Saturday, 25 October 2014

Tragedy in Canada

This week, tragedy unfolded in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, where a gunman shot and murdered a soldier serving as an honour guard at a war memorial before storming Canada's parliament building. The gunman, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was himself shot by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers before he could harm anyone inside the parliament building. My thoughts go out to Cpl Nathan Cirillo, the soldier who gave his life in these most unlikely of circumstances, and to his family; the shooting calls up memories of Drummer Lee Rigby's murder in 2013. In both cases, men who risked their lives in the service of their country were cut down in cold blood not on some foreign battlefield but at home in the nations they served, a tragic irony that must make many of their colleagues worry about their own safety. Then as now, the implication seems to be that these two men were singled out simply because they wore military uniform.

Zehaf-Bibeau was a 32 year old Canadian subject of Her Majesty the Queen; his mother was Canadian, his father originally from Libya. He was reportedly a convert to Islam with a criminal record and past convictions for drug use, violence and "other criminal activities." Like many young people, he seems to have had a fairly comfortable upbringing before loosing his way in later life and becoming radicalised; his story has chilling echoes of those of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, Drummer Rigby's murderers, as well as that of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, also last year. It seems that Canada now joins the United Kingdom and the United States as victims of Islamic terrorism. The question Western societies must ask themselves is, why are so many young people being pulled into the trap of Islamic extremism? Or, indeed, any other kind of extremism?

The unfortunate truth is that people whose lives go wrong will always look for two things; hope, in the form of a cause, and someone to lay the blame on. Radical Islam provides a cause, and it gives these people something to blame in the form of "decadent," "sinful" Western society. I make no apologies for being a realist, and I do not believe that society will ever reach a stage where all people are well-adjusted, decent citizens, but even so, it seems that occurrences like these are becoming worryingly frequent. These aren't petty criminal acts, but terrorist activity, committed with the sole intention of causing panic and fear in order to forward the cause of the perpetrators. How can countries such as Canada minimise the risk of terrorist activity?

Well, the first thing that must be said is that draconian surveillance measures as proposed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper following the attack on parliament are not the perfect solution. I can tell you that the United Kingdom is now one of the world's most watched countries thanks to the surveillance brought in under the previous Labour government, and the impact on crime has been negligible. The root of the problem is social; for one thing, the onus is at least in part on the Islamic community to counter the influence of radicals within their community. That the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly decent, hardworking and upright citizens I do not doubt, but the voice of this overwhelming majority is often quieted by the actions of extremists. Muslims in the Western world should be encouraged to speak out against extremism at every opportunity. Mosques and madrasas where radical clerics are allowed access to susceptible young people should be mercilessly pursued and shut down.

What's more, a reassertion of traditional religion in Canada would go a long way to filling the spiritual void in many modern Canadians' lives. As C.S. Lewis said, "spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison." A Canada that asserts its national identity, promotes patriotism and faith, and offers its citizens a positive "cause" will find it far easier to wage a culture war against radicalism than a Canada based on fluffy and shallow ideals such as "freedom," "multiculturalism" and "individualism." People turn to Islamism because they are looking for an identity. I say, offer them a better one- a Canadian identity. Of course, when I say promote faith, I principally mean the Christian faith that Canada was built on, but supporting orthodox Islam against the heretical, ISIS-aligned brand offered by hate clerics is also sound policy. Assimiliationism is better than multiculturalism. All citizens of Canada should be encouraged to embrace their Canadian identity, and above all else, to embrace the monarchy- the Maple Crown- as the keystone of the Canadian nation; a sentiment expressed by the admirable Canadian Islamic leader Sayyid Amiruddin, of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, on his blog.

Canada is a country that I have great affection for. It is a country built on loyalty to the Crown, and
indeed Canada has grown from a loyal colony of Great Britain to a loyal friend and comrade in arms. I despair at the creeping Americanisation of Canada, especially the gradual erosion of traditional Canadian Toryism by an American brand of Conservatism that seems to have asserted itself recently. Symbolic gestures such as the Canadian Government's decision to restore the names of the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Airforce in 2011 give me hope that Canada's identity, grown from a cutting of Great Britain but shaped by its unique history and circumstances, will endure. With its vast territories and natural resources, Canada has the makings of a great power, if it so wished to become one; but whatever path Canada chooses in the future, it will be brave men like Nathan Cirillo and Kevin Vickers who get it there.