Right here in Canada, even Conservative analysts are having serious doubts as to whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper has crossed the line in his most recent anti-Muslim tirades.
Is he genuinely being an extremist in his intolerance of Islam, Muslims and what he sees as Muslim culture? Or is he being simply an opportunist by pursuing the anti-Muslim vote in Quebec with such vehemence that he has lost the rational balance expected of him as the prime minister of all Canadians, not just non-Muslims?
Looking at those questions in the context of Bill 51, one wonders about the ethics and the legality of his war in Canada against jihadis, potential jihadis and supposedly un-Canadian women who choose to wear the veil.
On the one hand, his opponents are presenting this bill as a perfect, or rather a dangerous (“pernicious”) example of overkill, of the politrics of fear, and of the evils of xenophobic distrust and cultural intolerance. On the other hand, some analysts are wondering why he is so determined as to reject such compromises as stronger civilian oversight for CSIS and / or the alternative of a joint (multi-party) oversight parliamentary committee.
Surely, such compromises could go a long way in reassuring everyone who is concerned that the bill may result in the violation of Charter rights and the invasion of privacy. Surely, if only as a show of good faith, our prime minister and his government can demonstrate some regard for the importance Canadians attach to their freedom of opinion, movement and expression, not to mention their freedom to protest in a peaceful manner.
Those same principles of reasonable balance and consideration of all the options and all the possible implications in one’s decision-making also apply in the analysis of Harper’s strategy for fighting international “jihadi terrorism”.
Why is the PM disregarding the three basic political and military risk factors in his decision to participate aggressively in the “international war on terrorism”: do not go in without clearly defined objectives and a clearly defined exit strategy; air power cannot win the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as troops on the ground are also needed, bearing in mind that even with both air and ground forces victory cannot be guaranteed; and, military intervention and regime change in the Middle East can easily create a political power vacuum that is as disastrous and counter-productive as the problems they are intended to solve.
Therefore, the question is why does Harper insist on dismissing a policy of containment, both in Canada and the Middle East, as opposed to the dubious objective of killing and over-killing the “enemy”? In the same way that no government can ever hope to eliminate crime completely within its own territory, no military force or alliance of forces can ever hope to completely eliminate “terrorism”/ extremism from the face of the Earth.
Why is the Harper government prepared to define terrorism and Islam in a campaign that misrepresents, discredits, abases and disrespects an entire community (Muslims) within their own country (Canada), for political gain?
Is it also possible there is more than political gain involved in that campaign? Is it at all possible, Heaven forbid, that some leading lights in the Harper government actually believe that Muslims are inferior and that Muslim values and culture are inferior to and inconsistent with Canadian values?
Who is defining whom and who is claiming the right to define Canadian values in their own narrow and discriminatory image and likeness?
Before and when you go to the ballot box this year, you be the judge!
The difference between extremism and insanity is just as important in how Canada manages its internal affairs and its foreign policy as it is in how the countries in the Middle East manage theirs.