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Canada vs. Radical Islam: Harper’s Mixed Record

A warning to those who believe that electing a “conservative” government automatically will inspire tougher measures to fight radical Islam: Canadians know from experience that this formula does not always work as planned.

When Canadian voters again rejected the nation’s “natural ruling party” — the Liberals — and handed the Conservatives their second minority government in the fall of 2008, Islamist Watch asked some prominent Canadians how Prime Minister Stephen Harper would tackle creeping Sharia and other manifestations of homegrown radical Islam.

Two years later, it is time to revisit those questions.

In 2008, Ezra Levant, a lifelong Conservative Party supporter, had just emerged as the country’s premier critic of Islamist lawfare, having been hauled before a government tribunal for publishing the infamous “Muhammad cartoons.” Back then, Levant said that he was optimistic about the government’s commitment to battling domestic Muslim belligerence.

Today, he admits that “progress is slower” than he had hoped, but Levant remains encouraged by what he has seen. For example, he lauds the Conservatives’ refusal to bow to international progressive pressure to somehow rescue “child soldier” and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who currently is being held at Guantanamo and just pleaded guilty to murdering an American medic during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.

On the home front, Levant reports that through sharp criticism and even funding cuts, “the government continues to marginalize the worst groups out there, such as the Canadian Islamic Congress” (CIC) — the Islamist body that unsuccessfully attempted to silence Mark Steyn — “and the Canadian Arab Federation,” a peddler of anti-Semitism and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

However, the ruling government faces a continuous uphill battle when instituting even moderate reforms such as those, due in large part to Canada’s particular parliamentary structure.

“The main problem for deep reform remains the minority government,” Levant explains. “For example, a few months ago when there was evidence of niqab-clad women boarding a plane without revealing their faces, the Conservatives called for the matter to be discussed at a parliamentary committee. The [left-leaning] opposition parties, which together have a majority on all committees, blocked that discussion.”

Salim Mansur agrees that any analysis of the Harper government’s successes and failures must take mundane political realities into account. However, the author of Islam’s Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim is not willing to excuse the Conservatives for failing to embrace necessary reforms.

Mansur accuses Harper of holding back on reforms because the prime minister fears alienating Muslim and centrist voters. Yet Mansur is convinced that if the Conservatives were bolder in their opposition to radical Islam, they would gain more overall votes than they would lose.

“It looks to me,” says Mansur, that Harper “wants to win the majority without in any way rousing any controversy over the subject of Islamist jihad that he fears will make him lose centrist votes, hand the opposition a political stick to beat him up with, allow the mainstream media to paint him as a redneck, and drive him out of leadership if he cannot win the next election with a majority. So Harper is playing safe politically and he is betting that this subject will not turn into the make-or-break issue in the next election.”

One of the issues that Mansur says Harper is trying to avoid is immigration reform. It has not escaped the average Canadian’s notice that Omar Khadr’s parents were immigrants, as were members of the Toronto 18 terrorist group and leaders of the lawfare campaigns targeting Levant and Steyn. Stories about Toronto’s “welfare harems” and Quebec’s proposed burqa ban also have been widely reported.

Yet bizarrely, just as voters and even the media have begun openly discussing this “third rail” of Canadian politics, the Conservative Party seems determined to ignore immigration reform. One exception did come late last year, when the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration unveiled a new guidebook for immigrants. At least in theory, all newcomers are required to read Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, which advises them that “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honor killings,’ female genital mutilation, or other gender-based violence.” However, the ministry took some heat for appearing to tone down references to gay rights in the guide, presumably to avoid offending the same constituency being warned about honor killings.

David Harris, the director of the International and Terrorist Intelligence Program for INSIGNIS Strategic Research, seconded the need for immigration reform back in 2008, insisting that “immigration must be brought under immediate control. … Bringing over a quarter of a million people a year into Canada is unconscionable in this threat environment, and it should be no surprise that our few thousand security officials are overworked.”

It seems that Harris’ warnings have gone largely unheeded by the Conservative Party. He now observes, “Unfortunately, events of the last year or two point to a shifting of the Conservative government in favor of the promiscuous immigration approaches that place vote banks first, and safety and security a distant second.”

Harris notes the mixed messages being sent by the Harper government. On the one hand, it has declared that it is distancing itself from groups like the Canadian Islamic Congress. Yet, at the same time, Harris points out, “the executive director of the CIC was a featured speaker at a Department of Foreign Affairs event put together by the Muslim Communities Working Group in 2008. The Working Group is a clearinghouse for all things Muslim, has no equivalent relating to any other religion or ideology, and came into existence early in the Harper government’s tenure.”

When the executive director of the CIC was scheduled to speak at an event in October 2010 — a celebration of “Islamic History Month” at the Department of National Defence (DND) — the outcome was markedly different. Canadian bloggers learned of it and asked why the head of the CIC, Zijad Delic, had been accorded such an honor and why a powerful state agency was granting one religion special recognition. As public pressure mounted, the DND canceled Delic’s speech, but the rest of the Islamic history event went on as scheduled.

More mixed messages were sent, notes Harris, when Immigration Minister Jason Kenney addressed a breakfast meeting of the Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA Canada) in November 2008. Continues Harris, “ISNA Canada is apparently the Canadian arm of the American Islamist organization that was designated an unindicted co-conspirator by the United States Justice Department for the purposes of the Holy Land Foundation trial, a successful U.S. terror-funding prosecution.”

Further, Harris had called on the new Conservative government in 2008 to ensure that radical Muslim groups “are never engaged in ‘outreach’ activity by police and security organizations.” Yet even today, nine years after September 11, says Harris, institutions like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) remain clueless about the groups and individuals that they embrace.

“Earlier in its outreach program,” Harris explains, “the RCMP set up a flurry of roundtables — for adults and youth — and their periodic get-togethers under this rubric have, according to some participants, come to be dominated by Muslim members and concerns. The tendency seems to have been to accept almost anyone as participants, a situation that lends itself to those wishing to gain the imprimatur of a prestige law enforcement organization.”

Harris points out that the RCMP has regularly cited “notoriously inaccurate CAIR-CAN [Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations] studies” for “scare statistics” in their public briefings, which spread the myth that “Islamophobic” hate crimes are on the rise.

“This police blunder was the natural result of welcoming CAIR-CAN operatives into outreach activity,” Harris says. “Not only has little discernibly been done about the situation, but the Conservative government appears to be allowing things to deteriorate.”

Hence, the Young Muslims Canada website boasts of graduating from the Mounties’ “Citizen’s Academy” on one page, then showcases an essay by Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, on another.

When considering this environment of either inexcusable ignorance or cynical pandering by Canada’s elites — even under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper — it is no wonder that Salim Mansur is pessimistic about the future of his adopted country.

“So you see I am fearful of where we are headed,” he explains, “and how badly we need courageous political leadership that can speak to the people without fear about Islamism and the need to push them back now and not when it might be too late. We don’t have that leadership in the West — and we don’t have it in Canada.”

This article was sponsored by Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.