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<nettime> two forwards on canada's terror campaign
Gita Hashemi on Tue, 13 Jun 2006 04:02:52 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> two forwards on canada's terror campaign


i'm forwarding two items below (Statement on anti-terror arrests by 
the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, and Wounded Sentiments: 
Multiculturalism, the "Toronto 17", and the National Imaginary by 
Sumayya Kassamali & Usamah Ahmad) as some people may be interested to 
know the local take on the recent canadian scare campaign.  the 
arrests of these men (5 out of the 17 are under the age of 18) and 
the media spectacle staged by CSIS and RCMP and perpetuated by our 
embedded media - including so-called public CBC which effectively has 
become a mouthpiece for the security agenda - has successfully 
diverted the public discourse away from debating canada's recent 
upgrade of its military involvement in afghanistan from so-called 
peacekeeping to overt war (not new really, they've just dropped the 
cover).  another triumph of propaganda.

if you need a refresher on the infamous "project thread" arrests two 
years ago, note http://www.threadbare.tyo.ca/, the website of the 
"project threadbare", a local ad-hoc collective whose public 
interventions in that case were instrumental in rescuing the 20-some 
mostly pakestani students who were arrested then from the fate that 
has befallen "security certificate detainees" in canada.  although, 
the subsequent deportation of these men and the heart-breaking 
personal tragedies many of them suffered and continue to suffer 
doesn't leave much room for celebration.

a necessary addition to be made to the statement below (#1) is that 
many conservative and neoliberal camps within the diverse muslim 
communities here have in fact been playing alongside their white 
counterparts by calling on muslims to spy on one another and to 
"respect canadian values", thus perpetuating the "good vs. bad 
muslim" discourse.

be well.

gita

=== 1 ===
---- forwarded message ----

Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2006 15:58:33 -0400
Subject: Statement on anti-terror arrests
From: Coalition to Stop the War <stopthewar {AT} sympatico.ca>

Please forward widely.

Statement on anti-terror arrests
By the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War


The recent wave of "anti-terror" arrests in Toronto has sparked a 
national debate about the threat of terrorism in Canada and the issue 
of security. In response to this debate, the Toronto Coalition to 
Stop the War would like to put forward the following points:

1) All those arrested must be treated as innocent until proven 
guilty. This precept is the cornerstone of our justice system and, in 
order to guarantee a fair and open trial, must be consistently 
applied to all those now facing charges;

2) What has been reported in the press are alleged acts and not 
proven facts. Only a trial by the public courts system - and not the 
media - can determine the difference. All media has a responsibility 
to report on the case fairly and accurately and without resorting to 
sensationalism;

3) Members of government and other public officials should not 
publicly comment on the case in any way that undermines the precept 
of "innocent until proven guilty" or that compromises the integrity 
of a fair and open trial. So far both Prime Minister Stephen Harper 
and Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day have already suggested 
that those charged are guilty;

4) The Muslim community and the Islamic faith should not in any way 
be held responsible for the alleged acts of individual suspects. 
Every effort should be made to ensure the safety and security of 
Muslims and to prevent any kind of backlash against the Muslim 
community. All acts motivated by Islamophobia and hate should be 
opposed and condemned;

5) Canadians should bear in mind that this recent wave of arrests is 
not the first. Two years ago, as many as twenty-six Muslim men were 
arrested in Toronto in a sweep called "Project Thread" that received 
widespread international attention and that, according to at least 
one government official, had uncovered "an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell" in 
Canada. This statement was proved to be false, not one of the men 
were ever formally charged (or convicted) of committing a crime, and 
most were deported from Canada. No effort was made to clear their 
names or restore their reputations.

Please circulate this statement in order to help defend civil 
liberties and to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community 
against any kind of backlash. It is critical that this recent wave of 
"anti-terror" arrests and the media coverage about it not be 
exploited to perpetuate divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims and 
that relationships of solidarity and support between communities be 
expanded and deepened. The arrests should also not be exploited in 
order to justify Canada's deeply unpopular participation in the 
occupation of Afghanistan or the use of repressive measures that 
curtail civil liberties in Canada such as secret trials and security 
certificates.

