In recent years, ‘home grown terrorism’ has emerged as a new phenomenon in the Western World.
Her Excellency Ms. Anne Patterson, ex US Ambassador to Pakistan told a group of people at the Atlantic Council, an American think tank, that increasingly American passport holders travel freely and frequently to get military training from countries in the Middle East and Pakistan. She delivered this speech before Mr. Faisal Shahzad was arrested for an attempt to blow up the buildings in New York City with explosives in an abandoned car. Many policing agencies find it true for the rest of the Western world also.
The issue of ‘home grown terrorism’ is worrisome to all of us. Living in the fear of who lives next door and what their kids do is traumatic. We had hardly put Faisal Shahzad in the back of our minds when four young men were arrested in Canada in terrorism related charges just a few weeks ago.
Canada, being the next door ally of the US, has to take into consideration the safety and security of its citizens against the radicalized youths. The arrest of Dr. Khurram S. Sher and three other young men beg the question why are these youths turning to harm the countries that have taught them the value of human rights and democracy; countries that gave refuge to their parents when they fled persecution from their home countries. Freedom to exercise religious liberty is prevalent more in the Western world than it is in Muslim countries or in South Asia. Just look at Saudi Arabia.
It is mindboggling to see how youth can be drawn to Taliban and Al Qaeda’s dogma. The Taliban has victimized women, burned schools and hospitals, compelled men to wear beards, destroyed arts and culture. Much of this is contrary to the teachings of Islam. Islam places high value on learning – “O’ God enhance my learning.”
It is astonishing that a young man who is liberal enough to appear on a show like Canadian Idol would be charged for destroying the country that gave him an opportunity to try something as much fun as Canadian Idol.
The beauty of this country also lies in its fair judicial system. The Ottawa court released Mr. Sher on strict bail conditions. A man arrested on terrorism related charges is bailed out. This is even more incredulous.
Mr. Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety, has had discussions about the phenomenon of ‘home grown terrorism’ with Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security.
In an answer to a question by Generation Next, Minister Toews said that Canada and the US “share [the] concern of radicalization of youths and the training of these youths overseas to radicalize them..[getting the] military training and then coming home to Canada, creating all kinds of issues..in Canadian society in general and to specific communities where these youths come from.”
What to do about this problem of radicalization of youths?
“Our agencies have been..working with communities in various ways in order to prevent the radicalization..we want to know exactly how best to approach the problem. Members of the RCMP and CSIS regularly work with the particular community that has expressed concerns to battle this concern,” Minister Toews responds.
What can the South Asian community do?
Minister Toews has publicly said “This is not a matter that the governments can deal with on their own. We require the cooperation of communities..where radicalization is taking place to work not only to protect Canadians but the members of these specific communities..[people can have] regular contact with police agencies, with RCMP, with CSIS..to advise of the specific concerns that they have and to sit down and determine on how best to move forward.”
Our government is doing the right thing by engaging the community. However there exists a gap between the government and the policing agencies’ efforts and the community from where these radicalized youths tend to belong from.
In America, when consultations are held between the government, the FBI and the community, some specific members of the community members participate. Many of these community leaders have baggage with them. The broader community, therefore, does not respect or trust these community leaders’ and their message. America has to rely on not-so-good community leaders because they do not have any South Asian elected members, neither does it have a strong community presence or an established ethnic media.
While Minister Toews encourages communication between the policing agencies and the community members, to date we are unaware of any such meetings held in the GTA.
In Canada, we are blessed with multiculturalism. There are no South Asian elected official in Congress or the United States Senate. Here in Canada, we have a number of South Asian elected representatives at the federal, provincial and municipal level. (Calgary just elected the first Muslim Mayor). These elected representatives are Canada’s assets as well as resources. They live close to the community; understand the community culturally and religiously. They comprehend any hurtful feelings community might have and they can work out the ways to resolve the misperceptions and misconceptions between the community and the government. These elected officials have been voted into a public office, so we know people respect them and trust them. We must also understand that the policing agencies have an aura of scaring people of South Asian communities. In South Asia, police station is the last place people turn to in the time of need.
Our government should rise above political partisanship and assign the burden of responsibility on South Asian elected officials whether they are Conservatives or Liberals.
