Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence? – The Daily Beast

Good long and nuanced read, covering a range of theological perspectives:

Shortly after September 11, 2001, then President George W. Bush spoke directly to Muslims. “We respect your faith,” he said, calling it “good and peaceful.” Terrorists, he added, “are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Recently, TODAY’s Matt Lauer reminded Bush of his words. “I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict—that people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Bush explained.

Those words epitomize an important, but controversial question: is someone who acts violently in the name of a faith truly a member of that faith? According to recently highlighted data from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)—which focuses primarily on Christian responses to that yes/no question—potential answers may result in a “double standard.” Christians are more likely to say that other Christians acting violently are not true Christians, while failing to provide the same latitude for Muslims.

But how closely does this represent the reality? When I asked Christian theologians the why behind that simple survey, the answers were—perhaps surprisingly—more complicated and diverse.

According to PRRI, 50 percent of Americans in general say that violence in the name of Islam does not represent Islam—75 percent say the same of Christianity. The numbers shift, however, the more specific the demographic gets, creating the alleged “double standard.” White mainline Protestants (77 percent) and Catholics (79 percent) reject the idea that true Christians act violently, with 41 percent and 58 percent respectively being willing to say the same of Muslims.

White evangelicals stand out the most, having what PRRI calls the “larger double-standard”—87 percent disown Christians who commit violent acts, with only 44 percent willing to say the same about Muslims.

Many, however, believe that Christians who commit acts of terror are overlooked in the West—that “terrorist” is a biased word used only of non-white violent acts done in the name of Islam.

Early in February, the White House issued a report of 78 terror attacks the Trump administration says were ignored by the media. The list was widely dissected by the press and pundits, with news outlets challenging the claims (listing their own coverage as proof), taking the metaphorical red pencil to the list’s many clear spelling errors, and noting the conspicuous absence of attacks by professed white Christians. Notably, the list did not include the recent attack on a mosque in Quebec, as CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out.

Understandably, most people are unlikely to associate willfully with anyone who acts horribly in the name of a faith they love. When terrorist attacks do occur, faith representatives frequently waste little time in denouncing them (PRRI’s “double standard”) but not all are sure that these open repudiations represent the reality.

“Christians who commit terrorists acts in the name of their religion are, of course, Christian terrorists,” she says. This does not mean that “Christianity is only a violent religion,” but “it has been complicit in horrific and systemic violence across history, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Nazis, and today’s Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.”

She believes it is important that Christians face the issue honestly. “Christians don’t get a ‘hall pass’ to go innocently through the bloody history of what has been done by Christians in the name of Christianity over time. It is absolutely critical that Christians not turn away from the Christian theological elements in such religiously inspired terrorism.”

The same goes for Islam, she says.

“When Muslims commit horrific acts in the name of their religion, I do not think they cease to be Muslims.” She recognizes that Muslims who distance themselves from ISIS might say, “That’s not Islam,” but she believes it is more complicated than that.

“I know many thoughtful Muslims who know they need to dig deeply into their own faith in order to look at the temptations to violence, such as thinking you are doing the ‘will of God’ when what you are really doing is using Islam in order to gain political power.”

Daniel Kirk, pastoral director at Newbigin House of Studies, agrees that violence does not negate one’s Christian or Muslim status.

“Each religion and every religious text holds potential for harm as well as good. Acts of violence can be, and often are, religious expressions. It is critical that we recognize the human component involved when religious communities shape behavior. If we deny the religious component we misinterpret the action and lose our opportunity to respond to it appropriately.”

When shooters (or potential shooters) like Dylan RoofBenjamin McDowellRobert Doggart, and Robert Dear, identify themselves as Christians, many might hope to rescind their membership or say it was never valid, but others, like Kirk, believe that approach is problematic.

“Unless a person is being intentionally deceitful, someone who claims to be acting on the basis of religious fervor should be treated as an adherent to that religion. I do not get to judge whether or not a person is ‘really’ of their faith. As a Christian I can only try to persuade other Christians as to why certain behaviors are incompatible with the Christian faith.”

Others believe that the difference between Christians and Muslims is more distinct—that the religion of Jesus rejects violence, but that Islam does not.

“The alleged double-standard claimed by the PRRI survey essentially dissolves when we consider the example and teachings of the respective founders, Jesus and Muhammad,” says evangelical professor Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “Jesus repudiated violence—that is, the unjust use of force—done in his name.”

