I have this shirt, BTW. And there is a very good reason why I have it…As a Canadian, I am deeply ashamed. I am ashamed of how, for all that we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, when push comes to shove–when people from a culture the rest of us barely understand (if we understand it at all) are mistreated abroad–we, as Canadians, seem all too happy to shrug our shoulders and let it happen–that is, until the mistreated ones are forced to fight back to the point where we are all, collectively, embarrassed. And only then do those with the power to do something about it finally do the right thing. But they tend to do it in a too-little-too-late sort of way. And it’s all because of the culture–or more correctly, cultures–of the mistreated ones.Yes, people, I’m talking here about Canadian Muslims. People with names like Suaad Hagi Mohamud, or Abousfian Abdelrazik, or Maher Arar, or even Omar Khadr. They are all very different from one another, but they all have one thing in common: they are Muslims. Well, actually, they have something else in common, too: They were neglected and/or shat upon by our own government precisely because they are Muslims.Ever since 9-11, it’s been hard to talk about Islam–what it really means, what it doesn’t. It shouldn’t be. There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and how many of them are hardcore, far-right, plane-smashing-into-buildings jihadists? As I recall, it only took 19 of them to pull off the infamous events of that day in 2001, plus a couple of paymasters wiring cash back and forth. And there was not a vast conspiracy of the entire world of Islam behind them, no matter what any scaremongering turd from the punditocracy (or any screeching fruitbat from the blogosphere) says. Out of a billion or more people, only a few hundred or thousand have gone in for terror training; fewer still actually pulled off an attack. A great many one-time terror trainees have chickened out, and some have even informed on their erstwhile comrades. But even these (who far outnumber the actual suicide bombers) are a very small subset. The majority abhor all terroristic behavior, calling it un-Islamic, and rightly so. Most of the world’s Muslims in fact live by the laws of the land, even when those laws are secular, and they have no interest in imposing Sharia on non-believers–through terror or otherwise. Here in Canada, there was widespread misinterpretation of some proposed changes to Ontario’s faith-based divorce arbitration law–changes that would have been inclusive of Muslims, but definitely did not impose “backdoor Sharia”, as the screamers all feared it would. (The point later became moot when the Ontario goverment scrapped the proposal, mainly in response to pressure from all the screamers.)Who was the real terrorist in Ontario’s divorce-arbitration kerfuffle? Surprise: Not the Muslims. It was the screamers. They hijacked the debate with fear, loathing, and ultimately, sabotage. How very civilized, humanistic and Western of them! What a great example to the Muslims of the world…in how NOT to do things. It also must have confirmed every one of their suspicions that we are just as xenophobic and bigoted up here as any redneck south of the 49th Parallel. Not exactly a point of pride for any of us, unless you’re a screamer–in which case you’re chronically oblivious to how much of a shit you look to everyone else. And all this screaming came out of the woodwork after 19 men crashed some jets on a bright September day. Just 19 of them, and what a panic they unleashed. It’s crazy! The truth should be head-thumpingly obvious: The overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But they are all being treated as terrorists by our government, and 9-11 is to blame. The fires of 9-11 have blinded half the world to what the other half is really thinking.It doesn’t help, either, when our government or its agents, in their zeal to root out terror plots, actually end up helping to foment them. They have done it either directly, as in the case of a group of misguided young men who planned a local 9-11, or indirectly, as when they agreed to go along with NATO and fight Unocal’s pipeline wars in Afghanistan (thereby putting us on the shit list of precisely such groups as the one I just mentioned). Whether as entrappers or entrappees, our government just embarrasses the hell out of me whenever it pulls this thoughtless crap.But what embarrasses me most is when our government willfully permits Canadian citizens, who just happen to be Muslim, to be abused abroad. Every one of the four Canadians I mentioned earlier was subjected to maltreatment ranging from unlawful imprisonment to torture. And had they been white Christians, it is very doubtful that they would have gone through any of that. Whatever one thinks of Islam (and I for one am very uncomfortable with the brand subscribed to by Omar Khadr’s bat-shit crazy family, and relieved to know that it is actually very uncommon), one ought to realize that tolerating the imprisonment and torture of others simply because they’re of a different religion is to perpetrate the same form of persecution that you are accusing that religion of doing!And when you start with the persecution of one religion, where does it all end? You’ll notice that on the t-shirt I posted above, there are symbols of not only Islam, but most of the world’s other religions as well. There’s a good reason for that.Shortly after 9-11, the Hindu Samaj Temple in Hamilton, Ontario, was fire-bombed. Apparently the vandals who bombed it mistook it for a Muslim mosque. The fact that Hinduism and Islam have very little in common was no deterrent to the bombers–they saw brownish people in baggy clothing wandering in and out, and since the place looked faintly “exotic” and Eastern, well, what more reason did they need? Any religion that didn’t conform to the Judeo-Christian canon was automatically suspect. A clearer case of panic-driven religious persecution would be hard to find.And Hindus were not the only non-Islamic religious group to suffer. Sikhs also bore the brunt of the hysteria, thanks to the fact that traditionalist Sikh men wear turbans. And Jerry Falwell blamed pagans–uh, that would include little red-haired Wiccan ME–for angering God into “letting” 9-11 happen! I have icons and scriptures of many different religions kicking around my place. So you can kind of see why I’d get touchy enough to buy a shirt like that, eh?And of course, me also being a Bad German, I’m
rather keen on what Pastor Niemöller said. It was true then, and it’s still true now; just substitute “Muslim” for “Jew”. Have we really progressed so little since the Middle Ages that we let this prejudice blind us to the rights of Muslim Canadians? I hope not. But with the way my own government has been acting (or NOT acting) toward them, I think you could forgive me for not holding my head as high as I’d like to (even when I’m wearing my bad-ass shirt). This selective blindness to injustice against Canadians abroad shames us all. And it shames us all as Canadians.PS: Great minds, etc.