In the Globe and Mail Doug Saunders writes about the Great Canadian Debate that took place on February 27, 2014 in Ottawa at the Canadian War Museum between himself and Salim Mansur. Read their opening statements and find out where you stand on the subject of "Muslim immigration is no threat to Canada or the West"


The Debate

Are immigrants from Muslim-majority countries bringing violence and incompatible values to Canada and other Western countries, or are they following the same integration patterns as earlier waves of religious-minority immigrants?

That question was at the centre of this debate organized by the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute. It took at its starting point the book The Myth of the Muslim Tide by Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders, which uses research and historical data to examine claims made by opponents of Muslim immigration, and pitted them against one of the most outspoken of those opponents, University of Western Ontario professor Salim Mansur, author of the books Islam's Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim and Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism. The debate was presented before a live audience in Ottawa.

The debate's resolution: "Muslim immigration is no threat to Canada or the West." Mr. Saunders is arguing for it, Mr. Mansur against. Here are their opening statements.


Doug Saunders International affairs columnist, The Globe and Mail -View Bio
Muslims are no different from other religious-minority immigrants

Salim Mansur Associate professor of political science, University of Western Ontario - View Bio

Islam is toxic and immigration poses a serious danger to the West


Debate contributor
Muslim immigration is no threat to Canada or the West

Doug Saunders:

Some have argued that this debate should not be taking place – that its resolution is, by definition, racist or bigoted. And they have a point: a few decades ago, you would have heard exactly the same arguments about Jews and Catholics – that this group's religion is actually an ideology of conquest, that extremism and violence are rooted in their community, that their population growth is out of control.

But I feel this debate is necessary. First, because I believe the way to confront these claims is through free and open debate. Second, because I do not believe that most people who have worries about the immigration of religious minorities are bigots or racists. Their worries are best taken seriously, and met with facts.

What would a Muslim-immigrant threat to Canada and the West look like?

On one hand, it could mean that we face a large population whose core values are incompatible with ours. Or it could mean "threat" in a much simpler sense: A greater likelihood of violent attacks by extremists and terrorists.

Let's examine this second threat first. Does immigration cause extremism?

The British intelligence agency MI5 studied several hundred people who were known extremists or terrorists to determine what factors caused them to take up violence. It found that almost none were immigrants – most were either converts or second-generation, native born children of largely non-religious immigrants. It found that very few of them lived in Muslim-majority neighbourhoods; they tended to be middle-class, reasonably well educated loners, often with a criminal record.

Second, it found that they tended not to be very religious at all. "Far from being Islamic fundamentalists," the spy agency reported, "most are religious novices." Very few were raised in strongly religious households – in fact, MI5 concluded "there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization."

What turned them into extremists? Personal trauma, crime, prison experience, and, above all else, political convictions.

This very large study didn't surprise anyone, because it repeated almost exactly the findings of several other large-scale studies of extremists and terrorists by the organizations Demos and Reuters, by the scholars Marc Sageman and John Horgan in the United States and Edwin Bakker in the Netherlands – that terrorists and extremists do not come from religious communities, they do not come from poverty, they are rarely immigrants.

It isn't immigration of Muslims that carries extremist ideas over here. Jihadist terrorism is a violent political movement, based on territorial claims and religious separatism – a 'clash of civilizations' belief based on political extremism, not religious faith. Islam does not draw people into extremism; rather, political extremism draws its members into Islam. Eliminating Muslim immigration wouldn't eliminate Islamic extremism from the West or even reduce it significantly.

Let's turn to the other perceived threat posed by Muslim immigrants –that they carry with them values that are contrary to the liberal values of the West; that they are perpetually and permanently opposed to equal rights for women and homosexuals, to the rule of law, to the secular state.

Some people believe this could be happen by population growth – in which Muslims simply become a majority in a population and swamp the rest of us.

It is, under existing population-growth trends, simply impossible for Muslims to become a majority, or even a significant plurality, in any Western country.

Muslims have the fastest-falling fertility rates in the world. Iran, for example has gone from seven children per family in the 1980s to 1.7 now, fewer than France; similar sub-replacement numbers are now found in Turkey, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

When Muslims emigrate to the West, their birth rates fall even faster. Yes, new immigrants have larger numbers of children. But their Western-born children generally have sharply fewer, and the next generation appears to converge with the general population. Muslim populations will peak at below 10 per cent in most Western European countries and Canada, and below 5 per cent in the United States – and this is assuming that all children of Muslims remain religious.

And that leads us to the other popular scenario, in which Muslims, as a minority, are able to influence the West into becoming less liberal and tolerant , into imposing religious law, because they dislike Western values and are determined to change them.

This narrative is built on a basic fallacy: Why would any family endure the trouble and expense of immigrating to a faraway country because they hate its ways? People generally immigrate to places whose values and institutions they find agreeable.

And the figures confirm this. In Canada, where 91 per cent of Muslims are foreign born and therefore new to its culture, Environics found that 94 per cent of them are "proud to be Canadian" and that 81 per cent are "satisfied with the way things are going in Canada" -- compared to only 61 per cent of non-Muslim Canadians. Their largest source of pride, by a huge margin, is "Canada's freedom and democracy." Similar results were found in Britain – there, 83 per cent of Muslims said they are "proud to be a British citizen" while only 79 per cent of non-Muslim Britons did.

There is a perception that some more deprived Muslim communities are deliberately importing foreign, illiberal values into the West. Yet the reality on the ground is dramatically different.

