Saturday, April 15, 2006

Canada and the Umma

A week ago, Daniel Pipes reported on a Canadian government document that had been leaked to him. This Administrative Notice, written by David Mulroney, Assistant Deputy Minister in Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (and slated to become Prime Minister Harper's foreign affairs advisor), outlined the formal institutionalization, within the Department, of a Muslim Communities Working Group (FMCG). In the words of the Notice:
The FMCG mandate continues to be to: serve as a clearing house and focal point within the Department for issues concerning relations with the Muslim world; build the Department's policy capacity on this subject; and take the lead in providing timely, strategic advice on relations with the Muslim world, and the lead in creating a policy framework for our overall approach to this subject. As such, the FMCG should be consulted at headquarters and by posts on the broad range of issues affecting Canada's relations with Muslim communities, including public diplomacy efforts, and will take the lead in coordinating the Department's response to many of them. For this cross-cutting unit to work, it is essential that two-way consultation exist between it and the other units in the Department. Therefore, the FMCG will continue to engage with a network of officers throughout the department through regular meetings and as required on a day-to-day basis, and will look forward to early consultation by other units in the Department.

In addition, we will shortly be creating an Advisory Group that will serve to discuss strategic policy issues brought to it by the FMCG. The Advisory Group will be composed of senior officials from across the department and meet at least on a quarterly basis, to provide policy advice and guidance to the FMCG Chairperson.

In the coming weeks, the FMCG will be seeking to fill three full time positions - a Deputy Director, a Policy Officer, and an Operations and Public Diplomacy Officer. The evolution to operational capability is absolutely vital and begins to put us at par with other key partners. The UK, Netherlands, Germany, and others all have such a capability already well-established. Currently, the FMCG is ably staffed by Crystal Procyshen who serves as both a policy and operations officer, and who should be your first point of contact.
Pipes comments:
(1) Muslims will from now on have a special say with regard to Canadian foreign and trade issues touching on Muslims.

(2) The privileging of Islam proceeds apace, with Muslims in at least four Western countries giving "strategic advice on relations with the Muslim world."

(3) This is a terrible mistake. Belonging to a certain group should not give one special authority in dealing with that group, and especially not in a governmental context.

(4) The only person yet to be charged with an offense under Canada's new Anti-Terrorism Act is Mohammad Momin Khawaja; and he was, at about the time of his arrest, a computer consultant for DFAIT.

(5) One can only guess at the intellectual environment of FMCG but one of the individuals mentioned as a player in it, Crystal Procyshen, wrote a strident article against Israel in 1997, "JERUSALEM! What is the TRUTH? Travel and Truth:A Volunteers' Experience in Palestine." It includes such gems as these (original spelling and spacing retained as is):

"The Israelis, in order to fulfill their political prophecies of a Zionist state where they would be safe from persecution, are propogating a recurring cycle of hatred towards the Palestinians as they struggle to expand the state of Israel. ...

"Since the Israelis illegaly occupied the autonomous regions of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, they routinely torture, kill and deprive Palestinians of their rights. Under Israeli control the Palestinians have no freedom of movement, no freedom of speech or press, no jury of peers,no trials,imprisonment without just cause,no right to education,no right to an attorney, no right to property,no right to trade or profit from good crossing borders."
While Pipes is quoting from a 1997 article of a young student, who may since have matured, it's worth noting that this kind of student can get a job in the DFAIT; we will return to Ms. Procyshen later. This story has only yet received limited attention in the blogosphere (see here; and here; and here; and here). One of Pipes' commenters, "Alan", assuming that Muslims are being given special treatment, typifies the negative reaction this announcement has so far been given by Canadian bloggers:
Christian Communities Working Group Operational Unit?
Buddhist Communities Working Group Operational Unit?
Sikh Communities Working Group Operational Unit?
Jewish Communities Working Group Operational Unit?
Bahai Communities Working Group Operational Unit?

One can only draw three conclusions
(a) Islam is to be treated better than all other religions
(b) Islam isn't *only* a religion
(c) a and b
This comment of course raises but cannot solve the question of how to define what is proper to religion and what to affairs of state, and of where the two have any business engaging in strategic dialogue. The separation of church and state that grows out of the Christian tradition with its admonition to distinguish what is owed Caesar and what God, is but one of many possible ways that humans can organize the relationship between religion and politics. We will never be able to construct a metaphysics that neatly defines and delimits for us a concept or domain like religion, because religious thinking emerges, historically, prior to Plato and the birth of western metaphysics, and our metaphyiscs has never neatly summed up the role of its more fertile forebear. Metaphysical reasoning prospers by forgetting the primacy of the more primitive forms of language and thought that continue to shape all human scenes; metaphysics constructs an empire of its concepts, assuming that its manner of conceptual thinking is original to human reason; but, in fact, human language and reason first emerge from our relationship to the sacred (see the Plato link, above).

