Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Elmasry exemplifies the clash of civilizations

The London Free Press,
February 21, 2006
By Rory Leishman

In 1996, Prof. Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University predicted in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that "the single and most dangerous dimension of the emerging global politics would be conflict between groups from differing civilizations." Subsequent events, including the Sept. 11, 2001, Islamist attack on the United States and an array of terrorist bombings in Bali, London, Madrid and elsewhere have served to confirm this thesis.

Underlying these global conflicts is the propensity for people in different civilizations to harbour hardened beliefs on issues in conflict that are so radically divergent as to impede rational communication and understanding.

For evidence of this dilemma, Canadians need look no further than to the uproar over the decision by Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, to republish several of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Like the editors of Die Welt in Germany, Le Monde in France, the Volkskrant in the Netherlands and several other leading European newspapers, Levant contends that news media in the West have a duty to make these cartoons available to a wide audience so informed citizens can evaluate the reason for worldwide Muslim outrage.

Many Canadians disagree with Levant. They argue that news editors should refrain from republishing the cartoons, if only out of respect for the feelings of Muslims.

However, few of Levant's non-Muslim critics have gone so far as Mohamed Elmasry, the national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He insists that Levant should be charged with disseminating hate propaganda. The Criminal Code provides a maximum penalty upon conviction for this offence of two years' imprisonment.

"I think there is a fine line between freedom of the press and freedom to incite hate. These cartoons cross that line," Elmasry said. "Canada has a hate literature law and we will be able to test it to see indeed if the law protects the well-being of minorities."

Elmasry cannot be dismissed as an unrepresentative Islamist extremist. As the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress, he speaks on behalf of the largest independent voice of Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Canada, yet he has no understanding of the meaning of freedom of the press.

Moreover, it's not just on the cartoons issue that Elmasry harbours extremist views. Last year, he was investigated, but never charged, with perpetrating hate propaganda for asserting on the Michael Coren Live talk show that every Israeli man and woman over the age of 18 is a valid target for Palestinian suicide bombers.

In a statement earlier this month, Elmasry described the Taliban terrorists of Afghanistan as "a popular movement with strong grassroots support." He added: "Many Afghans . . . perceive Americans -- and the Canadians who follow them -- as hostile foreigners occupying their country. Is it any surprise that some turn to suicide bombing?"

Elmasry also has a high regard for Hamas, an organization dedicated to eradicating Israel. Last week, the militant party featured a suicide bomber on its website, declaiming to Israeli Jews: "We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood."

While most Canadians are horrified by such bloodlust, Elmasry has betrayed little concern. In a statement on Feb. 9, he asked: "So why are both Israel and the West so upset that the Hamas movement won more seats than any other party in the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections? And why are Palestinians, who have suffered injustice for generations, not allowed to aspire toward peace with justice by electing -- without fear -- those who they believe will lead them closer to this goal?"

Here we have a classic example of the clash of civilizations. While Muslims like Elmasry laud Hamas as a movement leading the Palestinians toward peace with justice, most people in the West deplore Hamas as a bloody, Jew-baiting, terrorist organization.

Of course, Elmasry does not speak for all Canadian Muslims. Yet with just a few prominent exceptions, progressive Muslims who share the Western understanding of freedom, democracy and peace with justice are reluctant to criticize Elmasry and other reactionary leaders of the Muslim establishment. That is regrettable.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Merkel grasps the menace of Islamist terrorism

The London Free Press
February 7, 2006
By Rory Leishman

In Angela Merkel, Germany is blessed with a Chancellor who has a clear understanding of the urgent need to combat the growing menace of Islamist terrorism.

In an address last week to Germany’s diplomatic corps, Merkel warned: "The fight against terrorism requires the mobilization of all political, economic and, when necessary as a last option, military means -- whenever possible under the umbrella of the United Nations.”

Merkel was referring specifically to the Islamist government of Iran. She said. "I can only warn Iran not to pull away from the international community and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). We have been following with great concern Iran's recent escalation of the dispute over its nuclear program into a crisis."

In February 2003, the IAEA discovered that Iran had been pursuing a secret nuclear program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for the previous 18 years. Of particular concern is an uranium enrichment plant at Natanz that could be used for the production of material for nuclear weapons. Having failed to persuade Iran to close the plant, the IAEA finally resolved by a vote of 27 to three on Saturday to refer the dispute to the United Nations Security Council.

In response, the Iranian government has authorized full-scale production at Natanz. According to security experts in both Europe and the United States, this move could enable Iran to acquire a nuclear arsenal within five to 10 years.

The communist dictators of the Soviet Union were deterred from starting a nuclear war by the prospect of massive nuclear retaliation, but it would be folly to rely on the same threat to deter Iran from launching a nuclear first strike. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an erratic Islamofascist. In a speech last October, he said: “Israel must be wiped off the map … The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland."

Iran already has intermediate-range missiles. No one can be certain that if the fanatical government of Iran were to obtain nuclear warheads for these missiles that it would never use them to destroy tiny Israel, despite the certainty of a devastating retaliatory attack.

Alternatively, Iran might conceivably provide Islamist terrorists with suitcase nuclear bombs to attack targets in the United States, Canada or one of the European democracies. French President Jacques Chirac is alive to the danger. Speaking at a nuclear submarine base on Jan. 19, he warned: “The leaders of states who use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part.” He underlined: “This response could be a conventional one. It could be of a different kind."

Iran’s implacable quest for nuclear weapons in defiance of the IAEA seems belatedly to have awakened even Chirac to the menace of Islamist terrorism. Perhaps, he might now be willing to join Bush, Blair, Merkel and other democratic leaders in a concerted effort to get the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

That will be no easy task. Not even punishing economic sanctions would be likely to suffice.

A surgical air strike on the Natanz uranium enrichment plant would also do little good. It’s just one of several sites scattered in the Iranian mountains that could harbour nuclear-weapons facilities. In the opinion of Kenneth Pollack, an Iranian expert on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, a massive series of air raids would be needed to destroy, first, Iran’s air defence system and then these sites.

Such a major military attack on Iran would inevitably cause numerous civilian deaths and engender enormous turmoil throughout the Arab Middle East. But the potential costs in lives and strife of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons would be infinitely worse.

Nonetheless, it’s conceivable that Russia or China might veto a Security Council resolution to impose economic or military sanctions on Iran. In that event, the democratic allies should act on their own. Merkel is right: The democracies cannot allow the United Nations to prevent them from taking all necessary measures to defend themselves against the dire perils of Islamist terrorism.