Terrorizing Dissent: Harper’s approach to defining terrorism is shamelessly bald
By Azeezah Kanji – 31 January, 2014
“When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.” — Stephen Harper, 2005 (as Leader of the Opposition)
If dissent is the lifeblood of democracy, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems determined to render Canada anaemic.
The backdrop for Harper’s latest assault was his recent visit to the Middle East. The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) criticized the inclusion of a supporter of anti-Muslim demagogues Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer in Harper’s Israel-bound entourage.
Instead of addressing NCCM’s concern, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications Jason MacDonald peremptorily dismissed it with a vicious smear:”We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas,” MacDonald said.
This is a very serious claim, with potential criminal implications: Hamas is officially listed as a terrorist organization in Canada. To level such an accusation without a shred of competent evidence is quite likely libellous. Presumably, if there actually were any documents backing the assertion of “documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas,” the government would have produced them and charged NCCM in a court of law — rather than resorting to indictment in the court of public opinion.
Since the inception of the “war on terror,” insinuations of terroristic connections have been used to vilify Canadian Muslims as “not really Canadian” and disloyal, treasonous, unentitled to the rights and benefits of belonging to Canada. Canadian Muslims erroneously branded as “terrorist threats” have been extraordinarily rendered (Maher Arar), incarcerated in foreign prisons and tortured (Maher Arar, Ahmed El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin), stranded abroad and actively prevented from returning home (Abousfian Abdelrazik) and harassed at airports and borders (too many to name).
For Muslims in Canada, being falsely accused of terrorism is quite literally terror-producing. And the damage isn’t cured by formal exoneration: as Justice Dennis O’Connor observed in his report on the Arar case, “Labels, even unfair and inaccurate ones, have a tendency to stick.” …more