We understand our relationship to the sacred in terms of our scenic consciousness of how our communities are organized around centralized values. While we can generally distinguish religious and political scenes in terms of the importance accorded to divine or ordinary human actors on them, and according to whether the scene is interested in remembering the fundamental (religious) origins of the community, or the further articulation (or forgetting) of these origins in more secular (political) contexts, a full and proper understanding of a culture will not allow us to divorce its secular or political reason from its religious past.

Each culture and each historical moment relates the religious and political in its own particular ways. So while one might think it a good idea if Christians in Canada were to lobby the Department of Foreign Affairs for a Christian Communities Working Group, as a way of drawing attention to, and action against, the many Muslim regimes that actively persecute their Christian minorities, we are not surprised that Foreign Affairs has yet to construct such a working group. Christianity, as a religion, does not do much to provide for its followers' worldly politics. Its primary focus is on the Kingdom of God, not on this world (though there is at times some pressure, sometimes misguided, to assimilate the two). Not suprisingly, Christians, with all due respect to the Vatican, are not primarily thought of as a political entity to be reckoned with. And when they do get involved in world affairs, Canadians calling themselves Christian are perhaps more likely to denounce Israel than to champion the dire cause of their co-religionists in, say, Pakistan.

Islam, on the other hand, appears to our western eyes to be as much a political as a religious entity, for many reasons that are no doubt familiar to those of us observing many Muslims presently calling for a return of the Caliphate or the eventual conversion of all humanity to the one true faith. The political nature of Islam may also be apparent in the government's recognition of Muslim communities in Canada as having an interest in Canada's relations, not simply with other nations, but with the Muslim Umma or worldwide community of Muslims itself. (I assume that some recognition of the Umma as a worldwide political force that must be taken into account alongside our more traditional focus on nations and regions is implied by the statement in the Administrative Notice, that "For this cross-cutting unit [FMCG] to work, it is essential that two-way consultation exist between it and the other units in the Department. Therefore, the FMCG will continue to engage with a network of officers throughout the department through regular meetings and as required on a day-to-day basis, and will look forward to early consultation by other units in the Department.")

A cynic might say that the creation of the FMCG is just another bureaucratic powerplay, where those who have an interest in "muslim commmunities" gain a march on those working with regions or nation states. In any case, the bureaucrats' initiative now raises for the not-previously-consulted citizens, the question of how our country should relate to the Umma. Do we acknowledge our "Muslim communities" as political actors, with a role in giving strategic advice about specifically Canadian relations with "Muslim communities" abroad, or do we insist rather on our western distinctions between religious and political interests being upheld, regardless of how some Muslims see differently the difference? Does being a Canadian citizen imply a duty to uphold a certain vision of international order, i.e. one that fosters the growth of nations and states and resists the growing and often disruptive role of non-state actors in a world where many states, especially in the Muslim world, risk collapsing?

According to one Canadian citizen group studying the document leaked to Pipes:
"Canadians should be deeply troubled by this announcement and what it says about the agenda of Canada’s foreign affairs bureaucracy," explained Joseph Ben-Ami, Executive Director of the Institute for Canadian Values. "Certainly, if foreign affairs functionaries were concerned about ethnic sensitivities or religious tolerance, they would have created a department to deal with Hindus and Christians, whose populations approximate that of the Muslim world. Why the favouritism?"
Perhaps the "favouritism" could be justified by the peculiar nature of Islam, though any such argument would, at this point, have to fall to our suspicions that the FMCG is staffed by anti-western apologists for violence committed in the name of Islam, violence that the apologists would redefine as being caused by problems or failures of "development", or some such, as in this abstract of a paper delivered at a 2002 conference by FMCG's contact person, Crystal Procyshen:
"Development as Struggle: What Role for Islamic Insurgents?"