The anti-war movement in Canada has an important role to play in 
defending civil liberties, opposing racism and Islamophobia and 
supporting the Muslim community. We hope that you will join us in 
this effort.

Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

TCSW is Toronto's city-wide anti-war coalition,
comprised of more than fifty labour, faith and community organisations,
and a member of the Canadian Peace Alliance.
www.nowar.ca  stopthewar {AT} sympatico.ca  416-795-5863

--- end forwarded message ---

=== 2 ===
--- forwarded article ---

Wounded Sentiments: Multiculturalism, the "Toronto 17", and the 
National Imaginary
Sumayya Kassamali & Usamah Ahmad

Over the past week, popular discourse on the "Toronto 17" has 
revolved around a shock at the possibility that Canadian citizens 
would want to harm the nation state. This shock has been personified 
by the depiction of a national body who has been wounded by a threat 
to its multicultural ideals. We hope to argue, however, that the 
wounds have not been inflicted on egalitarian ideals but rather on 
how Canada produces its self-image - its "national imaginary" - in 
the face of its racist, imperialist and exploitative underpinnings.

Rebuking the Myth of Innocence
At the heart of our problematization of the shock that surrounds the 
"Toronto 17" case is that it constructs Canada as an innocent, 
non-threatening and benevolent state.  Indeed, many have even 
suggested that opposition to the Canadian state stems from hatred 
towards the Canadian ideals of tolerance, democracy and justice. 
This conveniently ignores Canada's unjust activities both 
domestically and globally. For example, the inception of the Canadian 
state depended on the dispossession and colonization of First 
Nations. How can a state be built on the foundations of justice when 
it was created at the expense of the sovereignty of entire peoples, a 
large portion of whom were wiped out by White settlers?  Furthermore, 
the state, yet to be decolonized, continues to oppose just 
settlements with First Nations through its ostentatious contestation 
of land claims, and continues to maintain First Nations peoples as 
the most marginalized members of society.

Another aspect of the media's treatment of multiculturalism over the 
past week has revolved around disbelief that immigrants would be 
"ungrateful" to the country that has absorbed them into its 
pluralistic wings.  This sentiment again fails to appreciate the 
racist institutions that have structured the immigrant experience in 
Canada historically.  Indeed until 1945, Canadian immigration policy 
explicitly barred "undesirable racials" (essentially non-whites and 
Jews) from entering the country, or placed a head tax on those 
imported for labour. The Eurocentric and white supremacist bases of 
the state can also be seen in the internment of Japanese-Canadians, 
the Komagatamaru incident and the current illegal detentions of 
Muslim men under "anti-terror" laws, such as the infamous Secret 
Trial 5.  Indeed racism is not only an experiential aspect of 
immigration but has also resulted in a particular racialized 
political economy.

Multiculturalist dogma helps obscure these realities that paint a 
picture of Canadian nationhood based on racist intolerance and 
exploitation.  Canada's hands are not clean in the global scene 
either. Its involvement in the invasion of Afghanistan, the meddling 
in Haiti and "peace-keeping" in Somalia (with infamously disastrous 
results) are all recent examples of Canadian interventionist agendas. 
Furthermore, its partnership with American imperialism guised under 
the language of a "war on terror" is another example of how this 
state is involved in, and depends on, various forms of violence. 
This is at the crux of our problem: given these realities, how can 
the state be constructed as innocent, and how can action against it 
inspire so much shock?  It is clear that dominant ideology, and 
specifically multiculturalist thinking, helps produce a national 
mythology; a mythology that requires a national imaginary that the 
media has been trying to reaffirm over the past week.

