Politics of fear

Published: April 26, 2013
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The writer is a Toronto-based journalist with over 20 years of experience covering social and geo-political issues. She is a former magazine editor of Dawn

The writer is a Toronto-based journalist with over 20 years of experience covering social and geo-political issues. She is a former magazine editor of Dawn

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.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Shock Horror
    Apr 26, 2013 - 1:22AM

    Maheen

    If you do not like the Canadian policy against Islamists, why not come back to the Land of the Pure!

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  • TightPatloon
    Apr 26, 2013 - 2:45AM

    Didn’t the other day the Canadian authorities find a bunch of guy linked to Al Qaeda planning to conduct a terrorist attack near Niagra falls? So what would you say about that? Is that also been done by some Heera Lal or Amar Singh? And is it some insider job or false flag operation to takeaway Pakistan’s nukes? Please address the root issue which truly is the disengagement of Muslim youth and their subsequent radicalisation by fundamentalists which is also happening in our own backyard with devastating effects.

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  • numbersnumbers
    Apr 26, 2013 - 5:20AM

    And of course there are no MUSLIM RACISTS in “The Land of the Pure” ( other that the persecutors of all Muslim and non-Muslim religious “minorities”) or did you somehow miss their activities of the last decade or so????
    Maybe you should come and visit to enjoy the complete absence of the “Politics of Fear” that is a blessing in Pakistan!!!

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  • Apr 26, 2013 - 5:39AM

    The author is right in saying that threat (fear) is used as a tool to achieve their goal and it is almost universal., But she did not elaborate that one threat is fictional which is created specifically in the minds of the people. Example – threat perception of national security from India, created by the Pakistan Army in the psyche of people. and to appear at correct wars/ conflicts initiated by Pakistan army to remain in power directly or indirectly. 2nd example in India by the congress party creating a fear,( from right wing organisations like RSS , Shiv Sena) in the minds of Muslims to garner the votes in bulk which is still being exploited. .Activities of right wing parties too helped them for continuance of this fear. In USA threat of Al Qaeda was real which is seen/ proved in the incident of 9/11 and winch led USA to go to Afghanistan chasing them. Threat perception of Saddam had some logic in his aggression on Kuwait but excuse of WMD proved wrong . Continuous terrorist activities perpetuated mostly by Muslims across the globe with their Jihadist ideologies are real and there is every reason to place the same before the public by the politicians..including Canada. Politicians may increase the gravity of such activities to make use of it for their vested interest but the fear depicted is not unreal Author has ignored to differentiate between the fear perception which is imaginary and which is real and backed by facts and figures .

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  • Parvez
    Apr 26, 2013 - 1:19PM

    After you disappeared from Dawn, I’m so pleased to know that you’ve surfaced on ET. Had been reading you on Dawn and will do so here as well. You have always been sensible and balanced.

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  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Apr 26, 2013 - 5:32PM

    Aah, the old ‘Islmaophobia’ bugbear again! But just after you wrote this article 2 Muslims with ties to AQ have been arrested for plotting to plant bombs on trains in Canada. And you have the mother of the Boston bombers claiming that the blasts were a hoax, and it was all paint, not blood!

    The attitudes of the West (and East) towards Muslims have changed because the moderate majority has consistently refused to stand up to the extremist minority, and still refuses to do so. Instead there are articles like yours, which ignore the real issue, and put out red herrings, allowing the extremists to fan more flames.

    Almost all the ‘plots’ successful or otherwise in Canada and America in recent past have been linked to radical Islamists. So then I ask you dear lady, is this caution on part of the Canadians or the Americans not justified? As a resident of Canada, I would prefer this rather than our country turning into parts of UK or Europe, where the extremists clearly have the upper hand and their govts cannot do a thing!

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