“By contrast, Muhammad himself engaged in violent, ruthless actions during his career,” he adds. “He taught such ruthlessness as normative in the Quran.”

While agreeing with the larger results of the survey, Copan says the discussion has layers, noting particularly the role of Christians in the military who—assuming they have a just cause—may have to kill. They are in a different situation. It is also possible, he says, for “misguided” Christians to act violently (and therefore, “unjustly”), even if it is contrary to the faith.

When it comes to Islam, he adds that he’s known “plenty of gracious, hospitable Muslims” who “repudiate violence done in the name of Islam” by “screening off any violent texts of the Quran,” though he can’t say that violence in the name of Islam is inconsistent with the faith.

Evangelical J. Robert Douglass, associate professor of theological studies at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, takes a cautious approach to the question, recognizing that both faiths have sacred texts that could be understood violently.

“My understanding of the Christian faith does not permit violence in the name of Christ,” he says. “However, I am not prepared to say that a person who acts in a way contradictory to the teachings of Christ is excluded from being a Christian.” He recognizes that there are complications behind violence, like ignorance, manipulation, and mental illness.

“If behaving in opposition to the teachings of Christ kept one from being a Christian, I could not consider myself one.”

He admits that due to competing factions in Islam with varying interpretations vying for “authentic representation”—some advocating violence and others peace—the question is more difficult to answer “definitively.”

“Both the Bible and the Quran have passages that advocate violence, at least within particular historical contexts,” says Douglass. He says he doesn’t find “a sizable faction within Christianity that is still explicitly advocating the legitimacy of violence in a manner that we presently see in Islam,” but “since Christianity had a historical head start, perhaps in 500 or 600 years this will no longer be true for Islam either.”

Other theologians readily reject the face value of a faith label attached to an act of violence, agreeing with Christians or Muslims who say, “That’s not my faith.”

Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and an outspoken pacifist, finds himself taking a very different stance, saying that anyone—Christian or Muslim—who acts out in violence is not truly a part of those faiths.

“Jesus made one’s commitment to refrain from violence, and to instead love and bless one’s enemies, the precondition for being considered ‘a child of your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:39-45). Though followers of Jesus are never allowed to judge another person’s heart or ‘salvation,’ Jesus’ teaching rules out killing another human for any reason, let alone doing so as an act of terror in his name!”

“While the Quran allows Muslims to take the lives of others under certain conditions,” he adds, “these conditions rule out murdering innocent people to install terror in others (6:151). I therefore side with the majority of Muslims who do not consider Islamic terrorists to be true Muslims.”

The briefest dive into this conversation about religious identity quickly reveals an undeniable mosaic of views. And—perhaps to the surprise of some—it should be noted that the flipside of this conversation among Muslims may result in conclusions similar to these Christian perspectives.

“If someone claiming to be Christian commits an act of violence in the name of Christianity,” says Harris Zafar, National Spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, “it certainly cannot be my place as a Muslim to decide whether or not that person is a true Christian.” He sees that as “the burden” of his “Christian friends,” though he does believe violence contradicts the “teachings of Christianity.”

“And to be honest,” he adds, “the same holds true with regards to a Muslim. As a Muslim, if I were to look at those Muslims who commit horrible acts of violence and terrorism and say they are not real Muslims, I’m committing the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy.”

The goal of Islam is not to judge others, he says, noting that the Prophet Muhammad saw such actions as a “sin.”

Instead he “would focus on highlighting all of the teachings of Islam that this person is violating. And Muslims who commit acts of terror can certainly call themselves Muslims if they would like, but I can easily illustrate the fundamental teachings of Islam that they are starkly violating.”

Islam, says Zafar, calls its adherents to “stop that injustice” and “unite people together through a bond of humanity and mutual respect—not to divide people with injustice or violence.”

Undeniably, this is a conversation and debate with years of life left in it. The diversity of opinion belies the reality: there is no such thing as a single or simple Christian perspective on how to understand violence and religiosity.

It was former president and self-professed Christian, Barack Obama, for example, who once offered a similar sentiment to that of Bush. When asked in a CNN town hall why he wouldn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorist,” he said didn’t want to lump “these murderers” with the world’s billions of peaceful Muslims.

“There is no doubt that these folks think and claim that they are speaking for Islam,” he said, “but I don’t want to validate what they do. If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, ‘We’re on the vanguard of Christianity.’ As a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say, ‘you’re killing for Christ.’ I would say, that’s ridiculous.”

