While the Boston Marathon bombing suspect number two remains in legal limbo, stories continue being weaved around his radicalised Muslim background — the perfect landscape where a terrorist may breed. Right-wing racists have eagerly clutched at their pet peeve of Islamic militancy and Muslims in the West are once again left holding their heads in their hands saying, “Not again!”
Anyone searching for rationale in the aftermath of the shootout to bring down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a terror-loving radical shouted down by the vengeance demanding right-wing racists. Same old story. There is no getting away from the decade-old conflict nor any use of reiterating that there are more than a billion perfectly normal Muslims living and wanting peace in this world. The best hope — particularly for the Muslim immigrant populace in the West — is to stay mum and pray that the furore dies down. It’s the default reaction most have adopted.
Not always an easy task, though. Anti-Muslim hounds abound in the Western media industry who would happily exterminate all Muslims with their bare hands. But it isn’t the media that is as worrisome as the governments of nations where one resides.
In Canada, we have a prime example in Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who grasps at such opportunities to demonise Islam.
On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Harper went on air in a CBC News interview saying, “the major threat is still Islamicism (for Canada).” With strong, subsurface ideas of turning Canada into a white supramist nation, Harper’s conservative government would love to restore the anti-terrorism clauses which would give the police a very wide authority to arrest any suspect without a warrant. This would clearly include suspects based on racial profiling.
Following on George Bush’s rhetoric, Harper has been fairly vocal in slandering Muslims, stating that Islamic radicals are still the top threat to Canada`s security.
Conservative governments in Canada and the US have been historically known to cultivate the element of fear to stay in power. We saw what Bush did for eight bloodthirsty years in America and it is being felt that Harper would like to become as ferocious. The sanity that was lost after 9/11 has now seeped into the Canadian landscape and in official circles, the language of reason has quite disappeared.
But there is hope in the newer political generation, which is questioning the older political systems. Justin Trudeau, the newly elected leader of Canada’s Labour Party, was asked in a CBC interview how he would have reacted to the situation in Boston if he were Canada’s prime minister. A young, liberal idealist and strong supporter of the coloured minority, Trudeau replied with a sensible statement, innocent of any politics, “We have to look at the root causes … we don’t know if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, okay, where do those tensions come from?”
The pugnacious conservatives, however, were quick to accuse him of “justifying” the enemy. Prime Minister Harper stated, “When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalise it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes. You condemn it categorically, and to the extent you can deal with the perpetrators, you deal with them as harshly as possible.”
Governments in North America have become habitual in protecting their power base through intimidation. They want to be known as superheroes, rescuing the people from some danger or the other. And to remind the public or the world at large of their superhero status, they may even create an imaginary menace like a WMD or a modern-day dragon named Saddam, Bin Laden or Ahmadinejad.
In Pakistan, too, the politics of fear prevails. It takes seconds to create public panic and from there to assume control. Dictators, elected prime ministers and appointed presidents have all done it. And that’s why radicalisation is still rampant.
If there are any voices of reason aspiring for leadership, let’s hope that they are voted in this time. Because we don’t have much wherewithal left to sustain any more demolition, which happens when superheroes engage with villains.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2013.