Current essentialist scholarship on Islamic insurgency organizations erodes serious study as to how Islam matters, why these groups emerge, and how they embed themselves within the national politics, regional dynamics, and community development of the Muslim Middle East. Furthermore, their dire predictions of pan-Islamic victories overlook the ubiquitous failures of these groups to achieve any presumably 'destabilizing' goal. This study conflates two predominant theoretical frameworks of Islamism in order to ameliorate their separate analytical shortcomings. First, it discusses how, when, and why political Islam matters as a response by grassroots, libratory movements to perceived oppression/ modernization. Second, it delineates so-called 'external' theories of Islamist struggle, which concentrate on mobilization. Third, it explores 'internal' doctrinal theories (those by Islamist thinkers) and their description of the process of jihad (liberation and development). As will be examined, both theoretical traditions fail to account for the structural-contextual constraints of domestic political-culture, class divisions, and external influences that disrupt the transition phase between jihad and the, as yet, elusive outcome of an Islamic state. Hezbollah's resistance against Israel serves as the crucial case study, while the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and al-Qaida are employed as foils throughout.
If the Department of Foreign Affairs weren't home to young scholars (and their presumably more circumspect but sympathetic employers) lost in metaphysical abstractions, pomo irony, and queer conceptualizations of Jihad and its destabilizing effects - does anyone really know what position is being taken in this paper abstract? - might there be a case for a diplomacy focussed on Muslim communities?

To my mind it comes down to a question of whether we want to encourage "Muslim communities" to see themselves as political actors, by recognizing the political or worldly nature of Islam. If there is any hope for the reform or modernization of the Islamic world, it seems to me it will require much more emphasis being put on individual nations and their secular politics than on Muslim communities as such. We need to encourage greater identification with ethnic and any nascent national identities - on the Turkish or Indonesian, and hopefully Afghan and Iraqi, models - and do all we can to deny the validity of a political Islam that dreams of an expanded Umma and/or a renewed Caliphate. If there is any hope that the Muslim world can join modernity, it will require states that are responsible to self-interested nations not to a theology and Sharia law that has already proven its many problems in adapting to our now single global civilization with its integrating economic and market system.

Does creation of the FMCG not do something to undermine our relations with traditional nation-states like, say, France or Turkey? If Canadian Muslims, because they are Muslims and not simply Canadians, are to have a voice in shaping our relations with "Muslim communities" are we not advancing the legitimacy of the Umma as a political entity, at the expense of secular states? And aren't Canadian strategic interests in some sense specifically Canadian, and not, as would be impossible, all things to all people under the multiculti sun?

Those of us interested in renewing the Canadian Covenant must insist that "Muslim communities" in Canada not be treated any differently from other "religious" communities in Canada, regardless of how differently Islam constructs question of "church", state, and people. We cannot be all things to all people; we must have a policy that reflects a specifically Canadian vision of a proper international order. We must champion nations and national sovereignty and fight against the imperialism of political Islam and its clients in the anti- and trans-national ("multicultural") left.


Dag said...

That is a post rich in insights I would not have come to on my own; for example, Platonist metaphysics being a superstructure on the religious base, to make a joke, is wonderful. It's a davastating comment on our multi-culti phantasists.

And then, if in my layman's understanding of the bureaucratese of the dhimmis is accurate, it's not funny at all, seeing that we must now join a handful of other dhimmi nations in recognizing the umma as de facto caliphate for the sake of furtherance multi-cultural equities based on further phantasies, spiraling phantasies. If this is true then we are sitting in a nation that is aggressively selling itself into outright and hasty dhimmitude even though, and seemingly meaninglessly, there is a "Conservative" government in power, one not under any pressure at all to make this happen.


What's the motivation here? Where's the gun to the head? Why the death wish? Why are Conservatives doing this? Why are Canadians doing this? Why the death wish?


truepeers said...

What is happening is the maturation of a process that began in the bureaucracy during the last Liberal government. It remains to be seen whether the new Conservative government is much aware of what has been happening or whether it will look favorably on this new development. Let's hope not and let's write them to encourage them not.

Canadian Sentinel said...

I'm hoping this is something the Tories have yet to realize. The bureaucracy, so long controlled and corrupted by the Liberals, is so vast and complicated that it's no wonder some things like this are only now being discovered.

The gov't must be made aware of Crystal Procyshen's strong anti-Israel bias, as the Conservatives cannot have anyone like that in a position of such responsibility, considering the fact that, for example, now Canada stands alone with the US in voting at the UN in favor of Israel, has cut off all ties to "Palestine", withdrawn their funding, etc...

