Islamophobic Elephants: A Tragedy

Extremist, Islamic Terrorism… So close, but unless your name is Meatloaf, two out of three is bad- especially when you hope to hold the most important office in the world within 14 months. You’ve heard my first three words pasted together so many times lately, you’re likely about as skilled at figuring out which one of those is not like the other as you were as a three year old watching sesame street. However, ‘Islamic’ truly has nothing to do with the other two words I’ve listed; as a former United States President once said, “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.” In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. Islam is peace.” [MacDonald,CBC News]

No, that president wasn’t some socialist wingnut like Roosevelt or Clinton- that was George W. Bush. (If he fooled you… shame on… well you know… just Shame) My point being, a President with one of the most easily picked apart records of middle eastern foreign policy has more common sense than seemingly eighty per cent of the Republican primary field in 2016. Islamophobia is an epidemic, and it’s growing. 

The vast majority of that field have stated their revulsion at President Barack Obama’s refusal to say “Islamic Extremism.” I have no idea why. Islam is a religion of peace, the overwhelming majority of people who identify as Muslim have no roots to any sort of terrorist activity- and there is no reason to believe that a Muslim person is more likely to be violent than a christian, atheist, or even a swede.
“If you’re fighting a war,” the former Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker says, “you’ve got to identify who the enemy is loud and clear, We’ve said it repeatedly: It’s radical Islamic terrorism.” [Terkel, Huffington Post] Well, as long as we’re paraphrasing bad Green Day songs, I think I have one in mind… To be fair, the former presidential hopeful does believe that a “Handful” of Muslims are reasonable. 

Despite its oh-so-thinly veiled racial prejudice, even those who agree with Walker’s assertion, should see that there is no practical reason to group an entire religion in with a vile organization of terrorists. All that accomplishes is two things, each with considerable consequence; first, it furthers a feeling of oppression for a select group of disenfranchised youth, that are most able to sympathize with groups such as ISIL if they feel resentment towards a Western leadership that is openly combative against their beliefs. As repugnant as ISIL is, they thrive off of a recruitment base that has been given reason to feel disdain towards North American ethics. Oppression is the fertilizer of extremism. Secondly, a potential U.S. president calling out an entire religion gives validation to Islamophobic extremists who feel patriotic in their racism and bigotry, which can have toxic, and occasionally lethal, consequences on a society that once prided itself on religious freedom. This abhorrence is highlighted at a recent Trump rally where racists now believe they have a candidate who is on their side.

However, Trump and Walker are far from the only presidential hopefuls to have displayed an inherent disregard for sensitivity or logic when it comes to their crusade against a falsified perpetrator. Mike Huckabee -whose social policy includes only appointing supreme court judges who don’t support equal marriage rights, the mother’s right to choose or, you know, the law- feels that our problem in the war with ISIL is that Barack Obama favours Muslims too much “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel,” Huckabee said on “Fox and Friends.” “The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.” [Brietman, Politico]

Yes, how tragic that a group of law-abiding people who are experiencing a great stain on their religion and way of life have the support of the commander and chief. I suppose Huckabee thinks our conflict would be solved if we persecuted every peaceful follower of the Qur’an while inspiring domestic racism and perpetuating borderline extremists to consolidate against us. In addition to a mass persecution, Republican hopefuls such as Ted Cruz also think the answer is to “bomb [ISIS] back to the Stone Age.” [Beinart, The Atlantic] That’s smart, because airstrike intervention in middle east conflict has traditionally worked out extremely well for resolving tension at home and abroad. Oh wait, it hasn’t.

Thankfully, Cruz has plans to stop ISIL by cutting them off at the source: Mexico… Yup, “First and foremost,” the Senator says, ‘Washington should resolve to make border security a top priority finally, rather than an afterthought, of this plan in light of concerns about potential ISIS activities on our southern border.” [Beinart, The Atlantic] As Peter Beinart writes, “Cruz is particularly incensed by the Obama administration’s failure to recognize the threat of an ISIS attack across the Rio Grande. [Cruz believes] America’s “foremost” priority when it comes to ISIS should be neither Iraq nor Syria but Mexico.” So now Mexico is not only bringing rape and guns, but ISIL too.

It’s truly unfortunate, and frankly tragic, how humorous some of the remarks from this fall’s divine comedy of a campaign can be. These thoughts are constantly spread every day by media, an ignorant sect of the public, and now by people who want to run a country- and it’s getting worse. On Sunday, Dr. Ben Carson caused a well-deserved uproar for saying that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” [Pengelly, The Guardian] While it’s, unfortunately, only hypothetical at this juncture, despite there being more than twenty candidates remaining, the fact that Carson “would absolutely not agree with [a Muslim president,]” should be utterly galling. Furthermore, it is undeniably in conflict with a constitution, held in such divine regard by the United States, that promotes the freedom of religion.

