Thursday, June 15, 2006

Media forgets to report implied threat of al-Sistani to Canada

Thanks to a heads up from Jihad Watch (see also here), I've been reading news reports on yesterday's announcement of a fatwa in Montreal. In the words of the CBC:
Iraq's top Shia cleric sent a message Wednesday to Muslims in Western nations, urging them to obey the laws of the countries in which they live.

The fatwa, a non-binding directive, was delivered at a Montreal news conference of prominent Shia Muslims on behalf of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"Muslims have undertaken to obey the laws of the country of their residence and thus they must be faithful to that undertaking," the statement read.

It condemned all acts of violence and encouraged imams to keep a watchful eye on what's going on inside their mosques.
However, in none of the English-language reports have I found what was reported by Radio Canada and noted by Robert Spencer:
Jihad Watch reader Marc has alerted me to a qualifying phrase that pops up in this French-language story about the fatwa:

L'ayatollah Al-Sistani ordonne aux musulmans canadiens de respecter les lois en vigueur dans leur pays d'accueil, « dans la mesure où les valeurs religieuses ne sont pas bafouées ».

That is, "The Ayatollah Al-Sistani orders Muslims of Canada to respect the laws of their host country, 'insofar as religious values are not ridiculed.'"

And if they are?
So here we have a scene in which all the major English-Canadian news organizations have reported on this story in glowing terms - Moslems are promising peace - all the while declining to note the underlying message of the street thug - "keep out of my way and you're cool; dis me and watch out!" - or to remind the clerics involved that criticism of religion is a fundamental and nation-defining right in Canada, and that asking us to restrain from its practice is itself a form of blasphemy in our books. (See also the CBC in-depth report; the Montreal Gazette; the Canadian Press; CTV news; and the Globe and Mail.)

At least the Globe and Mail has the conscience to report:
But Sheik Ali Sbeiti, imam at the Muslim Community Centre of Montreal, also cautioned that Canada has to realize that its foreign policies, including its commitment of troops in Afghanistan, have repercussions at home.

"Canada is shifting its policy to become more pro-American on international issues," he said in an interview. "This creates a kind of tension."

"Canada is involved in Afghanistan, and not as peacekeepers. Muslims would feel that Canada is in a country whose soldiers are fighting fellow Muslims.

"Every time Canada takes action in the international field, you have to consider that is has 800,000 Muslims in Canada watching."
So once again we are told that if a free and democratic country chooses a policy that the Umma (the worldwide "community" of Muslims) doesn't like, then watch out, there will be "tensions" at home. If we are so evil as to show sympathy with the Americans, watch out. This line of thought calls to mind our post from April, Canada and the Umma, where we reported on the new policy in the Department of Foreign Affairs, under which Canada sees fit to develop its foreign policy through consultation with representatives of the Umma in Canada, as if Moslems as a group were not simply a fact of our religious life, but also of our political life. The new policy, in viewing Muslims in Canada as a political lobby, might well entail erosion of our commitment to a world order that has been defined in terms of an international system whose legitimate political actors are primarily nations and states, and much less religions. That we might not support the Afghan state against the Taliban, because it offends some self-appointed representative of "Canadian Moslems" who figures a Canadian soldier killing devout Moslems is sacrilegious - somehow more evil, and less necessary, than other forms of war that our democratically-elected government justifies - should be an outrageous idea in this country. That such talk is in the air at present suggests we need do more work to get the Harper government to commit to breaking off conversations over foreign affairs with so-called representatives of the "Muslims in Canada". (Muslims who can speak to our relationships with nations and states should have a role, but not as representatives of the Umma.) Our interest and declared policy is in an international order of secular nation states, and we should consult with people accordingly; Muslim one worlders should have no voice in our councils, unless such imperialists may serve us in facilitating necessary conversations with unavoidable political actors whose politics we hope to marginalize.

One might note in concluding that the CBC report ends by quoting Tarek Fatah, the Toronto media's favorite liberal Muslim, the leader of an organization that proclaims anyone who identifies as a Muslim is a Muslim (whatever beliefs they may hold) and that also professes belief in the separation of church and state, even as it identifies as a Muslim organization which, when not criticizing Canada's febrile Imams, spends a lot of its time condemning America and Israel:
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said it's encouraging that clerics would promote obedience to the rule of law, but disappointing that the message needs to come through a fatwa.

"It's so medieval to be thinking … religious dictates should govern how we live our lives," said Fatah.

He said he doesn't doubt the group's sincerity, but that Canadian Muslims shouldn't be governed from overseas.