Source: Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence? – The Daily Beast

Chris Selley: Conservatives need pressure release on Islamic extremism, but Manning panel on terrorism was bonkers

Good commentary by Selley:

Goodness knows conservatives could use some pressure-release on the question of Islamic extremism. Ten days ago, four leadership candidates — including two former cabinet ministers — attended a rally whose premise was that a private member’s motion in the House of Commons was a step toward Sharia law and an attack on free speech.

Alas, the terrorism panel released no pressure at all.

“Motion 103 … is essentially akin to the blasphemy laws,” said Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. (M-103 isn’t a law of any sort, and never will be.) She took umbrage at the suggestion by M-103’s sponsor, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, that “more than one million Canadians … suffer because of Islamophobia … on a daily basis.”

Raza: “Seriously? As though in Canada racism and bigotry, only against Muslims, is an everyday issue?” (Six parishioners were recently murdered in a Quebec City mosque. M-103 condemns “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”)

Thomas Quiggin of the Terrorism and Security Experts network then rattled through a deck of slides that would have left an uninformed viewer thinking most every mosque in Canada — including the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, site of the massacre — was funnelling funds to extremist groups. He suggested the English-language media didn’t report on a pig’s head having been delivered to the mosque a year earlier. (They did. Why wouldn’t they?) He suggested intelligence officials should have known about the pig’s head, and that the mosque was supporting extremists, and that the gunman was intending to take his revenge — Quiggin suspects — for that support.

“The cycle of violence has come to Canada as it has in France, Belgium, Germany, the Middle East, and we can no longer deny this,” said Quiggin, and that’s bonkers. The facts in evidence were the attacks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (one dead), Parliament Hill attack (one dead) and … Quebec City, where the victims were Muslims at prayer!

There are things being said in some Canadian mosques that would cause outrage if they were more widely reported. Why they are not more widely reported is a good question; political correctness is a very plausible answer. But Manning attendees were promised a sober look at the problem, including an effort to “define how serious (it) really is.” What they got were two alarmists. Policy has never been the Manning conference’s forte, but I swear panellists used to mildly disagree with each other now and again, and to have vastly superior resumes.

Four years ago, after Tom Flanagan’s comments about child pornography and Wildrose candidate Alan Hunsperger’s “lake of fire” missive, Manning warned conservatives against “intemperate and ill-considered remarks by those who hold … positions deeply but in fits of carelessness or zealousness say things that discredit the family.” The first question from the audience at the terrorism panel was whether Raza thought it should be illegal to call Muhammad a pedophile.

She didn’t. Neither do I. But this kind of nonsense has great potential to harm the Conservative Party, Michael Chong said Friday in an interview; the last place it should be happening is at Manningstock. And Chong is fairly emblematic of the mess the party now confronts. He supported M-103, a meaningless motion. But he also supports doing away with the hate-speech section of the Criminal Code, a very meaningful restriction on free speech. He supports a simple, revenue-neutral, Economics 101 carbon tax to fight emissions, instead of command-and-control regulations.

He was roundly booed for the later during Friday’s leaders debate. Mainstream Conservatives, never mind the new fringe, sneer that he ought to run for the Liberals.

Source: Chris Selley: Conservatives need pressure release on Islamic extremism, but Manning panel on terrorism was bonkers | National Post

Shannon Proudfoot has an only slightly more gentle take:

The Manning Centre Conference, the pre-eminent gathering of Canadian conservatives, opened in Ottawa on Friday morning with a panel discussion that sounded a stark note of alarm, with a contrarian streak: Islamic extremism exists in Canada, and to believe otherwise is dangerous naiveté.

The discussion was billed as “Leading the Response to Islamist Extremism and its Ideology in Canada,” one of the break-out sessions planned by the Manning Centre, which provides research, training and networking for Canadian conservatives.

The morning panel featured Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, which describes its mission as “oppos(ing) extremism, fanaticism and violence in the name of religion,” and Thomas Quiggin, a self-styled security and terrorism expert who runs the Terrorism and Security Experts network.

….But regardless of his inaccuracies and misleading connections, Quiggin’s arguments seemed to resonate with at least a segment of the Manning Centre audience. They indulged him by turns with disapproving murmurs and incredulous gasps as he theatrically laid out the supposed creeping influence of Islamist extremism in Canada.

