Ottawa Citizen's Robert Sibley covers the Great Canadian Debate on "Muslim immigration is no threat to Canada or the West" from the perspective of a private citizen. In his blog article entitled "Great Debate - Mansur versus Saunders on Muslim immigration" he describes the debate in great detail. If you missed the CPAC airing of the debate, you can watch it on their website.
BY ROBERT SIBLEY, OTTAWA CITIZEN MARCH 1, 2014
The most telling thing about the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's debate on Thursday evening was not the topic – Muslim immigration – but that it took place at all.
In a country where journalists are persecuted by human rights commissions for uttering politically incorrect commentary, when ethnic groups slap the "racist" label on those who hurt their feelings, and politicians are too cowardly to even discuss immigration policies lest they lose a vote, the fact that a prominent organization like the Macdonald-Laurier Institute would stage such an event is noteworthy. The Institute's managing director, Brian Lee Crowley, and his staff are to be applauded for making the issue of Muslim immigration a topic in their Great Canadian Debates series.
About 200 people – off various ethnic persuasions, including Muslim, as far as I could tell – turned out at the Canadian War Museum for the debate between Doug Saunders, a Globe & Mail columnist and author, and Salim Mansur, an associate professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario. Their exchange dealt with the resolution of "Muslim immigration is no threat to Canada or the West." Saunders, a British-born Canadian, argued in favour of the resolution, while Mansur, a Calcutta-born Muslim, argued against.
(Those unable to attend – or unwilling to appear in public when a controversial topic like Muslim immigration is on the agenda – can watch it on CPAC on Saturday at 10 a.m. and on Sunday at 5 p.m.)
Who actually "won" the debate is, of course, a matter of debate. Unfortunately, unlike previous debates, there was no audience vote at the end to provide a judgment. That said, most of those I spoke to afterwards gave the nod to Mansur. Perhaps not surprisingly, for anyone who has read some of my musings, I did, too. (Full disclosure: I attended as a private citizen; I was not covering the event for theCitizen.)
I "voted" for Mansur not only because I generally agree with his views, but also because, in my view, Saunders was unable to acknowledge the potential ripple effects or long-term consequences of Muslim immigration, particularly from countries whose cultures inculcate fundamentalist Islamic values.
To his credit, Saunders repudiated the commonplace canard that anyone who has concerns about Muslim immigration is a racist. It is, he said, quite reasonable to be concerned about possible religious influences on our civic life. "There are some people out there saying we should not have this debate, that simply acknowledging the question of Muslim immigration is by definition racist and disrespectful. I disagree with those people who say we should not have a debate on this topic …. The people who raise questions about things like Muslim immigration are not bigots or intolerant people." Rather, they are people asking questions of concern in good faith regarding society's values.
In that light, we need to confront such issues of public concern, whether warranted or not, if only to repudiate them, he said. Accordingly, Saunders set out to do just that.
Saunders maintained that the way Muslim immigrants are sometimes viewed is no different from the way that, say, Jewish immigrants were seen in mid-20th century Canada. Debates about Muslim immigration nowadays are little more than a repetition of similar knee-jerk fears about earlier immigrant groups – Catholics, Jews, etc. – who came to Canada in the past.
Citing a variety of studies, including those by western intelligence agencies, he dismissed the notion that large-scale immigration from Muslim countries spurs terrorism. One study by Britain's MI-5, he said, found there was little reason to blame immigrants for the terrorist attacks carried out in western countries in recent years – the 2007 London subway bombing, for example. As well, other studies suggest that well-established religious communities are not a source of political violence. Instead, most of those who've taken up terrorism – for example, the killing last year of the British soldier Lee Rigby – were committed by either converts to Islam or the second-generation offspring of immigrants. And of those few, if any, possessed a particularly religious background, although they may use religion as justification for their actions.
"There is evidence that well-established religious identity actually protects against radicalization," Saunder argued.
Trauma, crime and personal experiences, especially political experience, lures people into terrorism. "Terrorism and extremism do not come from religious communities, (and) they do not come from poverty," Saunders asserted. "And they are almost never immigrants … (So) let's not pretend that it (terrorism) has anything to do with the mass of immigrants from Muslim countries.
