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Omar Alghabra

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Harper Can't Call Canadians Terrorists and Get Away With It

Posted: 01/28/2014 4:26 pm

A prominent Muslim Canadian advocacy group has decided that enough is enough and is suing the Prime Minister and his chief spokesperson.

Jason McDonald, Stephen Harper's Communication Director publicly accused the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) of having "documented links to a terrorist organization" with a straight face and without providing a shred of evidence.

His irresponsible smear was in response to a plea the organization made with the Prime Minister not to invite a controversial Rabbi to accompany him on his trip to Israel.

Instead of reacting maturely to the request, Mr. McDonald chose to level a nasty charge against the NCCM, accusing them of one the most egregious crimes a person or a group can be accused of.

Unfortunately, the journalist who reported the accusation didn't ask the spokesperson to provide evidence or wonder why, if there are "documented links," this organization has not been charged with anything.

When Rob Ford maliciously accused Daniel Dale, a Toronto Star reporter of being a pedophile, rightfully, everyone was offended, especially journalists. Editorialists and commentators expressed their legitimate outrage. That accusation was meant to undermine the reputation of Daniel Dale and bully him.

Then, there were pointed criticism of Conrad Black and his show for airing these defamatory accusations without challenging it.

Daniel Dale threatened to sue and eventually received a full and unconditional apology from Ford, admitting he misspoke.

This incident is equally as outrageous.

Tactics used by Rob Ford and the Prime Minister Office are classic examples of individuals who want to escape accountability. Rather than answer questions, they throw mud and hope that the mud distracts from the real issues.

In the meantime, they don't care how much damage and destruction they inflict.

Is this Prime Minister ever capable of making his point without demonizing those who dare to ask him to explain himself?

Let's be clear. If the NCCM has links to terrorism, it is troubling that they haven't been charged under the rule of law.

It is quite serious when the highest office of the land throws around colossal indictments such as being involved in terrorism. Whatever the PMO says has weight. These accusations have massive ramification on the reputation and work of the accused.

This smear goes even deeper.

It targets a suspicion that some people may have against an identifiable group and reinforces it. This Prime Minister Office has developed the habit of exploiting paranoia of the "other" to score political points, no matter whom and what they destroy.

Instead of combating stereotypes and prejudice, this Prime Minister is happy to fuel them.

Whether it is against Muslims, Tamils, Sikhs, Roma, Aboriginals, immigrants or refugees, he is trigger happy, insensitive to what kind of damage it causes our country and what kind of hurt it causes Canadians.

Stephen Harper is Canada's Prime Minister. His constituents who he is supposed to serve include Muslim Canadians and the members of the NCCM. He has an obligation to treat all Canadians fairly and with respect. He has the responsibility to combat unwarranted suspicion and heal divides.

The NCCM is not a foreign element that he can stir patriotic sentiments against. (Though I wonder if he wants them to be seen as such.) They are his citizens.

The Prime Minister's Office can vigorously disagree with what the NCCM asked of him, but it is cringe-worthy to level childish but seriously consequential allegations.

We don't live in a banana republic where prime ministers can recklessly accuse their critics of treason. We are a nation that is governed by accountability and the rule of law. The PMO must present their evidence that the NCCM is linked to terrorism in the court of law or offer an unconditional apology and retraction.

After the apology, sensitivity training is in order.

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  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, inspects an honour guard as he meets with the Prime Minister of Jordan Abdullah Ensour, left, in Amman, Jordan on Thursday, January 23, 2014. While in the Middle East Harper is visiting Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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  • Two cranes fly past as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper take a tour of the future site of the Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre in Hula valley, Israel on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. While in the Middle East Harper is visiting Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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