As Quiggin worked himself into high dudgeon over what he claimed was the Islamization of Canada’s public schools, out in the audience, the 50-ish woman once again sighed and shook her head in disgust.

At the Manning Conference, an alarming view of Islam

In Pakistan, tolerant Islamic voices are being silenced | William Dalrymple | The Guardian

Saudi Arabia’s support for its particular form of Islam is contributing to extremism, not making the world a better place:

Last week, only three days after a suicide bomb went off in Lahore, an Islamic State supporter struck a crowd of Sufi dancers celebrating in the great Pakistani shrine of Sehwan Sharif. The attack, which killed almost 90, showed the ability of radical Islamists to silence moderate and tolerant voices in the Islamic world.

The attack also alarmingly demonstrated the ever-wider reach of Isis and the ease with which it can now strike within Pakistan. Isis now appears to equal the Taliban as a serious threat to this nuclear-armed country.

The suicide bombing of the Sehwan shrine is an ominous development for the world, in a region that badly needs stability. It is an Islamic shrine where outsiders, religious minorities and women are all welcomed. Here, 70 years after partition and the violent expulsion of most of the Hindus of Pakistan into India (and vice versa with Muslims into Pakistan), one of the hereditary tomb guardians is still a Hindu, and it is he who performs the opening ritual at the annual festival. Hindu holy men, pilgrims and officials still tend the shrine.

But the wild and ecstatic night-long celebrations marking the Sufi saint’s anniversary were almost a compendium of everything Islamic puritans most disapprove of: loud Sufi music and love poetry sung in every courtyard; men dancing with women; hashish being smoked. Hindus and Christians were all welcome to join in the celebrations.

Since the 1970s, Saudi oil wealth has been used to spread such intolerant beliefs across the globe

A radical anti-Sufi movement is growing throughout the Islamic world. Until the 20th century, ultra-orthodox strains of Islam tended to be regarded as heretical by most Muslims. But since the 1970s, Saudi oil wealth has been used to spread such intolerant beliefs across the globe. As a result, many contemporary Muslims have been taught a story of Islamic religious tradition from which the tolerance of Sufism is excluded.

What happens at the Sehwan Sharif shrine matters, as it is an indication as to which of the two ways global Islam will go. Can it continue to follow the path of moderate pluralistic Islam, or – under the pressure of Saudi funding – will it opt for the more puritanical, reformed Islam of the Wahhabis and Salafis, with their innate suspicion (or even overt hostility) towards Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism?

Islam in south Asia is changing. Like 16th-century Europe on the eve of the Reformation, reformers and puritans are on the rise, distrustful of music, images, festivals and the devotional superstitions of saints’ shrines. In Christian Europe, they looked to the text alone for authority, and recruited the bulk of their supporters from the newly literate urban middle class, who looked down on what they saw as the corrupt superstitions of the illiterate peasantry.

Hardline Wahhabi and Salafi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Pakistan partly because the Saudis have financed the building of so many madrasas that have filled the vacuum left by the collapse of state education.

Source: In Pakistan, tolerant Islamic voices are being silenced | William Dalrymple | Opinion | The Guardian

How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald

More good commentary from Macdonald:

What appears to have qualified those attacks for inclusion on the Trump list was the fact that the attackers, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had converted from their birth religion to Islam.

Similarly, Trump’s list did not include Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who, in the summer of 2015, pulled out a gun in a black church in Atlanta and began killing. Roof was a practising Christian, a member of an evangelical Lutheran congregation. Reportedly, he sat and argued about scriptural issues with congregants at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before murdering nine of them.

Still, like Bissonnette, Roof was not labelled a terrorist by law enforcement authorities, or charged as such. He was certainly not called a “radical Christian terrorist” or “white supremacist terrorist.” Those are phrases the mainstream media rarely find pronounceable.

The FBI even went to far as to say Roof’s killings were “not a political act.”

If that sounds outrageously hypocritical, that’s because it is. (Go ahead and imagine the official reaction had Roof or Bissonnette been Muslims).

Western concept of ‘terrorism’

But it’s perfectly consonant with the Western concept of “terrorism,” which is itself a form of hypocrisy deeply embedded in the American and Canadian psyches.

Terrorism is political invective, nothing more. It’s a great favourite of demagogues, widely accepted by audiences, and is almost always applied exclusively to the other, never to ourselves.

