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September 15, 2012

Hypocrisy at its best: National Post's Jonathan Kay on CBC

The Canadian Charger

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On a recent CBC Radio program The Current, with Anna Maria Tremonti, Jonathan Kay, National Post Managing Editor and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, insisted that the shooting at the Parti Quebecois victory rally in Montreal, on September 4th is not connected to politics.

Although the shooter shouted “The English are waking up,” after being apprehended by police, Mr. Kay insisted that his motive was personal not political.

But for a considerable length of time, Mr. Kay has labelled those who resort to violence in the name of Islam – often shouting Islam-related slogans in the process - as “Muslim terrorists” and “Islamist terrorists.”

Richard Henry Bain of La Conception, Que., a town about 140 kilometres northwest of Montreal, is accused of killing a stage technician just outside the concert hall where PQ Leader and Quebec premier-designate Pauline Marois was delivering her victory speech.  Another man was wounded.

In explaining why the Montreal shooting at a Parti Quebecois victory rally was not politically motivated Mr. Kay cited the examples of Jared Loughner, who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, John Hinkley who shot President Reagan and Anders Breivik, who killed 78 people in Norway, in July 2011.

“A lot of the times when you try and find political rationale, you will find that these are mentally ill people who put a superficial cloth of political slogans on acts that are really symptoms of mental illness. I think what happens is people who are violent will often reach out into the politics of their environment for some kind of justification for what they do and they will ... but really if you look at their individual case you will see people who have mental health issues and personal issues that go back for years. The politics is just a pretext,” Mr. Kay said.

Throughout the CBC interview Mr. Kay continues to belabour the same point: perpetrators of such atrocities, while they often claim political motives to justify their crimes, are really acting out some personal issue which displays their mental illness.

While there could well be some truth to Mr. Kay's hypothesis, he doesn't apply the same logic to those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam.

In a June 28, 2011 National Post article, Mr. Kay said he saw news that an eight-year-old Afghan girl had been tricked into blowing herself up near a police station in Uruzgan Province and, citing another incident, in Pakistan, where terrorists had recently strapped a suicide vest to a nine-year-old girl they’d abducted and drugged (the girl was saved and returned to her family), Mr. Kay said these cases are not isolated. However, he added that neither plot is likely to have originated with the Taliban itself, which tries to avoid using children.

Nonetheless, in the same article, he has no problem characterizing the perpetrators as “Muslim terrorists.”

“In the case of modern Muslim terrorist groups, the red line is very clear: Local populations turn against terrorism when it results in the death of innocent Muslims. That’s why victims such as the eight-year-old girl killed in Uruzgan resonate so strongly, and negatively, against the terrorists’ cause,” Mr. Kay said.

Moreover, in a May 8, 2011 article, Mr. Kay makes a tacit admission that characterizing as terrorists, those who claim to commit violent acts in the name of Islam, is problematic. Using Orwellian language, he explained why it's okay to put an Islamic connotation on such perpetrators.

“As an editor at the National Post, I often rely on three letters to protect my columnists from human-rights tribunals: I-S-M — these being the difference between spelling Islam and Islamism.

The former is a religion — like Christianity or Judaism. The latter is an ideology, which seeks to impose an intolerant fundamentalist version of Islam on all Muslims, and spread the faith throughout the world. Declaring Islamism a menace isn’t controversial. Declaring Islam a menace is considered hate speech.”

Many of those described as "Islamists" oppose the use of the term, and claim that their political beliefs and goals are simply an expression of Islamic religious belief. Nonetheless, with his justification in place, Mr. Kay felt free to characterize those who killed 16 Egyptian border guards in northeastern Sinai on Sunday, August 5 as “Islamist terrorists.”

In an August 8, 2012 article, Mr. Kay wrote:

“The Islamist presence in Sinai has been building for several years now, as political chaos in Cairo has dominated the army’s attention. The terrorist infestation in Sinai is fuelled by local Islamist agitation, but it features a co-mingling of personnel and armaments from nearby Gaza. There is also a common anti-Israel agenda binding Islamists in the two theatres.”

How many readers of this article will be aware of Mr. Kay's distinction between Islam and Islamism?

Meanwhile, during Mr. Kay's CBC radio interview, Anna Maria Tremonti pointed out that the perpetrator in the Quebec shooting armed himself, drove to a Montreal to attend a political rally of the winning party in the provincial election and shouted a slogan related to a political discussion that had been had for a number of weeks. She then asked: “Why would we say there's not political motivation in the midst of all of this?” And she asked why we should be afraid to talk about the political connection.

Mr. Kay said he thinks that in modern democratic societies there is a tendency to channel personal rage into political causes and he thinks the clearest example of this is that he can think of is Jared Loughner, in Arizona.

Mr. Kay continuously insisted that this is a phenomenon that occurs in modern democracies, without explaining why he feels it doesn't or hasn't occurred in other societies that aren't modern or democratic.

He also explained that we needn't be afraid to talk about the possible political connection to these shootings, but he added a cautionary note.

“I don't think we need to be afraid to talk about it, but it does lead to a kind of fear mongering that says, 'Oh no, we're becoming like the Balkans or the Middle East; we're becoming a place where political disputes are settled by gunfire. I think that history shows that these sort of events are extremely rare, extremely isolated and I don't think we need to worry about this kind of thing becoming epidemic because in other democratic societies it has not become epidemic.”

Mr. Kay's cautionary note sounds eerily similar to the one Islamic community leaders often express in the wake of terrorist attacks that are given an Islamic connotation because the perpetrator or perpetrators either claimed to have acted in the name of Islam ore were deemed to have done so by others. 9/11 is probably the quintessential example of this, where a tragedy of this magnitude led to the “War on Terror,” which continues indefinitely in spite of the fact that, as CBC commentator Alan Gregg recently pointed out, Canadians have a far greater chance of dying in swimming pools than dying as a result of terrorist attacks.

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M. Elmasry

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