where to begin.
First up, let's take on the opening charge: that Harper's "indifference" to Khadr's "plight" is because Khadr doesn't look like a member of the Osmond family.
Does anyone with half a brain even need it explained that this is nonsense? Omar Khadr was not imprisoned for his melanin level. He was imprisoned because he was on the battlefield in a foreign nation, fighting against the troops of Canada and her allies. That is not in dispute. He committed a clear act of treason, and should count himself lucky that he wasn't killed in battle or shot down like a dog after playing possum then throwing a grenade at medics who were trying to help him and his friends. Whoops, I forgot - the reader should mentally insert an "allegedly" somewhere in that last phrase.
Mr. Elmasry knows full well that Omar Khadr is not in prison because of the colour of his skin. He is being treated the same as anyone of any complexion would be in the same situation. However, that's not good enough for Mr. Elmasry. He wants the Prime Minister to intervene because of Omar's skin colour. He wants Omar treated differently because of his ethnicity, which is not at all relevant to the matter. Just to refresh everyone's memory, this means that Mr. Elmasry's entire argument is racist.
Mr. Elmasry then accuses Mr. Harper of pandering to "Islamophobes", thereby labelling presumably large numbers of Canadians as such. Since the gauntlet has been thrown, let's talk about "Islamophobia". This will be fun.
A phobia is defined as an irrational fear. I won't bother linking to any of the (one quick Google check later) million-plus websites confirming that definition. Two words: irrational, and fear. They both matter. Let's look at each of them, in reverse order, shall we?
Most Canadians do not fear individual Muslims. They may be intrigued or frankly puzzled by their beliefs, which the majority do not share, but only on taxpayer-funded CBC sitcoms do normal Canadians generally react to Muslims as though they're radioactive. They may mistrust Muslims - more about that shortly - but mistrust and fear and not necessarily the same thing. You may have noticed that they're two entirely different words. That's not an accident.
(This is the tip of the iceberg for me on this subject - if I ever write about "homophobia", we're in for a lot more fun.)
However, it must be admitted that there is some fear - not so much of individual Muslims as of Muslim ideology.
This leads me down another path.
Islam is not just a religion. (Though I am sorely tempted to remove the fourth word from that sentence, that would make it inaccurate.) It is an all-encompassing ideology, comprising religious, social, and political systems. Given that Islam is a political system as much as a religion, being opposed to is no more religious discrimination than opposition to communism, libertarianism, or paleoconservativism would be. Free but politically correct citizens of the world rejoice: you can criticize Islam without being a religious bigot!
Second - we're into pet peeve time here - even if you move from opposition to Islamic ideology to having issues with its adherents, that is not racism. Lots of people disagree, explicitly claiming that opposition to Islam is by definition racism. They're being silly when they do so, failing a basic logic test. Say it with me, kids: Islam is not a race. Opposition to it therefore cannot be "racism". Specific words matter. That's why we have so many of them.
Now let's look at the other word from the definition of a phobia: Irrational.
Is fear of Islam (or mistrust, or even active opposition) irrational? I would say no, for several reasons.
First up, as already discussed, Islam is more than a religion. Whereas it is a complete ideology, I can oppose it - and I do - just as I oppose totalitarianism. I wonder whether the ancestors of modern leftists were critical of European Jews in the 1930s, calling them Naziphobes for expressing reservations about Hitler. "What do you mean, you don't want to get in the oven? What are you, some kind of anti-Aryan bigot?"
Second, Islam teaches that it is superior to all other belief systems. I disagree with that, but as long as it remains a theological belief I don't care about it. Christianity does the same thing. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He didn't add, "Oh, or by being a really nice person. And God's cool with Buddhists, too, so they're in."
So, Christianity teaches that it is superior to all other religions in that it's the only one (by its own teaching) that allows access to God (i.e., entrance into Heaven) for its followers. I expect that most religions have a similar "it's our way or the Hell-way" teaching somewhere along the line. In fact, a religion that openly said, "Hey, come with us, or not, it doesn't matter" while simultaneously putting any constraints (moral standards, etc.) whatsoever on adherents wouldn't have many followers. It would have even fewer who were capable of rational decision-making.
This is all fine. As long as the debate remains theological, I don't care whether followers of other faiths think I'm headed for Hell. My faith teaches otherwise, and so I disagree with them. The feeling is mutual, I'm sure. As long as we can all peaceably disagree, which can even include some vigorous discussion and debate, then there's no problem.
Where we have a problem is when a religion teaches that because these other people are theologically incorrect, you have the right to mistreat them in this life; that they are somehow less valuable than yourself because of their beliefs. It is shameful that Christianity has been used this way at different times throughout history, but it is certainly not the general situation today.
Sidebar on religious oppression: there have been times when overzealous professing Christians have done terrible things in attempts to convert nonbelievers. Coercion of various sorts, including torture and murder, have been used to try to make nonbelievers accept Christ. This makes no sense whatsoever. First of all, Christ cannot be forced on anyone. It is supremely unloving, and therefore un-Christlike, to even attempt to do so. Although Islam proudly spreads itself at swordpoint, it is both immoral and logically impossible for Christianity to even attempt to do so.