Dear Dr. Carson, Islamophobia is an epidemic in the Western world and you are spreading it the best you can with reckless and thoughtless comments like this. It is your right as a citizen to advocate and not advocate for what you wish, but as a president you are beholden only to the constitution of the United States. If you are going to serve as a standard bearer for the putrid movement for religious bigotry in our world, than I cannot advocate for you as president of the United States.

I, being Canadian, obviously don’t have a say in the upcoming election, but for those that do, I plead to you to stop Islamophobia at the highest level and vote for someone willing to support every citizen and religion in your country.

Thank you for reading, Jakob Sanderson


Debates are awful: Let’s have more

There was plenty of controversy over Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper’s decision to skip ‘Up for Debate:’ a forum to bring women’s issues to the forefront of the campaign. I could easily make this post a rant about the tragedy of suppressing women’s issues in an election year that directly corresponds with a much-needed social revolution on gender equality. However, in this case I’m going to talk about the massive fleecing of debates this election. The MacLean’s Debate is likely to be the only televised debate featuring all national leaders, as Harper and Mulcair also look to be out of the staple media consortium debate. Many people are upset about this, and they have a point, they just may be missing the correct point.

I’m upset that we will be seeing less debates this year, but it is definitely not because I will miss out on the pleasure of watching three potential Prime Ministers compete to find out who can ‘not answer questions in a way that makes them look like they’re answering them’ the best. Watch Elizabeth May debate, and you’ll see how truly thoughtful a prime ministerial candidate can be… when they have no chance of being prime minister. As for the others, they simply prove what we all subconsciously know: debates are  awful. I’ll say it again. Debates are absolutely awful. They are awful, because they are barely political debates in the first place.

Televised leaders debates are simply trumped up reality shows featuring political figure heads spouting the same assortment of catch all phrases and buzz words with very little mention of policy or substance. Leaders are put on the spot with grandstanding interrogations, only to ignore the questions. They are mercilessly attacked by their contemperaries, with highly circumstantial evidence. They shout over each other about how sick of the incumbent they all are, and why they are the only alternative. At best, we can hope for one of them to land a catchy one-liner and deliver a clamouring of ooh’s and ah’s from the twitosphere.

Take this year’s MacLean’s debate; the first, and possibly only, debate with all prime ministerial candidates present. Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, garnered many rave reviews for his performance. However, in my opinion, he often spoke in vague summaries meant to draw on your heart rather than head, most notably during his concluding address. His best line, and maybe the debate’s best line, was a repeated “Nobody believes you Mr. Harper.” It seemed more akin to a line that wins a schoolyard spat than a Prime Ministership. However, those lines win debates. Hence, this is why debates are awful. Yet, even worse and more contrived are reality shows like Big Brother- and I’m currently watching it as I write this.

There’s a reason there are more people who vote for winners of American Idol than heads of state. There’s a reason why Bachelor in Paridise will always get higher ratings than Meet the Press. They’re more entertaining. And when it comes to politics, debates are the closest thing to reality television there is, and hence the largest source of entertainment for the causal voter. It’s a sad truth, but a truth after all.

A lack of debates, and a lack of exposure is the last thing this election needs, but especially the last thing Thomas Mulcair needs. Canada’s left-leaning youth can say all they want about the Conservatives, and their base. You hear all the time from Twitter happy milenials (Hi me!) that their base is close-minded and anti-progressive, but that base also votes. The CPC can count on their supporters no matter what debates Harper does or does not participate in.

The NDP and Liberals can’t say the same. They have fervent poll support and a rush of vocal youth to go along with their smaller, and far less entrenched, base. But the youth vote that could possibly push either party over the edge is easily influenced- and frankly- lazy. Take this 18 year old, who started this post when it was actually relevant last week, before finally posting 10 days later. We’re as easily distracted as the ice age squirrel, and Justin Trudeau is appealing to us more the Mulciar is the last couple of weeks.

Personally, I’m not overly offended that Thomas Mulcair skipped ‘up for debate,’ although I wish he hadn’t. It’s a political maneuver, which I disagree with, but it hardly means he doesn’t care about women. In fact, he has more female MP candidates than any other party, and it’s not close. It does not shift my stance on him or the NDP, and I, for one, hope he is the next Prime Minister of Canada. However, it does mean we miss a chance to see a man, who could easily lead our country on October 20th, present his ideas to a large audience. That’s unfortunate given he is by far the least known of the three candidates, despite his lead in the polls.

Most of all, his decision, and Harper’s, to cut down on debates, whether it’s a good strategy or not, will keep more Canadians out of touch with the election and less involved in the forming of our own government. No matter your voting allegiance, or fondness for televised shouting matches, that is a true tragedy.