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Counterterrorism Plans Won't Be Effective Until Biases Are Addressed

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RALPH GOODALE
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Last federal budget, the government announced plans to create a counter terrorism office. This new initiative named as the Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator would cost Canadian taxpayers $35 millions dollars. With an initial funding of $3 million in 2016-2017 and a $10 million a year in the subsequent years.

According to the government, the office is supposed to "provide leadership on Canada's response to radicalization to violence."

So far, no details have been disclosed about this office but Public safety Minister Ralph Goodale recently reiterated his strong commitment to it. In an op-ed, he published on "How to Fix Canada National Security Framework," he stated:

"Thirdly, this summer we will launch a new national office and center of excellence for community outreach and engagement. Its purpose will be to develop and coordinate expertise in identifying those who could be vulnerable to the pressures and appeals of radicalization to violence, and to connect with them constructively in advance to head-off tragedies before they happen. As an open, pluralistic society, we need to get really good at this."

As it can be understood from Mr. Ralph Goodale words, one of the tasks of the office would be to develop expertise in identifying some sort of "indicators" about people who are at risk of radicalization to violence. Indicators are defined as cognitive and behavioural changes in individuals and draw from them patterns about radicalization. For instance, someone who withdrew from his/her family or change his/her in behaviour in school in certain specific ways, these are considered as "indicators."

Mr. Ralph Goodale doesn't use any word directly relating radicalization to Islam or Muslims in particular, but obviously it is everyone's mind that this office will be directed, if not entirely but in major part, for and about Muslims. And this is exactly why this approach won't be effective.

The elephant in the room, that nobody wants to move or see, is undoubtedly the rampant Islamophobia in many media outlets and in mainstream culture. We can cite many examples on how policing and surveillance and intelligence in Canada (and other countries) are so far obsessively profiling Muslim youth and groups.

Since the attacks of 9/11, all the arrests made in Canada in dealing with national security matters have exclusively targeted Muslim men. Even the security certificates, a procedure that predated the 9/11 attacks, were since being used against Muslim men.

One shouldn't forget the words used by RCMP Ontario Division officials describing Abdullah Almalki, who was tortured and imprisoned in Syria, for allegations related to national security. Justice Frank Iacobucci brought to light the role Canadian officials played in his torture and jailing.

The following is from an RCMP memo, dated October 4, 2001:

"O Div. taskforce are presently finding it difficult to establish anything on him other than the fact that he is an Arab running around."

Today, we observe the emergence of a new sub-discipline of "radicalization studies," with the implicit objective to help governments in pre-emptively identify profiles and later apply them to individuals who are vulnerable to radicalization to violence.

Even though many of these studies insist on being objective and solely motivated by academic purposes, they are increasingly becoming the "new science" that is providing "scientific and agnostic" platform to the surveillance and the profiling practices of law enforcement and intelligences securities agencies.

Years ago, generations of psychologists and medical doctors assisted CIA and other agencies in to develop both mental and physical torture techniques to obtain information from prisoners incarcerated in places like Guantanamo.

In the document "Radicalization: A guide for the perplexed" published by the RCMP in 2009, about the topics of radicalization, the RCMP were very cautious to mention that radicalization wouldn't necessarily lead to political violence and isn't linked to any religion as well as insisting that the indicators are "bias free" and more agnostic, it remains very disturbing to see that the guide focus in majority on Islam with pictures of Muslims terrorists making most of the pictures included in the guide.

Recently, an academic study by Jeffrey Monoghan and Adam Molnar, found out through access to information applications that the RCMP in 2013 used a power point presentation to "educate" their members about radicalization. In one of the slides, it is mentioned that:

"No identifiable profile but common indicators/
Believe in the single narrative/
A very social process for many/
Need a charismatic individual/
Gangs are for kids. Jihad is for Men"

Even if the first four bullets emphasize on the need of "objectivity" and "agnosticism," the fact that the word "Jihad" is thrown in the last point create this false impression that radicalization affects only Muslim men waging Jihad. Kids, however, who join gangs are just kids and somehow less "dangerous" or "threatening" to the society.

This last assertion is even contradicting many studies that established many parallels between gangs and violent ideological groups.

The ignorance towards Islam and the underlying Orientalist attitude in the media make people, law enforcement agents included, believe that Muslims are inherently violent or that their religion push them toward radicalization.

It is those false beliefs and erroneous assumptions that should be confronted with more education programs and financial support by the federal government.

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