We must refrain from a rush to judgement, pending action by the gov't. They must be made aware of Crystal's true views. She's clearly unacceptable for the job.

But I'm troubled as well.

Dag said...

I won't rush to condemn the Conservative government for Liberal policies, but I won't sit idly waiting for the Conservatives to find out for themselves just what a snake they have at their bosom. It's a good time to write some letters, to have a chat with the local m.p., to let my neighbours know about this monster.

truepeers said...

Canadian Sentinel, thanks for dropping by; i was enjoying your blog last week.

Crystal Procyshen seems to have had some bad ideas in her youth; she is still young and I'm not sure she is in a position of great influence. She was named in the memo leaked to Pipes as the group's contact person. Presumably this is a secretarial position without formal power, though possibly much influence. The senior officers in this new group have yet to be named, i believe. Like Pipes, I would guess that Procyshen's writings tell us something about the mindset in the Department that hired her, and this is what the new government needs to look into. Anti-Israel craziness is pervasive in the universities today, at the CBC, on the left generally, and this must have its reflection in the bureucracy in various ways.

I doubt the new government will see fit to take too much interest in this young woman. When I was her age I also had a lot of dumb ideas dressed up in a patina of academic fashion and intelligence. The universities can do a lot to screw up kids today since they are filled with fantasy ideologies and promoters of magic - would-be transformers of reality -who call themselves professor.

Dag said...

Law is formal rather than intuitive. We can't rightly make excuses and exceptions for those who violate our laws just because of this or that. It might be harsh but it is not cruel. If this girl is crushed by the machinery of the state, too bad for her as an individual but all to the good as a member of our Human life. She's merely an example. She's an objective violator of our system of justice. She's convenient. She's a nobody to all but herself and those few who know her and care about her. In the eyes of blind justice she is an offender against the law, if not the formal laws then against the politiy itself as it is and is becoming. If we pick at these thin threads we can pull apart the whole fabric of Left dhimmi fascism. This girl was, if she isn't still, an active supporter of terrorism and murder. She owes a debt that she must pay. Hers is obviously a smaller debt than the debts of those above her. Still, we have to begin somewhere, and if she's available, them pull till she's ripped out and cast away. Then on to the next.

truepeers said...

I have no sympathy for Israel bashers as such. They are caught up in a fantasy ideology that is ultimately destructive to all nations, including Canada. Yet, like its sister crimes, anti-semitism and anti-Americanism, Israel hating is pervasive in our schools and in a good section of our society. This raises for us a larger question, of tactics, about how we best address this large crisis of western self-hatred in our culture.

Antisemitism is a sign of mental illness, as is often said, but it is such a common sign, even among otherwise intelligent and educated people, that we have to accept that we have a big task on our hands to show the haters how and why they have fallen into this intellectual trap.

If, instead, we focuss our energies on small fry - howevermuch you are right that no Israel basher should have a role in our foreign policy, and that it would be no injustice if their career were ruined - are we not risking just appearing like a lynch mob that has happened upon some arbitrary target? There are pragmatic truths and fundamental truths, and sometimes the latter should bow to the former. In other words, won't we just enforce all the negative impressions about Jews and their friends among the Jew haters if we go after small fry?

Because Jew- and nation- hatred is so pervasive in our society, i am willing to grant that young people be chastened, criticized, but given a second chance to see the error of their and their elders' ways. But once someone gets into their late thirties and starts to get in positions of serious responsibilty they will get little restraint from me if they come into my sights for abusing our nation or for antisemitism.

i don't mind pulling this girl out on the carpet, for a short time, but it is people like this David Mulroney who we should be seriously targetting. We should demand Harper seriously consider whether he wants him as an advisor.

Dag said...

Yes, Mulroney is the one or the kind to go after in terms of going after anyone at all. But as you rightly point out, going after anyone is hardly any good if the majority of people, millions of individuals, share the same mental illness of anti-Semitism.

Whatever we do, I think we cannot change the minds of each and every individual we meet. I think we must make a charge at the broader idea and hope to sway millions by doing so, by making anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism so uncool that no one but the loonies will try it on for size-- if then.

To hound a 20 year old is likely unfair and maybe unjustified in terms of what she's done in a practical sense. The question is one of tactics rather than person. The question is also one of strategy over people. But it requires sense.

I'll think about it in my own ruminative way.