Take the Irish Republican Army. The IRA was an exclusively Roman Catholic organization, and had no problem killing civilians to advance its agenda. The British government characterized the IRA and all its offshoots as terrorists, but did not for decades apply the label to the equally murderous Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries.

IRA flag Irish Republican Army Gerry Adams

The State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups has never included the IRA. (Paul McErlane/Reuters)

Some Irish Catholics in Canada and the United States, though, tended to regard the IRA’s behaviour as understandable, if not excusable. They preferred not to label it as terrorism, never mind “Christian terrorism,” even though the Troubles were all about a schism in Christianity, something like the violent Sunni/Shia fissure in the Middle East. Almost certainly because of domestic American sentiment, the U.S. State Department’s long list of designated terrorist groups has never named the IRA

Because the terrorist is always the other.

While working for CBC in Israel, I once searched the database of the Jerusalem Post for uses of the word “terror,” “terrorist” and “terrorism.”

There were thousands over the course of several years, all of them relating to Palestinians or other Arabs.

The newspaper had another term for Jewish settlers who targeted and killed Palestinian civilians: “Jewish extremists.”  Most mainstream Israeli journalists have just as hard a time with the phrase “Jewish terrorist” as Western media do with “Christian terrorist.”

Those two words simply seem a contradiction in terms to many Jews, although, to give the Israeli justice system credit for at least some consistency, authorities there have charged Jewish Israelis with terrorism-related offences.

Until the 9/11 attacks, there was at least an attempt in the West to define terrorism: the deliberate targeting of civilians by non-government players to advance a political agenda.

By that definition, of course, Alexandre Bissonnette, if convicted, and Dylann Roof would qualify.

War on Terror

But once America began its “War on Terror,” the word was stretched and adapted to mean anything Washington wanted it to mean, and the U.S. media fell obediently into line.

Any attack on any U.S. soldier anywhere became terror, even attacks by people whose country had been invaded.

Groups such as the Shining Path in Peru, or Kurdish ultranationalist groups, or fringe Irish diehards, or Tamil extremists, are relegated to trivial regional annoyances. The predations of militants or governments America approves of are overlooked or ignored.

Today, the word terrorism is so objectively meaningless that the only sensible definition is: “Violence we disapprove of.”

Source: How the word ‘terrorism’ lost its meaning: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

RCMP commissioner worries ‘caustic political discourse’ is radicalizing extremists

Sensible observations and words, applying to Canadian and foreign political discourse:

Canada’s top cop says he’s concerned that the “caustic tone” of “political discourse” in Canada may be a contributing factor in radicalizing “criminal extremists” like the shooter in Quebec City last week.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appeared Monday at the Senate standing committee on national security and defence and was asked for an update on the terrorism threat in Canada in the wake of the Quebec City massacre at the Ste-Foy mosque.

Paulson refused to provide specific numbers of individuals or groups under investigation. Yet asked whether authorities detect a rise in what Paulson had called “non-classic” terrorist activity such as the offender in Quebec City, he said, “there’s not an increase in that particular type of activity but there is, I think everyone would agree, a more sort of caustic tone to the political discourse that seems to attract and agitate and radicalize people of all persuasions, particularly those who know hardly anything about it, to engage.”

“And that represents a concern for us. And I think everybody’s concerned about that including the Service (Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS) and us and other police forces. And we are doing everything we can to get our heads around it.”

In the wake of the shooting, he said, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police convened its counter-terrorism committee to compare notes and reach out to Muslim community leaders, in part to ensure they were aware of any risk to them.

“We are doubling our efforts down with our police partners to make sure that we have a full sense of the picture there.” he said.

Drawing a distinction between classic jihadist-inspired terrorism and other kinds of radicalization, Paulson gave the example of Freemen of the Land “out in the West,” referring to followers of a movement who refuse to acknowledge police authority and believe only laws they consent to are applicable to them. Paulson said police have had “numerous encounters with that kind of criminality and other instances.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s overtaking the classic terrorism threat but it’s something we shouldn’t lose sight of as we pursue these other threats.”


…But Paulson did not back down from his clear warning there are lessons to be drawn from the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, charged with first-degree murder after six Muslim men died in the Ste-Foy shooting on Jan 29.Bissonnette’s social media activity showed he “liked” a wide range of pages that did not fall under a specific ideology, including those of U.S. President Donald Trump, far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, the federal NDP and former NDP leader Jack Layton.

