Pakistani extremism is a threat to us. Why is Immigration so illdesigned to handle it?
ADNAN R. KHANAugust272007
THE RADICALISM AT OUR DOORS
Pakistani extremism is a threat to us. Why is Immigration so illdesigned to handle it?
ADNAN R. KHAN
IN THE AFTERMATH of the recent violence at Pakistan’s Red Mosque, questions have been raised in the Pakistani media that are relevant for Canadians. It’s easy enough to say the events that played out over nine days in July, pitting Pakistan’s security forces against radical Islamists in the heart of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, are someone else’s problem. It happened a world away, most Canadians are likely to think.
But the issues the conflict raises shrinks that distance considerably: radicalism in Pakistan is spreading fast, and along with it, hatred for the West. One of the sources of that hatred, most regional observers agree, is NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistani
President Pervez Musharraf’s strategic decision to support the invasion. Canada is a major contributor to NATO, fighting a protracted war in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban. The fact that it’s not simply radicalization, but “Talibanization” that many Pakistani observers are talking about, should be especially worrying to Canadians. With Pakistan providing an average of 13,000 immigrants to Canada every year, how much of that ideology is being imported into Canadian cities?
It’s a difficult, and deeply controversial, question to answer, but one Canadians should be asking. Canada’s immigration policy has been under attack almost consistently since Sept. 11,2001. The central question is if the process does enough to protect Canadians against those who would bring them harm. “Security screening is very important to the Canadian government,” says Marina Wilson, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “We’ve had overall success with our immigrant
experience. The vast majority want to live by the rules and the small number who don’t would face the law.”
Canada does have a profiling system that flags certain potential immigrants as security risks, from Russian mafiosos to Islamic fundamentalists; applications submitted by such individuals are much more closely scrutinized. But the danger, according to a growing number of governments worldwide, is broader: the world views that immigrants import with them, their attitudes toward fundamental values ofWestern societies, pose a greater future risk to society than any single violent individual. To stop these ideologies at the border, rather than give them a chance to enter a country and spread, is something many governments are struggling to do.
The Dutch have introduced a values testing system in their immigration process, requiring all non-Western potential applicants to go through a values test before their application is even considered. Despite criticism from human rights groups, authorities have defended the process, arguing that the intention is to weed out the small percentage of people who would not be able to adjust to Western society and, in the worst case scenario, turn into homegrown security risks.
The impact a small number of people can have on a society is significant in an era when radical ideologies represent a key threat to global stability. People such as Farhat Hashmi and Aly Hindy, fundamentalist religious leaders living in the Toronto area, represent this
new age of ideological conflict. Their radical views have found support in Canada, especially among disaffected youth.
Immigration reformists have argued that Canadian immigration policy’s obsession with catering to business and economic interests, as well as its cultural hypersensitivity, ignore the realities of the 21st century; policy must change to meet the times. “The other side of the debate has been stifled,” says Dan Murray, founder of Immigration Watch Canada, an organization that advocates tighter restrictions on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country. “Multiculturalism has become another form of psychological terrorism. It’s another ideology that has silenced people who may have another point of view.” What’s lost, adds Murray, is the abil-
The Dutch have a values assessment program for potential immigrants.
The U.K. is considering one. But in Canada, acting against ideas is seen to go against the grain of the Charter.
ity of Canadians to express what matters to them. Social values, for example, rank as one of the highest priorities for Canadians in the post-9/ll age. Yet the application process for immigration from Pakistan does not take into consideration a person’s value system.
The British government, by far the world’s highest recipient of Pakistani immigrants, is considering a values screening process, faced as it is not only with a rash of terrorist attacks linked to Pakistan, but also with a steady stream of honour crimes that have their roots in rural Pakistani culture. Thankfully, Canada has been largely spared the U.K. experience. But for how long? Incidences of Canadians acting on imported
ideas, acquired via the Internet or via ideological middlemen spreading an anti-Western message, are becoming more frequent: the June 2006 arrest of 17 men, including five youths, accused of a terrorist plot, is just one example. How were these young men radicalized? The evidence points to elements within Canadian society, people outside the moderate majority, indoctrinating youth in closed sessions.
A recent British survey of religious Muslim leaders should raise some eyebrows in Canada. That report, released in July, revealed that 92 per cent of imams preaching and teaching in U.K. mosques were born outside Britain, and a significant majority educated in Pakistan’s madrasas. Many preach only in Urdu, Pakistan’s national language. With
Musharraf now admitting the greatest threat to his nation is the meteoric rise in radical ideology taught in its religious institutions, the difficult question to be asked is why Ottawa hasn’t responded to this crucial reality.
The difficulty, according to Lome Waldman, an immigration lawyer in Toronto whose clients include Maher Arar, is that acting against ideas goes against the grain of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Anything that appears to screen potential immigrants out based on beliefs,” Waldman says, “would go against the Charter. Besides, if you’re testing people for their beliefs, what kinds of questions are you going to ask them? Do you believe in honour crimes?”
Others disagree. “I have no doubt that those opposed to such screening would invoke the Charter,” says Martin Collacott, a former Canadian ambassador and senior fellow at the Fraser Institute who has written on security issues relating to immigration. “I am not convinced, however, that they would succeed. If someone who applied to come to Canada admitted to being a supporter of terrorism, for example, I think it is unlikely that the Charter would force us to let them in.” Where Collacott and Waldman agree is in the practicality of a screening process: how do you accurately rate a person’s inner, often secretive, beliefs? Instead, Waldman believes potential newcomers need to be educated about the values of Canadian society before they arrive in Canada. “Where immigration policy has failed,” he says, “is in preparing people who come from a culture where their
values clash with our own. That’s where we could be doing more.” One possible track, he suggests, is requiring people to go to a course on Canadian values before they emigrate.
The difficulty, though, lies in confronting a world view that may be so deeply entrenched that a few classes on the Canadian Way would do little to change it. “For this reason,” says
Collacott, “I’ve suggested that we should have the right to remove individuals who had sworn to abide by our values and had subsequently become involved in activities that were seriously in conflict with these values— such as terrorism.”
But deporting immigrants, especially refugee claimants, is a drawn-out process, taking years and costing taxpayers millions. Streamlining that process, opponents of immigration reform say, could penalize the legitimate immigrants who make up the vast majority of people seeking a better life in Canada. Critics of the current policy aren’t buying that argument. Individuals who promote violence and hatred are often easy to pinpoint. The problem, says Collacott, is a lack of political will to do something about them. And the longer they’re allowed to preach intolerance, the bigger the threat they pose.
That is precisely what happened at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, where radical preachers were left alone for years to teach a violent and unbending form of Islam. During the height of the standoff, the leader of the uprising, Maulana Abdul Aziz, was quoted as saying about his young students that he had “put jihad in their hearts.” After the conflict ended, many students who survived the final assault told the media they were willing to die alongside the “heroes” who fought against the government, contradicting official accounts that they were being held against their will. The Pakistani media was deeply concerned by those attitudes. The Canadian government should also be worried. M
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