Given that crime and violence amongst citizens (particularly 
perpetrated upon feminine and racialized bodies) do not regularly 
produce hysteria, the true shock comes not from the possibility of 
violence - be it explosion, murder, or otherwise - but the threat to 
the nation state through its national imaginary, which is essential 
to constituting and maintaining its boundaries. This imaginary is 
dependant upon the image of a benevolent, non-violent state, 
constructed as a pristine body which bears no battle markings or 
blemishes. Neither has it perpetrated violence (thereby free of 
implication), nor has it been the victim of violence; for any 
acknowledgment of past victimization implies that there must have 
been cause for inflicting harm. Such a motive or reason would, of 
course, rupture the national imaginary. Thus, in order to keep the 
body of the state pure and continue to imagine the nation as one of 
multicultural tolerance, the "Toronto 17" must be constructed through 
an ahistorical lens, where only an irrational, 
ideologically-motivated group of individuals could (allegedly) desire 
to harm such innocence.

Any attempt to problematize this presumed innocence would wound both 
how Canada defines and experiences itself. The media discourse 
surrounding the "Toronto 17", evidently racist, essentialist, and 
filled with dramatic hyperboles of "they hate our freedom", has not 
simply been a defensive reaction to the charges presented by RCMP and 
CSIS. Rather, it is an essential method of ensuring that the national 
imaginary remains firmly in its place. In turn, such discourses are 
critical to articulating and defining what is in the best interest of 
the nation - notably, stricter immigration policy, greater trampling 
of civil rights, and the need for increased security. Given the 
contemporary realities of war and destruction conflicted on primarily 
Muslim countries, the national imaginary further enables the 
production of a reductionist image of the "West and the Rest" to 
justify its global agendas.

You're Right, Multiculturalism Doesn't Work

In the barrage of public discussion that has followed Saturday's 
sensationalist events, we find ourselves once again faced with a 
debate on "multiculturalism." The continually regurgitated "is 
multiculturalism working?" most often begins from the same 
presumption of innocence as is believed to define the history of the 
Canadian state. Multiculturalism, it is claimed, was supposed to be 
our pride and joy: our claim to uniqueness; our happily brandished 
"Get Out of Jail Free" card in face of any accusations of practices 
that look suspiciously like racism or intolerance; what makes us the 
envy of the rest of the world. Ethnic conflict? Look at Canada, apart 
from Quebec every so often, we all get along just great. Forced 
assimilation? Look at Canada, where aboriginal arts appear as 
national symbols, where it is common to have students in a classroom 
from every region of the world, and where quaint ethnic 
neighbourhoods offer costume, craft and cuisine up for consumption as 
capitalist proof of multi-cultured integration. But all of a sudden 
some of them are dissatisfied - oh dear, has multiculturalism been 
too nice?

Throughout the debate about Canada's self-congratulatory 
multiculturalism that has followed Saturday's events, there has been 
little substantial dialogue about how its highly lauded integration 
model operates. Exactly what form of integration does our 
"multiculturalism" command? Or, specifically, integration into who's 
model? The white, middle-class, secular ideal to which we are told to 
aspire is not only undesirable to many (and rightly so), it is 
inaccessible and impossible. There is no acknowledgment of structural 
barriers to such integration, and how in fact multicultural policies 
shut down room for critical debate. Multiculturalism can breed 
terrorists by allowing them not to assimilate and allowing Muslims to 
keep to their own neighbourhoods, CBC informs us.
That forced ghettoization has anything to do with labour and 
socioeconomic barriers is unmentioned; that the racialization of 
space both stems from and is a result of racism, which confines 
populations to "their own neighbourhoods" and causes communities to 
come together in face of outside rejection simply cannot be spoken: 
for we are a multicultural state, remember? We accept everyone.

In listening to discussions over the past week, we have also been 
disgusted by the continual reoccurrence of the question, "if they 
don't like our values, why do they come here?" Well, "our values", as 
we know, are built upon stolen land and the bodies and labour of 
aboriginal and immigrant populations. Furthermore, there is no 
mention of global economic and political factors which are causing 
forced migration in mass numbers at an unprecedented scale in human 
history. Canada's willing participation in neoliberal institutions 
such as NAFTA and the FTAA furthers the economic integration of 
countries under a globalized capitalist economy, flooding foreign 
markets with goods which devalue domestic products and cause the 
export and exploitation of cheap labour to fuel consumerist desires 
at home. Migration, increasingly feminized as evident in Canada's 
Live in Caregiver Program which sees Filipina women coming to Canada 
to work as domestic workers under unjust conditions, is often not a 
choice.