And above all, the government must utilize community’s ethnic media. While ethnic newspapers are happy to get advertisements from the government, it is also our responsibility as part of the community to help our government in conveying its message to our people. Ethnic newspapers must fulfill its obligation to act as a bridge between the government and the community.
After all, when someone tries to destroy our home, we stand as one united nation regardless of our colourful differences.
On this we can all agree.
Canada-Pakistan Trade Expo:
What are pro-Taliban people doing in Canada?
Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman, the federal Minister of Tourism, is the chief guest from Pakistan for Canada Pakistan Trade Expo 2010. Mr. Rehman’s brother Maulana Fazl ur Rehman is the head of Jamiat Ulamai Islami (JUI), a political party with strong leanings to Taliban and Al-Qaeda. JUI is one of the Islamic political parties in Pakistan that is in favour of negotiating with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan without militants’ giving up the weapons. They are against fighting war on terrorism and consider Afghanistan to be under attack by the Americans and its allies, Canada being one of them.
Ties between Rehmans and Baitullah Mehsud were such that Baitullah Mehsud used to sit on Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman’s feet when he visited Rehmans. Maulana Fazal ur Rehman was denied the US visa just a few weeks ago. He was sent back from the Middle East. The reason given for the refusal of the US visa, we have been told, is ‘security concerns.’
The Guest of Honour of the Expo is Mr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, member of National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Chairman of Pakistan’s National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce. Mr. Khan belongs to the major right wing political party that condemns terrorism, however PML-N considers international troops as forces of aggression.
What we are amazed at is how people who have actually executed tourism industry in Pakistan can represent Pakistani culture to Canadian entrepreneurs. (The Pakistani Army had to chase away Taliban and militants from the beautiful valley of Swat.) We thought that Minister of Tourism would be someone progressive who understands the significance of culture and traditions, arts and culture, trade and tourism. Maulana Atta ur Rehman with his shalwar above his ankles and Osama bin Laden like noor (light) is hardly that person.
Conversely, Maulana Rehman belongs to a party that abhors Canadian values of cherishing democracy, human rights, women’s rights, education and healthcare for all. They are for niqaab and burqas, against girls’ schools and women’s employment, considering women something of a low-being. One of the reasons cited for Canadians’ not giving donations for flood victims of Pakistan was corruption and increasing Talibanization of Pakistan. More than 150 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan to uphold Canadian values, but we are not quite certain why Canadian government would grant visas to people who so obviously support militants and extremists.
We are also shocked at the Pakistani government’s decision to send Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman to represent Pakistan to an international audience. We can understand the compromises Zardari government has to make compromises in Pakistan, however Maulana Rehman is not someone who can best represent Pakistan and its tourism to international audience.
Majority of Pakistanis are liberal progressive people who have been forced to change their life style under the threat of Talibanization; they are the people who have never really been given a chance to democracy. Mr. Rehman so obviously belongs to the group that is pushing the Pakistani nation toward adopting Taliban-like lifestyle.
The government of Pakistan laments on not having access to international markets, however it has completely failed to develop its brands to market to the international world. Calls to Pakistan are the most expensive among South Asian countries, thanks to taxes imposed by the Pakistani government, textile industry cannot market to the international community because of various taxes.
And Oh by the way, free biryani will be served between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Friday October 29th at North Building, Hall-J of Toronto Congress Centre. We will have to see if free biryani can help businessmen make up their minds about Pakistani basmati.
Pakistan’s Consulate in Toronto confirmed 50 business-to-business meetings. If that could be shared with the South Asian community, it can perhaps evoke some interest among Canadian entrepreneurs to do business with Pakistani industries. Or are these meetings, interactions between Pakistanis from Pakistan and Canadian Pakistanis.
In one of the interviews, the owner of the largest hotel chain in Pakistan grieved that while Pakistan has the most stunning glaciers in the world, international world turns to other parts of the world for skiing and other such activities. Because in Pakistan you are advised to drink lassi rather than brandy in below freezing temperatures. No wonder, tourists don’t bother looking up Pakistan for their tourist destinations.
Regardless Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman’s presence in Canada is significant and suspicious. Or maybe we are too afraid of pro-Taliban people even here in Canada.
Author: Asma Amanat