“This offender needs to be understood, what was driving him to have acted in the way that he did,” said Paulson. “And sometimes there’s a political backdrop to that. And you know it seems to me more broadly some of the conversations that are taking place in some of those chats, on the Internet, on Twitter and those kinds of forums, approach — and I’ve been asked several times how come we’re not pursuing hate crime investigations in some areas — so we need to make sure we’re being thoughtful about doing that.”

Paulson said police continue to investigate whether terrorism charges are warranted in Bissonnette’s case. “If at some point in the view of the police and the prosecutor there is a compelling public interest dimension and the evidence is sufficiently developed to make the sensible argument that a terrorism prosecution is in order, then that’s what will happen.”

Source: RCMP commissioner worries ‘caustic political discourse’ is radicalizing extremists | Toronto Star

FBI Reports Show Terror Suspects Coming From Canada While Trump Stares at Mexico – The Daily Beast

Expect this story and data to have some legs in the current political context (has in the past, and is always an ongoing challenge with our American neighbours):

Donald Trump keeps talking about the threat from the U.S.-Mexico border. But he may be looking in the wrong direction. FBI reports reviewed by The Daily Beast reveal that far more suspected terrorists try to enter the country from the northern border with Canada than from the south.

Seven FBI Terrorist Screening Center “monthly domestic encounter reports” dating from April 2014 to August 2016 detail the number, type, and location of encounters with known or suspected terrorists across the United States. The encounters are based on information in various watchlist databases. In all seven reports, the numbers of encounters at land border crossings were higher in northern states than southern.

“We are looking the wrong direction,” said a senior DHS official familiar with the data. “Not to say that Mexico isn’t a problem, but the real bad guys aren’t coming from there—at least not yet.”

On Monday, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters he would not disclose evidence behind the President’s claims that jihadis are “pouring” into the country. “I’m not going to get into specific information that the president has,” he said.

The FBI reports obtained by The Daily Beast provide data on known or suspected terrorists attempting to enter the country, or who are already in the United States.

These reports show hundreds of watchlisted passengers encountered on domestic flights—meaning they are already in the country—and a smaller percentage crossing the border over land.

Those encounters are reported back to the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center and used to compile the monthly domestic encounter overview reports, which are classified “Law Enforcement Sensitive.”

Newly installed Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly traveled to Texas last week to survey the border in the Rio Grande Valley with local law enforcement. He is scheduled to testify Tuesday morning at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to the southern border.

But the FBI data shows concerns about terrorists crossing into the U.S. from Canada may be a more immediate concern, or is at least worthy of considerable attention, according to border and congressional officials.

Source: FBI Reports Show Terror Suspects Coming From Canada While Trump Stares at Mexico – The Daily Beast

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making – The New York Times

Yet another test for the institutional checks and balances:

It was at a campaign rally in August that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by “radical Islam” that is now radically reshaping the policies of the United States.

On a stage lined with American flags in Youngstown, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who months before had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, argued that the United States faced a threat on par with the greatest evils of the 20th century. The Islamic State was brutalizing the Middle East, and Muslim immigrants in the West were killing innocents at nightclubs, offices and churches, he said. Extreme measures were needed.

“The hateful ideology of radical Islam,” he told supporters, must not be “allowed to reside or spread within our own communities.”

Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist.

This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.

Those espousing such views present Islam as an inherently hostile ideology whose adherents are enemies of Christianity and Judaism and seek to conquer nonbelievers either by violence or through a sort of stealthy brainwashing.

The executive order on immigration that Mr. Trump signed on Friday might be viewed as the first major victory for this geopolitical school. And a second action, which would designate the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist political movement in the Middle East, as a terrorist organization, is now under discussion at the White House, administration officials say.

Beyond the restrictions the order imposed on refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, it declared that the United States should keep out those with “hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles” and “those who would place violent ideologies over American law,” clearly a reference to Shariah.

Rejected by most serious scholars of religion and shunned by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, this dark view of Islam has nonetheless flourished on the fringes of the American right since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. With Mr. Trump’s election, it has now moved to the center of American decision-making on security and law, alarming many Muslims.

Simple truth is Canada’s mass shooters are usually white and Canadian-born: Neil Macdonald

Good reminder by Macdonald:

In fact, in the pantheon of Canadian mass murderers, Mr. Bissonnette is entirely unremarkable. Just about every single one in our modern history has been a Canadian-born, Canadian citizen, and usually white and Christian, meaning extreme vetting of immigrants from places like Yemen and Iraq wouldn’t have done a thing to prevent their predations.