Yet regardless of the multiplicity of reasons for which Muslims are a 
growing population in Canada today, given our multicultural 
tolerance, one would expect to find it a space of respectful 
diversity, at least. It is at times like these that we are reminded, 
through public discourse and the reassertion of the national 
imaginary, what the true definition of "Canadianness" is.

Defining the Nation; Defining the Other

The hegemonic white, consumerist ideals which form the premise of 
dominant Canadian culture alienate all peoples who deviate from this 
historically positioned identity. There is thus no room for 
discussing how dominant consumer-based cultural mores may indeed be 
alienating for many, including many Muslim, persons.  But for 
Muslims, we are further faced with the existence of an imperialism 
which clearly defines us as an Other, globally.  The very ability to 
define oneself as Muslim, and not Secular and White, is under attack.

Over the past week, there have been continual attempts in the media 
to solicit the testimonies of Muslims to prove that the National 
Other is not the Muslim (necessarily), but the "Bad Muslim."  The 
opinions these Muslims can voice are limited within certain terms of 
engagement; terms under which we cannot interrogate the realities of 
racism and imperialism, but have to take an apologetic tone in 
claiming "we are not all bad!" Instead, we must prove that we are 
"Good Muslims" whose faith is confined purely to our 
personal-spiritual identity (and cannot be politicized or the basis 
of a morally guided political praxis), who attempt to live the 
middle-class Canadian dream and do not deviate from status quo 
sentiments and desires; who love the Canadian state for its 
pluralistic benevolence and ignore its imperialist, racist and 
exploitative tendencies.

This typography requires certain Muslim spokespersons, or "native 
informants", to legitimize the polarizing of who is a part of the 
social body and who is not.  The media vehemently recruits these 
individuals to reassure Canadians that racism and social alienation 
do not produce rage because these spokespeople are Muslim too, and 
even they find these Muslim Others abhorrent.  Through these 
relations, the self is thus reaffirmed by not only defining the Other 
(the Bad, "freedom-hating", Muslim), but also defining the self's 
(the Canadian State's) jurisdiction to control and produce the terms 
on which the Other can interact with the social body. This occurs 
through discussions on how to "integrate" Muslims into "Canadian 
society" and justifies the imposition of such racialized and legally 
dubious devices as security certificates.

Another aspect of the "Toronto 17" in media discourse has been the 
nationalism Muslims are being forced to adopt.  In proving the status 
of a "Good Muslim", we are asked to legitimize our presence on this 
territory by espousing an uncritical zeal for the state.  Nationalism 
always works to shroud status quo relations and exploitation by 
constructing an imagined commune to which one must be emotionally and 
viscerally committed.  There have thus been charges that if certain 
groups do not accept dominant mores, they have no reason to be here. 
We are forced into celebratory nationalism or are labelled "Enemies 
Within" who need to be exorcised (or deported). As outlined earlier, 
immigration is not a favour the state endows, nor necessarily a 
"choice", but a historical product of exploitation Canada continues 
to benefit from.

Ultimately, then, it is important not to fall into apologetic 
nationalisms, or "gratefulness," but to maintain a critical lens on, 
and oppositional praxis to, Canada's role in the unjust Order of 
Things. Current debates around multiculturalism and shock can be 
conceptualized as "wounded sentiments": it is not the integrity of 
the national body that is being challenged but rather, the national 
imaginary.  This imaginary has produced the "Toronto 17" as having 
violated core Canadian ideals without problematizing these ideals. As 
we have discussed, these ideals are in fact not "freedom-loving" and 
"tolerant" but a particular configuration of racist imperialist 
thinking guised in ahistorical multiculturalist ideology.


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