"Eliminating Muslim immigration would not eliminate terrorism," he said, noting that the 2001 attacks on the United States weren't carried out by immigrants.
Saunders also dismissed the they-will-swamp-us notion, arguing that Canada's liberal democratic values are safe because Muslims will never form a majority. Birth rates in the Muslim world are dropping dramatically, and when Muslims emigrate to the West those birth rates fall even faster. Even assuming significant levels of Muslim immigration continue, their numbers are likely to peak at six per cent of Canada's population, and those kind of numbers present no threat to Canadian values.
Besides, the vast majority of Muslims in Canada – 81 per cent – are satisfied with the way things are in the country and have no inclination to promote even shari'ahlaw, he said, citing surveys. Indeed, 94 per cent are "proud to be Canadian" and happy to enjoy the country's traditions of individual freedom and democracy. Instead of threatening Canadian values, most Muslim immigrants are willingly adopting them. Given this, Saunders concluded, Canadians need not fear that Muslims will form "parallel societies" alien those values.
Certainly, there are problems among Muslims living in the West – the Pakistani community in northern England and Moroccans in Austria, for instance – but the idea that Muslim immigration poses a threat to the West has, in Saunders' words, "proven over and over again to be mythical."
In this regard, he asked rhetorically, are we to believe that a group of impoverished, unemployed or marginalized people are an "existential threat" to the West, that such people "possess the political influence to transform a nation's long-held political values?"
For his part, Mansur characterized Saunders' argument as naïve, describing his views as those of a "tourist" who is unable to penetrate beneath the surface of Muslim culture. While it may be true that first generation Muslim immigrants tend not to indulge in terrorism, it is increasingly evident that some second and even third generation Muslims are only too willing to do so, as recently demonstrated young men from Canada who've gone overseas to join the international jihad in places like Syria and Algeria.
This highlights the real concern with Muslim immigration that Saunders sidesteps, according to Mansur. Citing a recent survey, he noted that Muslims currently comprise about 2.7 per cent of Canada's population – or about 940,000 people – but that number is expected to jump to 2.7 million – or about seven per cent — within a decade or so. He also referred to a survey from a few years ago that found about four per cent of Muslims in Canada – say, 100,000 – willingly identify with extremists and jihadists, justifying violence in the name of Islam. This number can only increase as the Muslim population increases, and that, Mansur suggested, makes for a lot of potential terrorists within Canada.
European countries are already reeling under pressure of Muslim immigration, Mansur observed, with some seemingly willing to accommodate Muslim cultural values and practices even if they offend the hard-won secular traditions of those countries. Canadians cannot realistically assume they won't face the same pressures as Canada's Muslim population grows. "The growth in Muslim population will bring increased pressure for accommodation of Muslim demands (including those) religiously prescribed."
Certainly, many Muslim immigrants will come here to escape the oppression that has taken hold in parts of the Muslim world, where, according to Mansur, the diversity that once characterized the faith was gradually lost after Saudi Arabia began spending billions of petro-dollars to promote its wahhabist traditions with its demands for jihad and shari'ah compliance. Nonetheless, given current levels of immigration, a significant number will come to Canada with distinctly hostile views of the West.
At one point Saunders suggested that if Canadians buy into the Islam-as-threat-to-the-West argument, it is perhaps because they have little faith in the ability of Western institutions to defend themselves against this threat. And if that's the case, if they think Western society is so decrepit that a "small group can knock it all down," why bother to defend it?
Mansur dismissed that rhetoric as a straw man argument that misses the point of the issue: Saunders failed to consider that this may not be the case in the future as Muslims make up a larger portion of the country's population. "An increase in (population) numbers is not merely quantitative; it will have a qualitative impact on Canadian society," he said, arguing that "numbers" cannot help but affect whether the values Canadians now think of a sacrosanct – individual rights, the rule of law, free speech, secular authority – are challenged.
Indeed, if a sufficient number of Muslims want shari'ah they may well be able to use the democratic process to achieve that end, Mansur said, noting how former Ontario attorney general Marion Boyd urged premier Dalton McGuinty in 2004 to allowshari'ah to apply in family law and inheritance matters.