St. Pius X

The first one I covered was the 1975 shooting at St. Pius X High School in Ottawa. The shooter was a student named Robert Poulin. The inquest failed to determine why he bought a shotgun at Giant Tiger, raped and killed his 17-year-old friend, then headed off to school, where he opened fire in hallways and classrooms. Three people died in that case, including the perpetrator. There was no determination of terrorism or any analysis of religious motivation.

That same year, a 16-year-old named Michael Slobodian arrived at Brampton Centennial Secondary School west of Toronto with two rifles in a guitar case. He killed two people, wounded 13, then committed suicide. He left a note explaining he hated school and wanted to kill teachers. Stories from the time made no mention of his religion.

Ecole Polytechnique college

A scene from the shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, perpetrated by Canadian-born Marc Lepine. (Shaney Komulainen/Canadian Press)

Less than a decade later, a white, Christian francophone named Denis Lortie opened fire in the Quebec National Assembly, killing three people and wounding several others. He’s free today, having been released on parole more than 20 years ago. Had he been a Muslim, and a terrorist rather than just a mass killer, one suspects he’d still be behind bars.

In 1989, Montreal-born Marc Lépine headed out into a dreadfully cold December night with a Ruger Mini-14 rifle and a knife, intent on hunting and killing as many women as he could. He eventually left 14 women dead at the École Polytechnique in Montreal before killing himself. Authorities concentrated on his extreme misogyny, but, given that his name was Lepine, did not characterize it as terrorism. (Today, no doubt, much would be made of the fact that his father was an Algerian named Gharbi, even though Lepine took his mother’s name.)

A few years later, Valery Fabrikant, an associate professor at Concordia University in Montreal, decided to settle his grudges with colleagues using three pistols. He killed four people and now resides in a federal penitentiary. Actually, Fabrikant was different in one respect from other mass shooters in Canada: he was an immigrant — from Belarus. He was not Muslim. The killing was not treated as terrorism.

Bad apples vs. terrorists

In 2006, Kimveer Gill entered Dawson College in Montreal with a Glock, a Beretta carbine and a shotgun and cut down 20 people. He wasn’t a very good shot, fortunately, and only one of his victims died. He then killed himself. Police concluded he was mentally ill, and deteriorating fast, when he decided to kill. It was treated as a simple crime, rather than terrorism. Gill had a foreign-sounding name and was from a Sikh family but was born in Canada.


Justin Bourque was born in Canada and home-schooled in a religious Christian family.

In 2014 in Moncton, a man opened fire on several RCMP officers, killing three of them and wounding two others. Security hawks were ready to cry terrorism, but then it turned out the shooter was named Justin Bourque, was born in Canada, was home-schooled in a religious Christian family, talked a lot about the right to bear arms, and harboured a deep suspicion of government and its agents.

That put an end to any talk of terror. Just another bad apple.

The same year, Calgary experienced its worst mass murder: five people stabbed to death at a house party. The killer, a university student and son of a Calgary police veteran, named Matthew de Grood was not deemed a terrorist. He believed in vampires and werewolves. He was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. De Grood was a Canadian citizen.

Parl Shooting Operation 20150525

Bibeau was born in Canada, and therefore a Canadian citizen, but he’d converted to Islam years before the shooting. (RCMP/Handout/Canadian Press)

But then there was the big one. Michael Zehaf Bibeau, a homeless habitual criminal from Quebec, travelled to Ottawa in October 2014, where he shot a soldier dead from behind at the cenotaph before heading up to Parliament Hill, where he was killed by armed security staff.

Bibeau was born in Canada, and therefore a Canadian citizen, but he’d converted to Islam years earlier. The crime shook the nation. Military bases increased their security. The government brought in legislation increasing police powers and curtailing Canadians’ civil liberties.

Terror had finally made its debut here. Canada would never be the same.

And now, Alexandre Bissonnette. The question has to be, what further measures to take? And will Donald Trump begin banning white nationalist Christians from Canada?

