Shaken But Not Stirred
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
QUEBEC CITY – The reaction to Saturday’s news here that a massive terrorist plot was averted has been predictably Canadian.
First came a few hours of shock and disbelief. Then, relief that law enforcement stopped any attacks before they could take place. But shortly after, the hand-wringing began – or, as one columnist aptly put it, “the great Canadian self-delusion machine was up and running at full throttle.”
No matter that 17 men had been arrested on various terrorism-related charges and that they allegedly had plans to bomb targets like the CN Tower and the Toronto Stock Exchange. What was most important was to ensure social harmony, that no one group felt marginalized and that no one’s feelings were hurt.
At the press conference announcing the discovery of the terrorist cell, an intelligence official described its members as being from “a variety of backgrounds.” But each of the men is Muslim. This was not mentioned. The day after, Toronto’s police chief met with Muslim leaders and reportedly bragged that the religion of the accused was not referenced by law enforcement officials. It has now been reported that those who executed the raid on the suspects had undergone “sensitivity training.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Islamic Congress, a Muslim organization taken seriously by the press here, put out a statement urging Canadian governments to “fund legitimate academic research” to help find out “why and how imported extremist ideologies are finding their way to some vulnerable Canadian Muslim youth.” One Toronto imam called the arrests “an attack on the Muslim community” and went on to say, “We are abusing our boys for the sake of pleasing George Bush.”
I am not making this up.
Some of those arrested were allegedly involved in a terrorist training camp about 150 miles from Toronto where, decked out in camouflage gear, they apparently practiced their shooting skills. They are also accused of recently ordering three tons of ammonium nitrate, triple the amount used for the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Aside from a few sane voices, few involved in Canadian public discourse were sounding alarms about the Islamist threat. As for average Canadians, they couldn’t really be bothered – until now, at least. Many were aware that we had radical Islamists in our midst. But there was never a sense of urgency, never any vigilance, nor any cause for great alarm amongst the public.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, many Canadians were resigned to thinking that what happened in New York and Washington could not and would not happen here. After the July 2005 bombings in London, more people began to worry. But generally, Canada still sees itself as a tolerant multicultural paradise where groups cohabit without any hostility toward each other. Some even were deluded into believing Canada might be spared from the threat because we refused to join the coalition in Iraq.
Some people are waking up to reality now, although it is still staggering how many Canadians remain convinced terrorists would target Canada mainly because of our long-standing friendship with America and our military involvement in Afghanistan.
That idea is lost on many that Canada is a target because it is a secular, liberal country.
The way forward for Canada is clear. The vast majority of the suspects were Canadian citizens. They were educated in Canadian public schools. It appears many were young Muslims who fell under the influence of superiors who indoctrinated them into the extremist Wahhabi ideology at a Toronto Islamic center.
Just as America has done, Canada must redouble its efforts to find out what is going on in these mosques. We know hatred is being preached. But those who are doing so must be identified, as must those who are funding them. They must be stopped.
Those who might have overcome the “self-delusion machine” to be overly worried should take note of a few positives. First, the attacks never happened. Second, intelligence and law enforcement officials demonstrated they are doing their jobs. They had reportedly been watching these suspects for two years.
Third, Canada’s new Conservative government is showing real leadership in the war on terror. Canada became the first country in the world to sever ties and cut funding to the Hamas government. The government has classified the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization, something the previous Liberal administration refused to do. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has traveled to Afghanistan to show support for the Canadian soldiers stationed there fighting off the Taliban. With any luck, the new government’s leadership on these issues will start mobilizing public opinion.
These arrests have shaken Canada profoundly. There’s no way to deny anymore that Islamism inside our own borders is a real threat. Our holiday from the war on terror is over.
Mr. Daifallah, a former Washington correspondent of The New York Sun, is a Canadian author, journalist and law student.