In Canada, where Pakistanis are the largest Muslim group, only 10 per cent of Muslims say they are "very worried" about women taking on modern roles – almost the opposite of views in Pakistan, and a number that's falling.

In Germany, where most Muslims are descendants of rural-born Turks, 47 per cent say they find homosexuality morally acceptable – somewhat below the national average, but more than double the rate in Turkey, where only 22 per cent tolerate homosexuality. Similar figures are found across the Western world.

These examples don't sound like foreign, illiberal values being imported into the West. In fact, they sound like the exact opposite.

What we are left to contemplate is a group of new immigrants who are settling into the social, political and reproductive patterns of their new homes in much the same way as previous, even larger and less prosperous groups of religious-minority immigrants once did. Like their predecessors, they may face difficulties and setbacks, but they are no threat to the West.

Debate contributor
Muslim immigration is a clear and present danger to the West

Salim Mansur:

Yes, Canadians' mistaken notion that all cultures are equal has disarmed this nation in the confrontation with the illiberal demands of radical Islam.

In opposing the motion, I am drawing upon – as an immigrant, as a person of colour and as a Muslim – my inside knowledge of and lived experience in the cultures of both liberal democracy and Islam.

I believe our views about the world should be based primarily upon verifiable facts and reasoning, and not wishful thinking. An objective analysis of the post-Sept. 11 political reality led me to view Muslim immigration as a "clear and present danger" to the West. What Canada confronts can be stated somewhat axiomatically as follows: a liberal-democratic society based on individual rights, freedom, and the rule of law cannot indefinitely accommodate non-liberal or illiberal demands from immigrant groups without subverting its own culture.

I will limit myself here to three factors I consider fundamental as to why Muslim immigration is a threat. These are: rising numbers of Muslim immigrants, the prevalent contemporary Muslim culture, and Canada's official multiculturalism.

Numbers are hugely significant in assessing our world. A substantive change in numbers – whether it is in assessing population growth of a species or the state of an economy – will invariably affect any phenomenon.

Canada's population changed dramatically during the past half-century due to open immigration. It was predominantly European in origin until around 1967. Fifty years later Canada's urban centres look much different. Nearly half of Toronto's population is foreign-born, and given the pattern of immigration during these years most of the foreign-born are non-European. This pattern is being closely duplicated in Vancouver and Montreal. In this snapshot of demographic change looms large the growth in numbers of Muslim immigrants.

According to Statistics Canada's recent (2010) projections, the foreign-born population is growing four times faster than the rest of the population. The Muslim component of this phenomenon will triple in numbers from about 2.7 per cent of the total population in 2006 to around 7.3 per cent and more within the next decade and a half. The factors enabling this are a combination of higher fertility and the composition of immigrant populations.

And such an increase in numbers is not merely quantitative, it will have a qualitative impact on Canadian society. Europe is already reeling under such an influx in numbers of Muslims. The growth in Muslim population will bring increased pressure for accommodation of Muslim cultural demands framed as religiously prescribed.

Islam is as much a culture as it is a religion. About the time when the West began to experience its profound cultural reformation from pre-modern to modern, Islam culturally began to lose its plasticity and its adaptability to other cultural influences. It became increasingly a closed system. Islamic culture was once a creative force for civilization. In losing its dynamism Islam turned stagnant, regressed, became colonizable and, as at present, life-denying.

The toxin or corrosive element at the core of Islam's decay is the Bedouin phenomenon. Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century described the Bedouin phenomenon as savagery and the Bedouin's natural disposition, Ibn Khaldun warned, was to negate civilization.

Bedouins were originally nomadic people of the Arabian desert, and their disposition eventually "Bedouin-ized" Islamic culture. Once the Ottoman Empire disintegrated at the end of the First World War, Bedouins emerged as the most politically potent element within Islam as a result of petrodollars. The full face of this Bedouin-ized Islamic culture that has wrecked the diversity of the Muslim world from within is to be seen in the bigotry, violence, vulgarity and misogyny of al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Khomeini followers. It is the nature of mainstream contemporary Muslim politics – or Islamism – to conform to the Bedouin disposition. It is bearing this disposition, and not renouncing it, that most Muslim immigrants arrive in Canada from across the Muslim world.

In Canada, as in the West in general, most mosques are citadels of Bedouin-ized Islam, which is intractably opposed to liberal democracy, and makes little effort in disguising its aim of suborning and ruining from within what has distinguished Canada and the West culturally from the rest of the world.

The core tenet of official multiculturalism proclaims that all cultures are equal, and hence deserve equal respect. This is blatantly false. Yet in having swallowed the toxin of official multiculturalism, Canada has disarmed itself of the ability to discriminate between immigrant groups which are importing cultural baggage that is harmless, and those that are toxic to the values of liberal democracy. The tolerance of Bedouin-ized Islam, and the readiness to accommodate it despite its demonstrated hostility against the West, discloses the lethal flaw of official multiculturalism and how it paradoxically contributes in weakening the integrity of liberal democracy.

The goal of Bedouin-ized Islam is in making Canada's culture Shariah-compliant. As the Muslim population increases, the pressure for realizing this objective continues to grow. Since official multiculturalism effectively prohibits Canada from repudiating this goal, it follows that Canadians will need to decide at some point in the future whether they prefer their country as Shariah-compliant multicultural society or liberal democracy. The two are mutually incompatible. And this is why Muslim immigration to Canada is a threat that must be addressed with an urgency equal to the peril.

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