TORONTO'S LOVE OF DIVERSITY IS TESTED BY ISLAMISTS
By Kathy Shaidle
When multiculturalism was declared official national policy in 1971, some citizens bristled, but others merely envisioned — to employ one Canadian blogger's cynical expression — "more pavilions at Folkfest." Already the destination of choice for many immigrants, Toronto duly appointed itself the country's capital of multiculturalism.
Decades later, though, a large influx of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Somalia, and elsewhere is putting "tolerant" Toronto to the test.
Like newcomers before them, Muslims are eagerly courted by politicians, who are accustomed to treating Canada's urban "ethnics" as colorful, yet mostly harmless, voting blocks. And, in turn, Muslims are requesting accommodation for various religious and cultural practices, just like every group before them — except that, sometimes, these demands are at odds with Canada's Judeo-Christian heritage and constitutional democratic self-image.
All the while, the number of Muslims in the city is growing rapidly. Unlike a comparable city such as New York, which is about 9% Jewish and 3.5% Muslim, the same demographic ratio in Toronto is reversed: 6.7% Muslim to 4.2% Jewish. This is a fairly recent development and the trend seems destined to continue. According to the latest Statistics Canada report,
The advent of this "inverse ratio" coincides with the growing influence of Toronto's organized Islamists. After all, Toronto is where Israeli Apartheid Week got its start, at the City's two major universities back in 2005. York University, in particular, has become a hotbed of anti-Israel activism — and worse. Last year, Jewish students were forced to barricade themselves in the Hillel office after being set upon by an angry pro-Palestinian mob shouting racist slurs.
Such an occurrence would have been unthinkable ten years ago. Today, it takes its place in a litany of distressing post-9/11 developments. From the arrest of the "Toronto 18," charged with plotting to behead the Prime Minister, to revelations about rampant polygamy and "welfare harems," the picture painted of the City's Muslim community is not always flattering or reassuring.
For instance: throughout January, 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, thousands of area Muslims gathered each Saturday outside the Israeli consulate at one of the City's busiest intersections. American and Israeli flags were burned, Jewish counter-protesters were verbally threatened, and Hezbollah standards were raised — even though Hezbollah is deemed an illegal terrorist group by the Canadian government.
Protesters faced off again on April 2 of this year. The Jewish Defence League of Canada organized a rally outside the Palestine House Educational and Cultural Centre in suburban Toronto, which was hosting an event featuring Abdul Bari Atwan. The Editor-in-Chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi has declared publicly that, "if the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight."
When not providing a forum for such guests, Palestine House, according to its website, "offers counseling on immigration, family problems, citizenship, legal matters and housing, in addition to referrals to specialized professionals and institutions" — for which it receives millions of taxpayer dollars a year.
According to one report, approximately two dozen men assembled in the Palestine House parking lot to confront the Jewish Defence League. These men were captured on video calling Jews "monkeys" and shouting: "You guys need another Holocaust" and "We love jihad. We love killing you."
Videotape of this incident was disseminated on the web, leading to calls for the federal government to revisit its funding of Palestine House. Of course, Palestine House presumably could stay afloat with injections of Saudi cash, as a number of other Canadian Muslim institutions already do.
However, given the dependence of every political party in Canada upon balkanized ethnic voting blocks, Palestine House could not be defunded without the kind of ugly public battle that politicians are learning simply to avoid.
Ontario politicians are understandably wary about taking up causes that combine religion and the public purse. A poorly received promise to fund all "religious schools," including madrassas, made in the run-up to the 2009 provincial election cost the candidate who supported the idea — before he was against it — the race. A few years earlier, Toronto found itself the focus of international scorn when a proposal to set up Islamic Shari'a tribunals, alongside Ontario's longstanding Catholic, aboriginal, and Jewish arbitration panels, proved equally unpopular with taxpayers. Local Muslim women led the successful fight to stop the tribunals; the other faith-based panels were subsequently abolished as well, in the interest of "fairness."
That 2005 battle introduced Toronto residents to Muslim voices against creeping Shari'a and jihadism. Despite their differences on some other issues, generally pro-Western writers Tarek Fatah and Tahir Aslam Gora — a translator for former Torontonian Irshad Manji — as well as the pseudonymous ex-Muslim Ali Sina of Former Muslims United, contributed to the success of the anti-Shari'a campaign.
So did Canadian immigrant, author (Islam's Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim), academic, and longtime critic of official multiculturalism Salim Mansur, who also scolded pandering non-Muslim politicians who would sacrifice Western Enlightenment values just to get themselves elected. But, as the outcomes of the school funding and Shari'a tribunal fights prove, says Mansur, the nation's politicians and powerbrokers have it exactly backwards.
He explained in an exclusive interview:
Mansur notes that Islamist activists are simply imitating the "identity politics" strategy that has worked so well for other groups of immigrants to Canada, while the nation's establishment — which constructed the system for its own purposes — has only itself to blame. Meanwhile, ordinary Canadians are left feeling helpless and resentful.
However, political correctness is deeply entrenched within the nation's institutions and the country's human rights commissions make the questioning of received wisdom an actionable offense, with costly consequences.
If Mansur's wish comes true and a political movement springs up that is dedicated to bringing down multiculturalism once and for all, it will face its fiercest fights in "Toronto the Good."
Only time will tell if diversity really turns out to be the City's strength — or its downfall.
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Kathy Shaidle blogs at Five Feet of Fury. This article was sponsored by Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
The foregoing article by Kathy Shaidle was originally published in Pajamas Media, June 9, 2010, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (URL: http://www.meforum.org/2671/toronto-islamists)
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