Second, I don't get the logic in threatening to kill someone - or even going through with it - if they refuse to proclaim faith in Christ. The Christian duty to witness is all about trying to tell people about their need for Christ before they die. My very Protestant position is that this short lifetime is the only chance you have to make that choice. No purgatory, no indulgences, no second chances. I acknowledge that I may be wrong about this, but the logic of Pascal's Wager makes it unwise to take that chance.
That being the case, why on Earth would any Christian risk killing someone who didn't believe in Jesus, thereby condemning them to Hell by their own actions? If someone isn't a believer, then Christians have a duty to protect and preserve their life as long as possible, in hopes that they'll convert before their death. (This, incidentally, is a good theological reason to oppose the death penalty, although Scripturally based counterarguments are certainly still possible.) Attempts at violently coercive proselytizing make no sense whatsoever.
Islam, quite contrary to Christianity, openly teaches that non-Muslims are inferior and can be mistreated with impunity. Their existence is to be tolerated only if they submit to Dhimmitude, a subservient status. Infidels are to be constantly reminded of their inferiority, so that they "feel themselves subdued" (Sura 9:29). Not trusting people who cling to this ideology, who profess a belief system that says they want you subjugated, is not irrational. It is, on the other hand, perfectly rational and possibly the only sane position to take.
The classic retort at this point is that not all Muslims adhere to that teaching, just like not all Catholics go along with the Vatican's position on birth control. My answer to that is simple: the sincere ones do (in both cases).
Then we get to the "moderate Muslims" (Cafeteria Muslims?). They will protest that they don't believe in Dhimmitude, don't want Sharia law, and generally just want to get along peacefully in society. Most of them are probably telling the truth. However, some of those making such claims are practicing Taqiyya, an Islamic doctrine that says it's permissible to lie to infidels (that means me, and probably you) as long as it serves Islam. Lulling the gullible into a false sense of security is a textbook example.
Furthermore, when a mullah (Islamic clergyman - I don't know and frankly don't care whether the title should be capitalized) in a modern (i.e., non-Muslim) nation gets caught red-handed preaching hatred and promoting violence, all these supposed peace-loving moderates are nowhere to be found. The wagons get circled to some degree, but for the most part their only response is the sound of crickets chirping.
I can assure you that if my pastor ever got up on Sunday morning and preached that we should subjugate non-Christians, it would be dealt with swiftly and severely by our congregation. He'd find himself at the unemployment office on Monday morning, but have a hard time finding any work due to the cloud of negative publicity we would raise. He'd certainly never again be invited to the pulpit of another church in our denomination.
Something similar would happen if a clique within the church started that kind of talk (not everything bad - or good - within a congregation begins with the pastor). If violence were advocated by anyone for any reason, the authorities would be alerted immediately, and everything possible would be done to stop the trouble before it started. When these mythical moderate Muslims start acting like this, rooting out and reporting the terrorists in their midst, then maybe they can gain some credibility in the grown-up world.
Actually, there would be no need for anyone to infiltrate or spy on my church to find out what's going on. Our services are recorded, and frequently broadcast live over the radio. The recordings are freely available to anyone who wants them, church members or not. We have no secret agenda. When all you want really is to proclaim the Gospel and love your neighbours, whether they share your creed or not, then there's no need for secrecy, silence, or wagon-circling.
It's been said that you only have reason to fear a Christian when he does not follow the teachings of his faith, but reason to fear a Muslim when he does. That pretty much sums up the situation. Fortunately, I think that most Muslims are as weak and nominal in their faith as most Christians are in theirs.
So, to summarize: Mr. Elmasry is being racist, dishonest, and very, very silly. It's probably best to ignore him; I've obviously chosen mocking, which comes in second.
As for Khadr himself, I love that a video of his interrogation, which was edited and released by his defense attorneys in hopes of generating public sympathy, was met with a resounding yawn by the Canadian public. Furthermore, of the minority that did report changing their opinion of his case based on the video, some actually feel less sympathy for him now than they did before seeing the video. Imagine if his defense attorneys hadn't edited out the parts where he calmly states that he continues to support jihad against the west.
I went though something similar a while back, when Rolling Stone ran an attempted tearjerker piece about Khadr, trying to make it sound like those awful Republicans abducted an innocent kid on spring break. By the end of the article, I was convinced that Khadr needs to be kept locked up forever in the interest of public safety. Frankly, how he got to be this way (his parents probably qualify as monsters for what they did to him as a child) is less important than the fact that he's now a very small step above being a rabid animal.
Can he be rehabilitated? Yes. I believe that anyone can be rehabilitated from any situation. However, I also believe that it's very unlikely, and there's only one realistic shot at doing so. Even if he were willing to try it (which is doubtful at best), political correctness would prevent the authorities from offering it to him. (Hint: it's Jesus.)
A great editorial about Khadr appeared in Canadian papers this week. The title says it all (even though the rest is pretty entertaining to read too): Keep Khadr Where He Is. Whoever wrote it better be careful. If word gets out that they have common sense (at least on this issue), their journalism career could be over.
Finally, just in case my overall position on Islam isn't clear: Islam is a demonic false religion, fabricated by a murdering pedophile. There's nothing irrational about realizing that.
Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son beginning to doubt that his horse is alive.