“Why Harper (and friends) are a bigger threat than IS” was the title chosen for an op-ed article in last week's Toronto Star, penned by Tony Burman, former head of CBC News and Al Jazeera English, who teaches journalism at Ryerson University.
Burman accuses three Western Prime Ministers – Canadian Stephen Harper, British David Cameron and Australian Tony Abbott – of espousing an extremist policy that imposes much greater danger to the world than the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the expansionist Islamic jihadist ideology.
“Their similarities are revealing. What links these three leaders, apart from their common ideology, is a remarkably identical — and extreme — approach to the challenges of today’s Middle East. In fact, there are growing signs that these politicians, all comrades in arms, are quietly working from the same playbook,” wrote Burman.
“After all, the formula is simple: Wildly exaggerate the actual threat. Inflame the rhetoric. Blame Muslims. Brush aside issues of human rights. And strap in — while the votes flow your way. It is a clever way to distract voters from more immediate and genuine threats, such as climate change and the economy.” The Star provided Burman’s email (email@example.com) to Twitter account (@TonyBurman) for comments.
Three days earlier, Umut Ozsu, an assistant professor of law at the University of Manitoba, attacked the Harper government’s humanitarian policy towards the refugee crisis in Syria in a Star opinion piece. In one of his arguments Ozsu blames the government of discriminatory immigration policy against Muslims.
“An additional problem concerns the fact that Canadian officials have made it clear that they are essentially prioritizing claims from members of “religious minorities,” a euphemism for Christians and Yazidis. This practice runs contrary to the non-discriminatory approach to status determination required by the 1951 Refugee Convention,” Ozsu stressed.
“Roughly 90 per cent of all Syrians (and the vast majority of those who have been displaced and persecuted) identify as Muslims. Their suffering and vulnerability should be taken just as seriously as that of non Muslims.”
Ozsu’s article goes in line with the official position of the Toronto Star. On August 12, The Star’s editorial harshly criticized PM Harper’s pledge to increase the support for “persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East” and to bring to Canada additional 10,000 refugees from this area.
Prioritizing the “persecuted religious minorities” - meaning “Christians, Yazidis [and] Jews” - as refugees who deserve an urgent humanitarian support is wrong, according to the Star. “The vast majority of people in dire need are Muslim. Cherry-picking non-Muslims may please constituencies that Harper is keen to woo but it would run afoul of UN guidelines.”
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