"He should not be telling me how to behave," said Fatah, who said al-Sistani has issued earlier fatwas saying gays and lesbians should be killed.
So there you have it: whether you listen to the religious or the secular Muslims, you are sure to see the line between religion and politics blurred, precisely because the line that we enjoy in secular nations that have emerged from the Judeo-Christian tradition does not exist in Islam. In this situation, surely Canada should make it clear that Muslims advocating Jihadist violence will be imprisoned or deported, and we should be paying little attention to fatwas that are inherently (if only the MSM would report the truth) anti-secular and supremacist in nature. Similarly, we should pay little attention to voices that are primarily identifying as "Muslim" and yet are all about politics and not about developing private and personal religious faith. Whatever the confused promises of "multiculturalism", we cannot be all things to all people. We either separate organized religion and state, or we do not.

Ideally, our government should be paying about as much attention to Muslim clerics as it pays to the ministers of the United Church of Canada. The fact that we presently pay much more attention to the imams suggests that we recognize Islamic integration (or lack thereof) in the west is a problem that must be discussed (even if we have yet to throw off the pc blinkers to discuss it properly); however, it may also be the case that we are making a mistake akin to over-indulging and giving too much attention to a problem youth who is acting out, having not yet been fully initiated into society, and who is refusing to play fully by Canadian rules. If so, perhaps tough love will serve better than endless therapy: we should make very clear that the law will be upheld and otherwise pay a religious group minimal political attention.


Jane said...

Thanks for this excellent article.

I first read it last night and again just now. Earlier this evening, I was telling a friend (who believes Muslims pose no real threat) about this glaring ommission by the english language press. The religious leader in Iraq who issued the fatwah is subjecting Canadians to a form of extortion and we're not even told about it. If we dare practice our right to criticize religion, our safety can't be guaranteed but nobody wants to bother our little heads about it. (Granted, many of us were distracted anyway by the tell-all Britney Spears interview. No, her husband doesn't live in the basement.)

The fact that the Umma (I hadn't previously known it existed) is 800,000 strong in Canada scares me. I feel like Charles Henry's 'ordinary' woman sitting at the bus stop saying, 'Can you believe these people? They cause so much trouble.'

I think Israel Asper would do back flips in his grave if he could see his offspring, David and Gail, allowing CanWest to print this censored material. I first saw the censored version in the Vancouver Sun.

The Managing Editor of the Vancouver Sun recently dispatched a scathing memo notifying all staff that studies show that lack of accuracy in reporting is the #1 reason why readers lose trust in a newspaper. In the memo, which was leaked to the Georgia Strait, the editor pointed out that the paper is routinely riddled with typos and other errors. He recalled his staff not knowing the difference between an Israeli settler and a Palestinian when putting a caption under a photograph. He reported getting multiple letters each day about errors and threatened to hold staff accountable in future within the collective agreement.

I certainly don't trust the Sun when they leave out text that entirely changes the message in a fatwah. But I even trust them less when I think about how it probably wasn't a mistake but an intentional omission.

truepeers said...

Jane, I imagine the omissions were largely intentional, but perhaps they were not out of a frank desire to whitewash the harsh truth of the incompatibility of such fatwas and Canadian freedoms. Rather, I imagine many reporters are not deep thinkers and writing about moral or ethical conflcits - if only to report in such a way that duly exposes them - can cause them more anxiety than contribute to a sense of purpose or moral clarity. The reporter thinks to herself, should I put this in? what does it mean? for whom does a fatwa speak? are these words a problem? if I put them in will I encourage people to make an issue of this story? If they make an issue of it, will I be exposed to criticism? I guess that few or none of my colleagues will quote this, so do I want to stick out as the only one? Maybe it's safer not to quote that part, you can't quote the whole thing after all...

Today in Christie Blatchford's column in the Globe and Mail, Christie recounts an incident from the press conference that was held after the 17 Jihadists were arrested in Toronto. A Moslem comes into the room, sits down besides a woman reporter and asks her "is this the woman's section?" Instead of giving the guy a righteous rebuke, the somewhat timid (perhaps snarky) reporter simply responds: "this is the media section". Christie looks up and she notices the audience is indeed largely divided, with a men's and women's section, and the media in between. The media like to be in between. However, morality often demands one take sides. You can't be indifferent - there is no value in or possibility of "neutrality" - when mass murder or repression and abuse of women is the issue, and then still claim to be a moral actor.

Thanks for your comment. BTW, i don't know what the just-taken census will show about the number of Moslems in Canada. I read a figure of 700,000 this week, I believe in the National Post.