Source: Simple truth is Canada’s mass shooters are usually white and Canadian-born: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

Should we ‘ban’ Salafism? – Gurski

Good piece by Phil Gurski:

Truth be told, I am no fan of most Salafis (full disclosure: I am not Muslim so my views count for little). I happen to find them arrogant, intolerant and distrustful of Muslims who are not like them (this means most Muslims—look at the figure presented above: of an estimated 4.3 million Muslims in Germany, 10,000— i.e. less than one per cent—are Salafi). In the same way I have little time for fundamentalists of any religion, including my own. But, I don’t tell them how to pray and how to worship—that is not my job. Is the German government now the arbiter of Islam in Germany? Does it really want that job?

This is fraught with problems. Is anyone associated with the German government qualified to determine who is a Salafist and who isn’t? What about divisions within Salafism? Most reputable scholars recognize at least three divisions with only the third—the Salafi jihadis—as a group that must be opposed because they believe in the use of violence to get their way. If Germany cracks down on “Salafists,” whether or not they espouse violence, should it not also ban other fundamentalist groups (Jews, Christians, Hindus…)? If not, why not?

At the end of the day the people best placed to deal with Salafism, if we agree that it is a “problem,” are not those in government, but the communities where it has taken hold. They are the ones most affected by it and they are the ones criticized by those with more intolerant views. They have a vested interest in challenging this issue, not the state. If certain preachers advocate violence, then ban them.

Furthermore, and this is really important, just as there is not a direct correlation/causation between Islam and terrorism, nor is there one on every occasion between Salafi Islam and terrorism. Saying there is is disingenuous. Let’s not make the serious problem of terrorism bigger than it already is. The “escalator” model of terrorism (i.e. that there are concrete steps always present along the pathway to violent extremism) is a poor one and has never been shown to apply universally. This lack of certainty describes the relationship between Salafism and terrorism.

Canada’s 15th prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, famously said that the “state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” Nor does it have a place in the mosques, pews, synagogues, temples or gurdwaras. If any of these places serve as hub or venue for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, then that is a different story and the State does have both a right and a duty to get involved. Otherwise, it is wiser to stay out of that domain.

Source: Should we ‘ban’ Salafism? – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

The Canadian government must do more to combat hate crimes in Canada: Fogal, Godoy and Ansong

Surprising – or perhaps not – that this commentary by Shimon Fogel of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Carlos A. Godoy of Ga’ava, a Quebec-based LGBTQ organization and Tobin Ansong is of the Ghanaian Canadian Association of Ontario is virtually silent on hate directed at Muslim Canadians.

They propose strengthened measures against hate crimes: two general in nature that apply to all groups, one specific to radicalization, targeted largely at Muslim Canadians.

While I have no general issue with measures that focus on specific communities where needed (as is the case with respect to Al-Qaeda/ISIS inspired radicalization), it would have been a stronger statement had it more explicitly acknowledged anti-Muslim sentiment and had been a joint statement with a Canadian Muslim group:

In this same vein, federal officials should consider three more initiatives that could have significant impact in countering hate crime.

First, every MP should support Bill C-305 proposed by Nepean MP Chandra Arya. Currently, vandalism targeting a religious site—such as a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or cemetery—is a specific offence with substantial penalties. But this designation does not apply to schools or community centres associated with an identifiable minority group. C-305 is an essential, common sense bill to close this clear gap in the Criminal Code.

Second, there is a need for greater federal leadership to aid local police in enforcing hate crime provisions of the Criminal Code by offering more training, uniform guidelines, and resources. This is especially crucial given that this is an issue far beyond Canada’s largest cities. In 2013, the four most frequently affected cities per capita were Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Moncton, and Peterborough. Federal authorities can play a central role in identifying and sharing best practices. British Columbia, for example, is in many ways a model for a successful approach, with police agencies maintaining dedicated hate crime units providing experience and systems required to respond effectively to such incidents.

Third, as the federal government implements its counter-radicalization program, we must recognize the link between radicalization and hateful views toward minorities, whether they manifest as antisemitism, homophobia, or racism. There is ample research and tragic evidence—whether at a kosher supermarket in Paris, or an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, or a church in Charleston—these forms of hatred often go together with violent extremism.

Identifying early warning signs, in the form of hate and propaganda against these communities, must be an integral part of the government’s overall anti-terrorism strategy. Likewise, countering these hateful ideologies is essential in reclaiming a psychologically vulnerable person from the path of radicalization.

While these suggestions are relatively modest, taken together, they would represent a significant step forward in the effort to ensure Canada remains a safe home for all minorities.

Source: The Canadian government must do more to combat hate crimes in Canada – The Hill Times – The Hill Times