This remains a goal for fundamentalist Muslims, Mansur suggested. And therein lies the threat to Western societies. "A liberal democratic society based on individual rights, freedom and the rule of law cannot long accommodate illiberal demands from immigrant groups without subverting its own culture."
As for Saunders' argument that Muslim immigration is no different from that of previous immigrant groups, Mansur was categorical: "No other immigrant group … has settled in Canada with the mindset predisposed on a cultural and religious basis to view the politics and culture of the host society negatively." Among that group is a "sufficiently large number" seeking to create a parallel society within Canada where shari'ah law takes precedence over existing legal and social practices.
Behind this campaign, Mansur argued, is the historical reality of Islam never having experienced the kind the "reformation" that Christianity did 500 years ago, a reformation that established the principle of the separation of church and state and, thereby, detached religion from politics. Islamic culture was once a creative and dynamic force in the world, but during the eighth to 10th centuries it became increasingly regressive and stagnant as the theologians gained dominance, destroying a civilization that "once merited respect."
The theologians continue to loom over Islam like a dark shadow, ensuring that it remains mired in a pre-modern worldview, according to Mansur. Islamism, he suggested, reflects the efforts by unmodern people to maintain the faith in a premodern condition where women and non-Muslims are subordinate to Muslim men. Such a mindset has resulted in Islam becoming an "imploding civilization" and "an incubator of sectarian violence."
Mansur offered his own "lived experience" as an example of what he'd described. "I come to you from within the wreckage of the world of Islam," he said, explaining how he and his family fled to Canada in the 1970s to escape Islamist fanaticism. And therein resides Mansur's warning to Canadians. It "defies logic," he said, that Canada can remain open in the post 9/11 era to immigration from the Muslim world when so many of those immigrants draw their worldview from a culture with a deep-seated hostility toward the West.
Mansur pointed out that the long-term subversion of the West is the mandate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization not only of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the United States, but also CAIR's Canadian subsidiary, CAIR-CAN (which now prefers to call itself the National Council of Canadian Muslims). The Muslim Brotherhood "sees immigration as a process of settlement in its strategy of subverting Western civilization from within," he said
(As side note, courtesy of Point de Bascule, a jihad-watch group with a reputation for thorough research: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was founded in 1994 by three leaders of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), a Hamas front in the United States at the time.
According to its charter (article 2), Hamas is the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. In recent years (2008 – 2011 – 2012), its leaders have confirmed that the destruction of Israel is only a part of its program that aims at imposing Islam to the whole planet. In 2011, for example, Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said on TV that Western civilization "will not be able to withstand the great and glorious Islam."
IAP appears in an annex of a 1991 Muslim Brotherhood's internalmemorandum listing the organizations associated with the Brotherhood in the United States. It is #22 on the list.
This memorandum was seized by police and produced for evidentiary purposes in two Holy Land Foundation trials that took place in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008. These trials led to the convictions of all leaders accused of terrorism financing.
At point 4 of the memorandum, the goal pursued by IAP and the other organizations belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood network in North America is described in no uncertain terms:
"The Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions … It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes.")
In Mansur's view, the Islamists think long-term in much the same way as the communists did following the Russian Revolution in the early 1900s. What Canadians are seeing now, he concluded, is "the drip, by drip, by drip" effort to erode the liberal democratic traditions of western countries by means, in part, of mass immigration.
Here endeth the debate, or at least my distilled version of it. To hear the non-distilled version – and to decide the "winner" for yourself – I remind readers of the CPAC broadcasts this weekend. As well, those who wish to pursue the discussion further might pick up Saunders' book, The Myth of the Muslim Tide, and Mansur's book, Delectable Lie: A liberal repudiation of multiculturalism.
You might also dip into Mansur's 2012 testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration Mansur fled Pakistan where he calls for curbs of Muslim immigration from certain Islamic countries. If you attend to the politicians' questions – or, rather, their duck-and-dive response to Mansur's statement – you can see an example of elite avoidance.